Converge‘s last full-length, the devastating The Dusk in Us, saw the Massachusetts legends operating at the peak of their metallic powers. The emotions were raw, the instrumentation virtuoso and the brittle production expertly crafted. Its emotional tenor reflected the fraught sociopolitical climate of 2017, a time when it really did feel like humanity was entering its dusk era.
Cut to 2021, and we are now in the darkest of nights – the perfect time for Converge to return with their most crepuscular work to date. Bloodmoon: 1 contains the most atmospheric, grandiose, and all-around strangest 11 tracks of the band’s career. They’ve long been capable of writing in this expansive mode, every album since Jane Doe has featured hints of it, from The Dusk in Us’ gloomy title track to Axe to Fall‘s heart-wrenching closer “Wretched World”. However, Bloodmoon: 1 is their most decisive commitment yet to this ambitious facet of their artistic identity.
A collaborative album made in conjunction with Chelsea Wolfe, her writing partner Ben Chisholm and Cave In frontman (and former Converge member) Stephen Brodsky, Bloodmoon: 1 is Converge’s second attempt at a collaborative full-length. Axe to Fall featured members of Genghis Tron, Neurosis, Cave In, and numerous others, yet it rarely felt like anything other than a Converge album with a few sludgier and more expansive tracks. Bloodmoon: 1 is a much more successful fusion of its creators’ differing aesthetics, to the point where it rarely sounds like anything Converge have done before.
With any collaborative project like this, it can be tempting to pull at the seams and attempt to unravel who created what. Still, what’s most impressive about Bloodmoon: 1 is how this task is rendered effectively impossible. The frantic “Lord of Liars” and the bass-lead “Tongues Playing Dead” come the closest to what Converge have done before. Otherwise, these 11 songs marry up the spooky sensibilities of Wolfe and Chisholm, the quirky songwriting chops of Brodsky, and Converge’s experimental inclinations with intuitive ease.
The album sees Converge and Brodsky aligning with Wolfe in her mission to create a modern form of brooding and textured gothic rock. This lineup first played together publically in 2016, and during those shows, a cover of the Cure’s “Disintegration” was a mainstay of their setlist. The influence of the Cure and other goth pioneers is splattered across Bloodmoon: 1, most apparent in the brilliant album highlight “Coil”. A string-lead, trudging behemoth, “Coil” is breathtakingly singular and one of the most engrossing rock songs of the year.
“Flower Moon” is another definitive example of this union. All of the threads of its creators are there but are woven together so effectively that if one of them were removed, the whole thing would unravel. The track is both creepy and enormously fun and features an excellent Brodsky vocal performance. “Crimson Stone” is equally effortless. Wolfe’s ethereal vocals duet with Converge frontman Jacob Bannon’s croon before exploding into a final act of delectable grandeur. It’s a masterclass in musical tension and minor production flourishes, such as icy guitar tones and mid-song piano break, making it all the more compelling and unique.
The production work across the whole album is consistently brilliant. Produced by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou at his own God City Studios, Bloodmoon: 1 is rich, textured, and often bombastic. The range of guitar and bass tones on display will make any gear nerd purr, ranging from the bluesy reverb of “Scorpion’s Sting” to the glass-cutting bass of “Blood Moon” to the doomy overdrive of “Daimon”. The use of strings and keys is also expertly-executed, particularly on “Coil” and the spidery “Flower Moon”. The grand and experimental nature of the album allows for Ballou to throw everything at the wall, and basically, all of it sticks.
At 11 songs, the album’s rich soundscapes never become overstuffed or self-indulgent, instead remaining lush, cinematic, and apocalyptically grand. Due to the pandemic, much of Bloodmoon: 1 was recorded remotely, with contributions being assembled by Ballou and Bannon at God City. To have created this album under these circumstances and during a time defined by division and anger gives Bloodmoon: 1 a strangely moral quality – a persuasive reminder of the power of collaboration and cooperation. It’s a work of complex, unified brilliance that will leave you chomping at the bit for a Bloodmoon: 2.