Any discussion of contemporary hardcore or metal is always going to lead right to Converge. To describe the Salem five piece as influential is an understatement. Since 2001’s Jane Doe they’ve been working at a level that none of their peers could match. Not only did they lay the blueprint for their own sub-genre, but they have consistently delivered the best records it has to offer. 2004’s You Fail Me. 2009’s Axe To Fall and 2012’s All We Love We Leave Behind were great records with vitality, technicality, and unadulterated fury. Wisely, the band has bucked the album-tour-album two-year cycle in favour of recording and releasing at their own pace. This helps to make each release more significant as they’re only speaking when they’ve got something good to say. It’s been five years since their last LP and fortunately, The Dusk In Us, their latest, was well worth the wait. It does everything a Converge record should do. It’s rip-roaring throat punch of collection that’s as likely to gently delve into atmospheric textured ambient as it is to rip your heart out.
It goes without saying that everything sounds absolutely fantastic. Guitarist Kurt Ballou has proven himself to be one of the best metal producers in the business having helped to helm records by ISIS, Dillinger Escape Plan, Russian Circles and Dublin’s own BATS. He can capture aggression and passion the same way that Steve Albini can capture that perfect kick drum sound. The Dusk In Us is another feather in that man’s cap. The impact of this effort is best felt with Ben Koller and his drum work. They managing to oscillate between this nightmarish kineticism (‘Eye Of The Quarrell’) and sludgy slabs of sheer rage (‘Under Duress’). A Large part of that is due to Koller’s excellent playing, but Ballou successfully distills the feeling of those rhythms without letting them overpower the track. This gives a propulsive energy and welcome dose of ambiguity to every track.
But at the core of this album there exists is a duality. The album is fueled by a conflict between its two personas: chaos and order, salty and sweet, mayhem and melancholy. Consider Jacob Bannon’s vocals. His words are well-meaning messages of empowerment, survival and honest affection. But they’re delivered like a coyote being slowly fed into a wood chipper, all animalistic fury and desperation. Yet when the band allows this delicate balance comes to the fore, the collection as a whole really comes to life. The transition between the one-two knockout ‘Arkhipov Calm’ and ‘I Can Tell You About Pain’ and the post-rock charm of ‘The Dusk In Us’. The former are two full-frontal assaults of noise. All militaristic rhythms, throat-shredding vocals, and math infused atonal riffs played as fast as human fingers can move. It is Converge at the peak of their powers. The latter is an eight minute, measured examination of genuine fear and helplessness with a genuine streak of delicacy and pathos. While this transition is jarring and pulls the listener out of any kind of flow, it’s a very well judged decision. The vast sonic gulf between the pieces emphasises the shared lyrical lineage. After all the bluster and unmitigated intensity of the previous songs, we’re forced to face the startling realisation that the evil and horrors we’ve been standing our ground against are around us all, scheming and waiting for the opportune moment to strike. There will never be a real peace. We can never stop fighting.
Fortunately, Converge has given us the right soundtrack for that fight. Will Murphy