Listening to Converge’s latest album The Dusk in Us, it is difficult to fathom that for a band that has been active for nearly 30 years they are still able to produce work that is so compelling and relevant to today’s scene. Since the mid-’90s Converge has been a prominent act in the experimental extreme hardcore scene, producing excellent albums in Halo in a Haystack, Petitioning the Empty Sky and When Forever Comes Crashing. Always forward thinking and able to evolve in regards to their style and sound, Converge released one of the pivotal records of extreme music in Jane Doe, setting the bar for post-hardcore works.
Still, the band does not rest on its laurels, and they continued to explore different aspects of their identity with the underrated You Fail Me, before driving with more urgency in No Heroes and Axe to Fall. However, the second true peak of Converge’s career came in 2012 with All We Love We Leave Behind with the band able of finding a fine balance between the aggressive hardcore aesthetic and compositional complexity and depth.
The Dusk in Us arrives five years after All We Love We Leave Behind and it feels like the natural continuation of Converge’s vision. Still kicking and screaming as opening track “A Single Tear” displays, the band appears not to have missed a beat in this five-year gap, producing some devastating breakdowns in the midst of the lightning fast drumming and sharp guitar riffs. The primal and chaotic aesthetic is still vibrant, rooted in the hardcore heritage as Converge explores these short bursts of anger and anguish in the likes of “Eye of the Quarrel”, “Broken by Light” and “Cannibals”. All clocking under two and a half minutes, these tracks bring forth the most devastating and extreme manifestation of the band, as Bannon screeching vocals cut through the thick rhythm section of Newton and Koller.
Despite the indulgence with the extreme edge of the hardcore sound, Converge was never a band to myopically remain focused on just one sound. The tempo drops down and the post-metal, sludge-oid elements come to the surface in the heavy “Under Duress”, while closing track “Reptilian” features a more slithering quality that goes alongside the otherwise towering presentation. The full extent of experimentalism is found in “Murk & Marrow” as the band lets go of solid structure, and explore the potency of blackened hardcore, the loose quality of improvisational progression, always featuring its trademark raw energy.
The key in Converge’s sound, however, and that has been true since the early days, is the band’s ability to explore the melodic tendencies without going all mushy, a trap that a lot of other extreme hardcore bands find themselves in. The lead work does not feel pushed, with the harmonies appearing naturally in The Dusk in Us, as the mid part of the otherwise in-your-face and punishing “A Single Tear” suggests. The track that completely encompasses the band’s essence is no other than the seven-minute long title track, which evolves into a terrifying and beautiful opus. Lyricism meets with the detached vocal delivery of Bannon, creating a highly moving moment where Ballou’s distorted guitar arrives in emotive waves.
Converge has not been going so much through a process of transformation as one of maturing. Still angry and rebellious as in their early releases, they also display a much wiser and patient perspective that only years of experience can bring. As Bannon’s delivery in “Trigger” suggests “the string of pain ripens with age”, Converge has made use of every experience to become what they stand for today and what is their philosophy in today’s geopolitical climate. Honoring Vasili Arkhipov, the only Soviet officer who casted a vote against firing nuclear weapons from a submarine in the Cuban missile crisis, the track not only explores the disdain towards the current political status quo (“Fresh-faced oligarch we have grown far apart”), but it also offers a message of patience and planning rather than rage and outbreak (“You see the patience is a test, it separates boys from men”).
What remains, in the end, is something surprisingly optimistic that Converge brings with The Dusk in Us, which is a stunning message for our times. Instead of simply producing a militant message, the band suggests taking a look at the importance of evaluating what one has, as the title track suggests, “What does the future hold, if we’re running low on health and hope?” It is sometimes expected that creative individuals, no matter if we are talking about musicians, directors, producers or artists, lose their way through the years, becoming a shadow of their previous selves. Converge does not accept that notion, and in “Thousand of Miles Between Us” deliver the best message for carrying on through any struggle, “My shattered smile that life provides/ Stand up straight take it on the chin / Pick up my teeth and start again”. They still carry on through the shrapnel, and it does not seem like they have any intention of stopping, and that is the wisdom they are freely sharing with anyone that cares to listen.