Converge - Bloodmoon: I (Cover Artwork)


Bloodmoon: I (2021)

Epitaph Records

For the unfamiliar, this project is years in the making and stems from a festival show Converge performed in the Netherlands under the name Blood Moon. The performance featured gothic songstress Chelsea Wolfe, her longtime collaborator Ben Chisholm, and former Converge member and current Cave In leader Stephen Brodsky. On its face, any normal Converge release is worth checking out. Bloodmoon: I, however, is not a normal Converge record. The band again welcomed in the additional collaborators for a dusty slab of post-rock, doom metal, and stoner rock all fighting to break through the carnage of the now expanded container of Converge.

As a longtime Converge fan, I welcomed the news when the band announced the release Bloodmoon: I. The pioneering metalcore act has put out some of the most extreme and consistent efforts of the last two decades without a miss in their catalogue. By expanding the lineup for Converge - and with the inclusion of Chelsea Wolfe whose vocal stylings are, let’s just say, different than Jacob Bannon’s - the band signaled they would not be held back by previous expectations. As if they ever were. Bloodmoon: I’s hour listening time finds Converge exploring many textures where they have not previously gone, but it doesn’t mean nobody has gone there before.

Opening song “Blood Moon” warmly welcomes the listener in. Wolfe’s airy vocal melodies gradually get more forceful before a heavy post-rock is filtered through Kurt Ballou’s signature guitar crashing the song into Bannon as he barks, “Blood moon ascends in the night / Cosmic unblinking eye.” The nearly 8 minute song builds and structures tension throughout culminating in a post-metal swirl of dark musical theatrics. It’s everything you could hope this collaboration would yield. “Flower Moon” uses a huge stoner riff and a wandering distorted bass line to lull the listener into the fog as Wolfe and Bannon’s contrasting vocals build on and off each other. “Lord of Liars” is a two minute rager and probably the most Converge-like song on the record with drummer Ben Koller pulverizing his drum set over heavy post-punk guitars.

Songs like these make you remember why Converge are metalcore pioneers in the first place and the potential this collaborative effort has. However, there are also examples where it feels like the expanded lineup may be exploring new textures as it relates to Converge, but not with the same originality they brought to their signature brand of metalcore. Listening to a song like “Viscera of Men” shows all the years of touring with Neurosis has rubbed off on the band. “Failure Forever” feels like it would be better off on a Cave In album around the release of Antenna and “Coil” puts the band into Baroness territory. “Tongues Playing Dead'' gives you an idea of what Converge may have sounded like if they went a more mainstream route like Eighteen Visions. Caveat being this is still Converge.

Part of this problem seems to be one of ambition. At an hour runtime, Bloodmoon: I is not short for ideas. They feel very comfortable exploring more post-rock elements of their sound which bogs down the back of the record. Something actually compounded by the vocals. Wolfe can occasionally come across as monotone while Bannon’s singing chops are not as nearly as interesting as his indecipherable bark. When the spectrum shifts too far into shoegaze territory, it suffers from what could be a more fertile ground for collaboration on the heavier side of Converge.

Bloodmoon: I is likely to polarize Converge fans. If you are going into this album expecting the same Converge that released Jane Doe or even The Dusk In Us, I’d leave those expectations at the door. While not immediately as grabbing as previous Converge albums, with repeated listens it does warm up. You just wouldn't think with this expanded line up, you'd be comparing a new Converge record to other bands.