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Album Review: Converge’s The Dusk in Us

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I want to apologize up front for just now getting this review out to you.  Converge fans have been hip deep in The Dusk in Us for the past couple weeks, and they certainly don’t need my rambling verbal approximations to enjoy what is essentially another perfect Converge record.  You can queue up Dusk yourself right now, in fact.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.  (Seriously, I have nowhere else to be.  Basically ever.)

Instead of unnecessarily targeting the band’s already rabid audience, I’ll focus on any readers who might just now be getting turned on to Converge.  For any new arrivals to the Converge party:  Welcome.  I envy you a little.  I’m about to celebrate fifteen years on the bandwagon, but Converge neophytes get to explore every cathartic high and wrenching low on Dusk with fresh ears, and still in front of them they have the bountiful potency of All We Love We Leave Behind, the fresh passion of Axe to Fall, the brash bluster of No Heroes, the bleak demands of You Fail Me, the wounded genius of Jane Doe and the raw chaos of When Forever Comes Crashing, Petitioning the Empty Sky and everything that came before.  I don’t regret a single burned and abandoned moment of my Converge fandom, but knowing the path of discovery that awaits younger listeners makes me just a little bit jealous.

Dusk opens exactly as it needs to:  chaotic, melodic, musically complex and emotionally direct.  “A Single Tear” is Converge with every piston pumping, exploding on itself in perpetuity.  Or at least for four solid minutes, anyway.  Nate Newton’s bass lines are vibrant, even without being a focus in the mix.  Ben Kollar’s approach to the drum kit is somehow thunderous and tasteful simultaneously; songs strike, parry or dodge under his carefully articulated direction.  Jacob Bannon sounds as unhinged as ever, always one of this band’s most vital weapons.  And, of course, Kurt Ballou’s razor-honed songwriting and guitar work find a way to slash and emote in equal measure.  Upon the 2009 release of Axe to Fall, Ballou groaned about the difficulty of writing exciting new music after so many years of hearing and creating new songs.  That drive to build brand new ideas out of the band’s familiar raw materials is exactly what makes Converge a special group of musicians.  Dusk once again proves that greatness rarely associates with complacency.  It sounds exactly like a Converge record, but it’s also as necessary as anything in their catalog.

Five years ago, All We Love presented a stellar collection of songs, gathered in one place but not always feeling connected.  Dusk’s songs are equally individual, but something about the track order or thematic material helps these songs hang together more tightly and become a real album in the classic sense.  Decibel Magazine’s Justin Norton reported Newton’s assertion that “what’s always been the most interesting is the slower and weirder stuff we’ve done… That’s what I veer toward.”  The statement is telling.  Dusk certainly has its share of flailing hardcore aggression, but the glue lies in the gloriously understated title track, sitting at the record’s halfway mark, and the queasy tension in “Murk & Marrow,” and the latecomer “Thousands of Miles Between Us,” and stately march of closer “Reptilian,” and the rubbery moments in just about every song offered.  Call it boring old maturity if you want, but that’s a pretty hard charge to level at these guys, and the overall effect elevates the album to a place of importance rather than a simple and immediate fix.

“Under Duress” sounds, in many ways, like the photo negative of All We Love’s “Sadness Comes Home,” turning those smooth, bluesy breaks into blocky, anti-melodic feedback sculptures.  “Wildlife” transitions out of the pensive air of “The Dusk in Us” toward the grumbly swagger of “Trigger” and the deceptive shadows that haunt the dual beatdowns of “Broken by Light” and “Cannibals.”  All told, Dusk takes exactly one listen to become addictive, and subsequent spins reveal it to be a truly essential record.  Again.

Converge’s The Dusk in Us is out now. You can stream the entire album below, or just go purchase it.

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