Behold the face of what relevance hardcore still has in 2017. When Converge’s ninth studio album, The Dusk In Us, was released on November 3, it was one of the year’s most anticipated releases; not just by the critics who universally adore this band, and not just because it is Converge’s first studio release in five years.
Rather, the current apparent peak popularity of metalcore, mathcore, and other modern extreme hybrid subgenres that Converge helped innovate and shape since 1994 cannot help but make The Dusk In Us a signpost for where these styles are going. The band’s music has always been replete with emotional content, led by Jacob Bannon’s singing and screaming style, and his rare gift for making it perfectly clear what a song is about even when the lyrics are incomprehensible. And when a band is that much in touch with the universal human experience, such anxious times as the present make Converge’s music all the more relevant.
For those who do not know, Converge is a four-piece band from Massachusetts, and their metallic hardcore music combines mathcore, ambient, and even some grindcore elements. Most of the bands featured on It Djents were influenced by them whether they or their fans know it or not.
The Dusk In Us
An overview of Converge’s previous work would violate the scope of this review. Their albums universally exhibit a warmth in sound, and stylistically range from over-the-top sadistic terror (2001’s Jane Doe, a live version of which they released earlier this year) to despairing darkness (2006’s No Heroes). The Dusk In Us has more in common with No Heroes than with the critical masterpiece that was Jane Doe. As one of our staffers pointed out, The Dusk In Us ‘is a different kind of darkness.‘
That darkness begins, almost too appropriately, with “A Single Tear”. The song takes standard hardcore chord progressions through different tempos and different volumes, with Bannon leading the way with his screams.
That same darkness blackens most profound in The Dusk In Us’s title track, the other slow, ambient songs on the album, like “Thousands of Miles Between Us”, and part of the album’s epic closer, “Reptilian”. These songs use straight chord progressions in typical hardcore fashion. A wailing, high-pitched, almost anti-melodic guitar tone arches over them (cf. anything recent by The Acacia Strain or side B of Black Flag’s 1984 My War album).
“Broken by the Light” goes all over the place in 1m47s, from thrash metal riffing over hardcore chords to a mosh-inducing breakdown near the end. Like everything else Converge do, it works, not for any technical reason but due to some ineffable organic je ne sais quoi. The Dusk In Us even has a straight grindcore scorcher in “Cannibals”. It comes and goes in scarcely more than a minute, entailing an overwhelming wall of sound; parts of longer songs like “Eye Of the Quarrel” also have this quality.
The aforementioned “Reptilian” combines bold metal riffs reminiscent of Slayer and Black Sabbath with Converge’s more ambient moments into an iconic musical statement.
The Nightfall That Follows Our Dusk
Music critics and Converge fans use a lot of superlatives when talking about them; the band generally gets accolades that would make anyone blush. Yet The Dusk In Us, even five years after All We Love We Leave Behind, deserves them.
Some bands never change, whereas others get lambasted for changing their styles. Converge, however, are no Suicide Corpse or Cannibal Silence. They created a broad pallet of musical emotions with many flavors of darkness. On The Dusk In Us, they show the ability to combine them all, to modulate them, and to vary between them in ways to make something that compels with every listen.
The ‘album of the year’ epithet gets thrown around a lot this time of year, the October through December quarter being the music industry’s version of ‘Oscar® Bait’ season. Perhaps the term gets overused, and yet one cannot help but imagine albums by bands like Mastodon, Junius, Exocrine, Bell Witch, Amenra, and too many others to list here as spectacular visuals in exposition, rising action, and falling action, with Converge appearing near the film’s climax, having satisfied, tired grins on their faces as they walk off into the sunset.
Or the Dusk.
Notable Tracks: “I Can Tell You About Pain”; “The Dusk In Us”; “Broken By Light”; “Cannibals”; “Thousands of Miles Between Us”; “Reptilian”
FFO: Converge, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Counterparts, Black Flag (post 84/85 Rollins-era material only)