CONVERGE isn’t just any band. It has helped expand heavy music’s boundaries since the late nineties. The band’s characteristic belligerence remains on “The Dusk in Us”, but it’s as restrained as you’d expect from a hardened inmate who has successfully done time and is prepared for re-integration into society. In other words, it isn’t too overwhelming, yet there’s an underlying menace that invariably surfaces from time to time.
Expectations are high. After all, this is the band that churned out the deranged beast that was 1998’s sometimes overlooked “When Forever Comes Crashing”, a poisonous and noisy manifestation of VOIVOD on crack, prior to the game changing metalcore classic, 2001’s “Jane Doe”. “Jane Doe” included the same lineup the group has today—Jacob Bannon, Nate Newton, Ben Koller and Kurt Ballou—minus one member, BANE‘s Aaron Dalbec who departed following the release to devote his time to that band. And if that wasn’t enough, the group subsequently rattled the world of heavy music with albums like “You Fail Me” (2004) and “Axe to Fall” (2009) that both took steps in new directions.
The period between 2012’s “All We Love We Leave Behind” and the group’s latest effort is the longest gap between albums in CONVERGE‘s career. Daily life and work filled up the interim, in addition to the individual members’ involvement with other musical projects. The fact that the members have outlets for ideas more foreign to the core sound and style of CONVERGE in turn fortifies the purity of CONVERGE‘s own creative output and identity.
Guitarist Kurt Ballou produced the album, yet again, at his GodCity Studio. He intentionally took a more relaxed approach to sound engineering to suit the songs’ inherent rawness. “Under Duress”, for one, bounces forth with notes, riffs, screams and beats protruding like jagged shards launched from a vase that was tossed down a stairway. He didn’t overly fret about obtaining perfect tones, he primarily used the same equipment that he used for “You Fail Me”, explaining the similarity in sound to that older release.
The group is, of course, known primarily for the manic outbursts and mathcore intricacy that exist somewhere in that purgatory between metal and hardcore. “Arkhipov Calm” is an exercise in brutality doled out with as little regard for genre loyalty this side of MR. BUNGLE. But with “The Dusk in Us”, the band generally takes the pedal off the metal, relatively speaking, as it explores the more noticeably odd soundscapes it’s been traveling for years. The band is not afraid to play with dark grooves more suitable for rhythmic head banging than the group’s earlier off-kilter material often allowed for. CONVERGE are no longer dudes in their twenty somethings. There’s definitely a greater sense of introspection that has replaced the more constant display of rage in days gone by. Case in point: The title track dishes out a slice of soft Americana reminiscent of modern EARTH before swelling up to an emotive NEUROSIS-like assault.
“Wildlife”, meanwhile, seems to be the closest you’ll find the band reaching toward more obviously recognizable and “conventional” aspects of metalcore. It’s replete with a show-friendly sing-along chorus. “Murk and Marrow”, on the other, slithers forth with a wicked undertone and an anxiety-inducing sense of tension that never finds release nor climax. There is only dread. And “Trigger” provides even more depth with CONVERGE‘s brooding take on JESUS LIZARD-flavored noise rock. The entire release travels broad terrain yet within the unit’s unique framework.
Will “The Dusk in Us” become revered as one of the classic CONVERGE albums? Probably not. In any event, it’s an adequate representation of a band that consistently challenges itself without forsaking its core sound and identity. We would expect nothing less from the it.