The Dusk In Us
3rd November 2017 - Epitaph Records
01. A Single Tear
02. Eye of the Quarrel
03. Under Duress
04. Arkhipov Calm
05. I Can Tell You About Pain
06. The Dusk in Us
08. Murk & Marrow
10. Broken by Light
12. Thousands of Miles Between Us
Releasing nine albums in your career is nothing to sniff at. Releasing nine good albums is an incredible accomplishment. Releasing nine of such quality that most musicians would give a minor appendage to have released just one of? Almost unheard of.
Converge are a rare thing indeed. Twenty-six years, without a lineup change in almost two decades, and still going strong – but you get the impression that accolades and lip service are less important to the Massachusettsans than the earnest creation of fulfilling art. It’s undoubtedly been a long and difficult road, but here we are at the cold end of 2017 with the quartet’s ninth studio record The Dusk In Us lighting a fire under the year’s short and curlies. It’s an achievement, however you paint it.
Although it’s been almost six years since the release of its predecessor All We Love We Leave Behind, Converge have not sat idly. Besides celebrating the 15 year anniversary of seminal, boundary-breaking masterpiece Jane Doe, the group have been busy: Kurt Ballou has presided over the production of some 60 records (including all three Code Orange albums); Jacob Bannon has released a long-brewed solo record and opened a vintage curiosities store with his wife; Ben Koller is three albums deep into Mutoid Man with the band’s long-time friend Steven Brodsky; and Nate Newton has dabbled in ‘minor’ concerns like The Cavalera Conspiracy and the mischievous monkey makery of Old Man Gloom. As a group, they also brewed the utterly spellbinding Blood Moon collaboration with such talents as Chelsea Wolfe and Steve Von Till.
The opportunity to focus elsewhere has seemingly done them little harm. While it’s probably presumptuous to put this album’s caliber down to any one thing – especially with a quarter of a century of experience behind the group, and the indicative quality of their previous offerings plain to see – this is the longest Converge have gone in their career without releasing a new record, and The Dusk In Us rings with vitality, and the break has to have played its part.
Bannon has said in the past that he uses Converge as an outlet to “express his emotions in a healthy way”. This has been more than apparent across the band’s career, and The Dusk In Us is no different – but there is undoubtedly less of an acerbic edge across the album as a whole. From the off, “A Single Tear” is ostensibly a love song, and it’s followed by meditations on self-determination and growth through adversity, and brimming with hard-won wisdom.
This more positive tonal aspect is fairly substantial, but the record is not without bite; this is Converge, after all. The closing bars of “I Can Tell You About Pain” descend into a wall of feedback and stabbing instrumentation as Bannon screams “you don’t know what my pain feels like” (although the delivery does give us at least some idea). Later, “Broken By Light” gallops by in under two minutes, warning us about the false white-noise that paints the past as a better time, seen through rose-tinted glasses. In these moments especially, the band are still razor-sharp, and resplendent in their savagery.
Musically, special mention must go to Koller, whose drumming is just on another level. His work has always elevated Converge, never settling to merely punctuate or serve as a pace-setter, but here its weight is as magnificently tangible as it has ever been. On lead single “Under Duress“, the verse sections see him trading off deliberate, measured beats with Ballou’s driving riff, but the exercise is underlined every few bars by an incredibly satisfying offset crash/kick drum effect. Elsewhere, the two take the lead opening “Arkhipov Calm“, which builds around a pacey but stop-filled pattern, adding Newton’s punchy bass and finally an elemental, wailing Bannon, to great effect. Koller’s playing in particular highlights the song’s compelling arrangement – and it’s something that happens with regularity across the album. The man has always been a machine – it was him that sold me within half a minute of ”Concubine” the first time I ever listened to the band – but he remains as vital a component as ever.
Long-time fans will be aware that the band began to experiment with more progressive ideas, as far back as You Fail Me, but principally on 2009′s Axe To Fall, which saw some exploration of a sound absent of their trademark buzzsaw guitars and general causticity on tracks like ”Cruel Bloom” and “Wretched World“. That tradition continues on The Dusk In Us, chiefly with the title track, sitting just before the album’s mid-point and providing a breather – of sorts – after the intensity of the opening salvo. They execute these departures so well, and in this case, drench your speakers with atmosphere, building up via simple instrumentation over the verses – a couple of echoing, eerie guitar lines, joined later by sparse percussion – to an intense chorus that breaks after its third iteration back into the mordant, crushing sound that Converge nail every time; that big, slow, “Jane Doe“-style avalanche of noise and emotion. It’s as spectacular as ever.
These are highlights picked almost at random from three quarters of an hour of peerless excellence. The Dusk In Us is Converge at the top of their game; an exquisite examination and reaffirmation of everything that makes them absolute masters of a sound they’ve developed, refined, and explored across a storied career. They have not diminished in the slightest, and The Dusk In Us demands your attention the moment it drops.