Review Summary: the nails and fevers of bad dreams.
Albums like Converge’s newest are my writer’s bane. The mission statement is kinda unclear, yet doesn’t seem to invite the sort of free interpretation that great ambiguous music tends to permit. It doesn’t have the same focus as their watershed releases, and runs the gamut from minute-long sensory assaults to patience-testing ambiversion in an elusive manner. The Massachusetts-based metalcore legends don't really have anything to prove, and showcase obligatory virtuoso musicianship. There are plenty of highs and few, if any, lows. This makes for a great listen, piece by piece, but not necessarily a revealing dissection of the album as a whole. At arm’s distance, it’s difficult to say what hasn’t been said a thousand times before about Converge (a few webzines with early album access seem to have bent to the wind like willow branches in that regard). That said, up close and personal, The Dusk in Us
is like an updated lexicon of Converge’s tongue: the band talks
a certain way, and we get most of their repertoire, here. Even to the degree of drum work, the band is often uniquely conversational, evoking melodramatic frenzy, frank emoting, and even graceful brooding.
Opener “A Single Tear” is expectedly cathartic, with unconventionally in-your-face pangs of parenthood (it’s not exactly uncommon for metallic hardcore to brush on themes of childhood, but less so from the other side). The breakneck harrow of bullet-sized “Eye of the Quarrel” calls to mind Axe to Fall
, and subsequent “Under Duress” is a demented grandstand, with Jacob Bannon vomiting on stage and on the front rows of the throng amidst gang yells. Beefy closer "Reptilian" reminds of groovy late-80s thrash akin to Coroner
. Rhythmically, they’ve long been untouchable. Ben Koller’s drumming translates to something unpredictable and life-threatening in its physicality, like parkour through an industrial factory. He holds sway over mortality with a wink and a flurry, almost channelling gallows humour. As was the case with All We Love
, the shorter songs take the more interesting detours; I predict “Arkhipov Calm”, “Broken By Light”, and “Cannibals” (the three most concise numbers) to make many a shortlist for favourite track present, all being canned tornadoes.
The title track, the album’s monolith, clings to amnesty despite Bannon’s damning observations and air of condemnation. He sings with a smoggy leer, like one muttering prophecies across a bar in a post-apocalyptic warzone - it’s not clear whether it’s foreboding, or reflection. It’s well-constructed, and evocative enough, but the way the prior tracks leave the listener reeling might desensitize the listening experience. That’s not entirely a negative; “The Dusk in Us” feels stoned and addled, shell-shocked even, until the song’s finale submerges in ice water and thrashes about. It’s difficult to use any sort of contextual mapping here, as the song is superseded, almost shoved aside, by the panicked “Wildlife”. The Dusk in Us
is oddly paced, and any investment tends to feel intermittent. Their lacerating attacks feel self-inflicted and surgical, but don’t always scar as they should.
"The Dusk in Us", dictionally, is a solemn, universal statement, and maybe a reflection of where Converge are at right now. According to the band, each album is, bluntly put, a “new chapter in [their] lives.” At ~27 years since inception, it’s not impossible to imagine headier themes of existentialism infiltrating - or comprising - the subject matter. 2012’s All We Love We Leave Behind
wasn’t bashful, either, but something feels markedly different here: not a contrived tangent or anything, but a natural progression via five cycles of the seasons. There are some nods to years past, and most longtime fans will be satisfied with what is mostly testament Converge; but the band's causal nexus doesn’t exist in a vacuum, or in the grips of GodCity Studio, but out there
, rooted in the mundane and then amplified to hysteria. Much of The Dusk in Us
seems to obsess over the everyday, or maybe more accurately, our demons lurking on the cusp of day and night.