A band of Converge‘s stature are preceded by quite a reputation. They formed as teenagers in Salem, Massachusetts in 1990, and in 1994, released their debut album, ‘Halo in a Haystack’. They soon came to be viewed as pioneers of the emerging ‘metalcore’ hybrid genre that fused heavy metal with hardcore punk, and have been one of the most critically and commercially successful bands within this area of aggressive music. Their last album, ‘The Dusk in Us’ (2017), saw them tempering the metallic elements of their sound with noise rock and post-rock influences. In late 2019/early 2020, the band joined forces with their former bassist, Cave In’s Stephen Brodsky, as well as metallic balladeer Chelsea Wolfe and her long-term collaborator Ben Chisholm, to write and record an album comprised of 11 dark, brooding post-metal songs called ‘Bloodmoon: I’, which they have now released.
The album opens in spectacular fashion with the brooding, menacing, eight-minute title track. Wolfe and frontman Jacob Bannon’s dual vocals really interweave with each other tensely and beguilingly, the song beginning softly and gently before building to a dark, heavy, murderous-sounding climax. Indeed, Bannon and Wolfe’s contrasting vocal styles complement each other very well throughout the album, most notably on ‘Crimson Stone’. The structure of ‘Viscera of Man’ is the inverse of that of the title track, beginning aggressively with the guitar and bass interlocking very effectively and closing slowly and hauntingly.
Unlike other recent albums by traditionally abrasive bands which have drifted in a more mellifluous, orchestral direction, e.g. the last Swans album, ‘Bloodmoon: I’ still features plenty of fast, guttural punk songs which should keep Converge’s existing fanbase more than happy, ‘Tongues Play Dead’ serving as a standout example. Having said that, Bannon takes a cue from Wolfe in terms of his vocal stylings on ‘Failure Forever’, his singing taking on a haunting, echoey quality that blends with Kurt Ballou’s almost jangly (!) guitars very effectively.
It should be said at this stage that Ballou really steps outside of his comfort zone on this album, experimenting with playing styles he’s seldom (if ever) employed at previous points in Converge’s discography. He provides an excellent solo on the torch song ‘Scorpion’s Sting’ which helps contribute to the partly bluesy feel the song has. His fretwork here complements the heaviness of the guitars on the following track, ‘Daimon’, very well. ‘Blood Dawn’ makes for a very effective and affecting finale, Wolfe’s vocals on the song sounding as hauntingly beautiful as ever.
Despite the dark, horrifying settings and atmospheres it evokes, ‘Bloodmoon: I’ is a very enjoyable album. Existing Chelsea Wolfe fans should love it. Converge fans may find it more problematic due to the comparative slowness of many of the songs and the abundance of clean vocals, but the band haven’t traded in their trademark aggression for crooning. Far from it. Whilst the songs may lack the straight-ahead, kick-you-in-the-shins aggression of classic works like ‘Jane Doe’, they contain a slow-burning heaviness and horror that is equally effective when it is finally released after a gradual build-up. This is one of the most satisfying post-metal albums to be released this year, and one that augurs well for future work from this pedigreed septet. ‘Bloodmoon: I’ is available now via Deathwish. Order it here.