The latest record from metalcore pioneers Converge is a raw, merciless slab of feedback-charged intensity that sees the band doing what they do best — balancing atmospheric melodies with extreme aggression. Nine records and nearly three decades into their career, the band are still creating invigorating material that inspires countless artists emerging from various hardcore scenes. Guitarist Kurt Ballou talked to Exclaim! about his approach to recording and producing the new record, why it took five years, how You Fail Me influenced The Dusk in Us, and what will happen with the leftover material from the album.
1. Converge aren't career-oriented.
The gap between 2012's All We Love We Leave Behind and The Dusk In Us is the longest the band have ever taken, but not without good reason. Between touring, putting out multiple live releases, remastering 2004's You Fail Me and each member's extensive work with side projects, Converge's members have kept busy. Ballou says that as the band ages, it's become more difficult to get together to create new material, but they aren't the type of band to sacrifice quality for the sake of putting out an album.
"We just want to put out the best record that we can and if we don't have the songs, we don't feel compelled to release an album of subpar material," says Ballou. "It happened to take five years this time around, but I think sometimes as you get older, sometimes your life gets more complicated, more commitments and all of us have other jobs, other bands and we've collectively had six children since the last album."
2. The band left some of the best songs off the album.
Prior to the release of The Dusk in Us, the band dropped a seven-inch featuring "I Can Tell You About Pain" and "Eve"; the latter does not appear on the album. While the band aren't sure how the remaining four songs will be released, Ballou says they will come out eventually.
"We all disagreed about what the strongest songs were, and which songs made for the best record. I think we're all equally unhappy with what ended up on the album. It was a compromise. Some of the songs on that album are actually some of the weakest ones that we recorded, and some of the ones that aren't on the album are the strongest. We're just not exactly sure how we're going to release them yet. Whether it's B-sides, or an EP, we don't know yet."
3. Ballou took a more relaxed approach to producing.
As usual, Ballou handled production duties on The Dusk in Us at his GodCity Studio. While writing and recording the new record, Ballou noted that a lot of the songs were headed in a very raw, visceral direction and embraced that on the production end. Given the direction of the material, he says this was an opportunity for him to relax as a recording engineer and not worry about performances and tones being perfect.
"As a recording engineer who is also in a band, I feel I could go one of two ways: I could go be Trent Reznor and have that extremely produced, meticulous, thought-about kind of elaborate production; or I could approach it like this is my time to let my hair down, take a break and not worry about that stuff so much, because the only client that I need to make happy is myself and my band. I don't need to really worry about doing what's in the best interest and the wishes of my client, I can just do what I want."
4. The Dusk In Us is more connected to You Fail Me than to iconic Jane Doe.
In the lead-up to the new record, Converge performed their 2001 breakthrough album Jane Doe in its entirety for a live album. Ballou says this didn't have a huge influence on his approach to The Dusk in Us since he casually worked on it during weekends, but revisiting You Fail Me for its reissue had an effect on his equipment choices during the making of the new album.
"You might be able to draw more of a straight line [between] The Dusk in Us and You Fail Me because I did spend a lot of time remixing You Fail Me when it came out prior to Jane Live. Not so much with songwriting, but equipment wise, I used the same setup that I used on You Fail Me on The Dusk In Us, both with a lot of the writing and most of the recording."
5. The band want to evolve but never to reinvent themselves.
While Converge have certainly evolved over the years, their sound has never strayed far from its core. Ballou says that the band can't prevent themselves from making music this way together, and often come into practice with ideas that start out far from being a Converge track, but finish with a distinct Converge vibe.
"Certainly, the four of us that are in the band now have been the band for the past 16, 17 years so there's a bit of a vocabulary that we use when we play together. We do try to broaden our vocabulary but there's definitely a way that we interact with each other that it's just the way that we play. There's nothing that's going to come totally out of left field and I don't think we want to either. That's why we have side projects, so if we have some other form of expression that is just way outside of what Converge is, we have another avenue to express that."
The Dusk In Us is out now on Epitaph Records.