Legacy is a tricky thing. Take Converge, the influential Salem, MA outfit whose impact on the worlds of metal, hardcore, and punk over the past quarter century is immeasurable. Through all of its corrosive moshes, psyche-searing blasts, and vocalist Jacob Bannon’s many cathartic howls, their discography is as immaculate as it is intense. To say the least, they’ve more than earned a reflective moment or two as they enter their fourth decade as a band. That’s where the band’s new Bloodmoon: I album comes into play…at least sort of.
It’s a record that bolsters the core line-up of Bannon, guitarist/producer Kurt Ballou, bassist Nate Newton, and drummer Ben Koller (in place since 2001’s landmark Jane Doe) with likeminded heavy music experimenters Chelsea Wolfe, multi-instrumentalist Ben Chisolm, and Cave In’s Stephen Brodsky. The musicians had got together in 2016 for some European live dates to reconfigure deep cuts from the Converge catalogue, and a few years later confirmed they’d hit the studio as a seven-piece. Few would have complained if the act just translated those reconfigured tracks into a mach 2.0 studio experiment, but the musicians opted to take the collaboration to the next level by crafting a collection of originals. Speaking with Revolver, Bannon noted “I’m concerned with forward movement,” yet Bloodmoon: I manages to both boldly re-imagine the scope of the veteran act, while still paying homage to over 30 years of hardcore sweat and blood.
At nearly eight minutes long, the opening “Blood Moon” is an epic introduction to Converge’s latest phase. Set against a cobalt-dark piano melody, Bannon’s infamous screech is drawn down towards a gravelly whisper as he gazes at an eclipse that “cuts through flesh and bone”; Wolfe emerges from the haze with a warm, yet haunting vibrato before the band crest into a sinewy bass groove that somewhat recalls their Jane Doe’s “Hell to Pay.” The new track ups the ante, though, with its walls of crystal prism guitar play, and a round of feral screams from both Bannon and Wolfe.
Bloodmoon: I often constructs these sort of slow-building monuments. It’s a pensive, yet punishing outing—if you were expecting the double-time punk beats that plate classic Converge albums like No Heroes or Axe to Fall, you might be out of luck, here. “Viscera of Men” is just about the closest thing to that speedier aspect of the band—drummer Ben Koller expertly steamrolling through a breakneck d-beat pace— yet the familiarity is upended almost immediately as the act dive into a supremely menacing doom metal motif. The juxtaposition between the ear-rupturing guitar gloom and Chisolm’s gold-gilded faux brass fanfare makes for one of Converge’s most opulent, yet horrifying moments ever.
If you’re game for Converge getting experimental, Bloodmoon: I works in many extremes. Take the pivot from “Coil,” a prog-rock ballad that winds Bannon, Wolfe, and Brodsky’s vocals into a unified hydra of melancholy tones, towards the slinking, Sabbath-style gloom of the Brodsky-sung “Flower Moon”. Bannon’s distortion-gated screams batter into Brodsky’s alt-metal yowl on the cranked, yet contemplative “Failure Forever”; Wolfe works an ethereal lilt around the jagged, jarring riffs of “Lord of Liars,” but also simmers soulfully through smoky blues metal comedown “Scorpion’s Sting”.
While it’s true that Bloodmoon: I’s expanded roster pushes Converge into new sonic territory, the band have turned to outside musicians in the past. Famously, 2009’s Axe to Fall featured tracks that had Brodsky’s Cave In jamming alongside Converge as a large ensemble (as a side-note, Brodsky had previously been Converge’s bassist in the late ‘90s, while Newton more recently joined Cave In on bass). Bloodmoon: I, however, is the act’s most immersive, cohesive collaboration yet.
From their earliest mosh-metal beginnings, to Jane Doe’s icon-cementing drive, up to the darkly melodic epics of Bloodmoon: I, it’s fair to say that than 30 years in, Converge continue to evolve; it’s only natural. On late album stand-out “Crimson Stone,” it’s both serenaded and screamed, “stand in the way and fate will simply go around.” In another light, maybe fate rises above like a mighty blood moon, drawing our gaze upwards as we move into the next phase.
Order Bloodmoon I by Converge HERE