Review: Converge – The Dusk In Us
On the long-running band’s 9th full length album, Converge brings us back to metalcore’s confused, earnest roots.
Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou has remarked that he and vocalist Jacob Bannon, like most successful musicians, played in a few different bands together before settling into the one that really worked – but unlike most musicians, they did that all under the same band name. I can easily understand how Ballou sees the Converge of today as an effectively different band than the one he founded in 1990, as the sound and personnel has shifted immensely over 27 years. The easiest divide to make in the Converge discography is to separate the 90’s catalog from everything since 2001’s Jane Doe – not only is Jane Doe the record where Converge settled into their modern lineup, but it marked the end of the band producing straight-up metalcore and the beginning of their much more experimental phase that has lasted ever since. At no point since the new millennium have Converge felt like they were looking backward to their early days for inspiration – until now.
There’s a lot of love for 90’s hardcore in the air these days, and I can’t help but think that it influenced Converge to revisit their roots on their newest album The Dusk In Us. The anxious, heartfelt guitar lead on opening track “A Single Tear” brought me right back to my teenage years spent combing janky Myspace pages trying to discover new bands in my parents’ basement. “Wildlife” is another painfully earnest metalcore tune, and “Murk and Marrow” sounds more like a “When Forever Comes Crashing” B-side than anything else Converge has written since 2000
I generally think of Converge as a band that transcends their genre to make music that a huge spectrum of heavy music fans revere, but you’re probably only going to really dig those particular songs if you also enjoy other bands in the East Coast metalcore subgenre Converge helped cultivate twenty years ago. The genre tropes present are utilized very well, but they’re still tropes and may carry some negative baggage for fans of more “true” flavors of metal.
The good news is that the whole record doesn’t fall into this nostalgia trap – the bad-but-kind-of-ok news is that the rest of the album is fairly scattered and incoherent as a piece. It’s not that the songs are bad, mind you – “Eye of the Quarrel” and “Cannibals” are exactly the kind of vicious and emotive thrash that I want from Converge. The slithery bass and drums intro of “Trigger” sounds like The Jesus Lizard getting ready to “open up this pit” and is a goddamn triumph. “Broken By Light” is the best Slayer song written in decades, while “Arkhipov Calm” is what every 2000’s melodic metalcore band wanted to pull off but couldn’t because they are posers who don’t even listen to grindcore. In short – the shit rips.
Ballou, Koller, and Newton’s playing on this record is of course exemplary – Koller’s barbaric drum chops have only gotten better with time and Newton is grooving like a madman. The real MVP of the album, though, is Jacob Bannon. This is simply the best performance of his career – there’s far more variety in vocal delivery here than on any previous Converge release, and the lyrics are just as beautiful as you’ve come to expect from the man behind the words of “Last Light” and “Hell To Pay”. His stirring performance alone saves a couple tracks that would otherwise be totally forgettable.
My final verdict: despite the high quality on a track-to-track basis, The Dusk In Us just doesn’t flow the way a full-length should. The record’s scattered nature is reminiscent of the early metalcore scene where bands were still figuring out how to even play this new genre, so I suppose it’s not so bad if you just think of this as a leaked collection of suspiciously well-recorded demos.
Maybe these tracks would have been better served as a series of smaller releases – there could be an EP focused on classic metalcore, a Slayer worship 7″, and then a flagship LP with songs that, y’know, actually sound like post year 2000 Converge. This release would have to include the B-side “Eve”, which is easily the best song we’ve heard from these sessions so far. How that incredible track (carried by Newton’s pained howls) didn’t make the cut over the other 3 vastly inferior slow songs on The Dusk In Us is absolutely beyond me.
Converge has been my favorite band for years, but that doesn’t mean they get a free pass on putting out an album below their capabilities. Individually, I’d rate a lot of these songs a 4 or 5 out of 5, but the record as a whole is a different story. This hurts me more than it hurts you –
3/5 FLAMING TOILETS OV HELL