A number of bands tend to slow down as they progress from youthful immediacy into old handedness. This is so sincerely and spectacularly not the case for the incomparable metalcore masters Converge. On the heels of their most recent full length release, The Dusk In Us, comes an EP of tracks that didn’t quite make the cut. Beautiful Ruin however is no slouch, and it perhaps serves the songs contained therein to be isolated from a full album. As if they needed to, the fellows in Converge (Jacob Bannon on vocals, Kurt Ballou on guitar, Ben Koller on drums, and Nate Newton on bass) prove once again that they refuse to let age slow them down.
The EP kicks off with “Permanent Blue”. This track gallops vengefully through its lean two and a half minutes, carried by Koller’s incredible chops that teem and batter through every momentous movement. Ballou and Newton work so perfectly in building an impressive melody throughout the chaos, the latter keeping pace with Koller while Ballou’s parts find atmospheric positioning in the mix. Jacob Bannon’s vocal work on this track is raucous and uncompromising, serving as a wake up call to the complacent. The bridge seems to embody this message, insisting that “Passivity will only lead you/To the mouth of tragedy”.
“Churches and Jails” continues the onslaught, ramping up the intensity to blood-boiling levels. Politically charged and clear in its message, this song will easily offend the churchgoing crowd. Bannon screams incessantly, calling to behead the beast of organized religion and the prison system in order to starve the malignancy that is growing in our country. While barely a minute and a half long, there can be no denying the message. Truth is the devil’s work…
“Melancholia” eases off the gas just a hair while delivering one of the most brutal tracks of Converge’s recent works. A complicated picture of unease, Koller snarls belligerently atop a doomy little diddy that squeals and roars competently. While this is a great track in its own right, its easy to see how it didn’t make the cut. The lyrics are a bit unfocused and perhaps not as well written as the rest of the EP and most of the tracks on The Dusk In Us.
Closing this short collection is the superbly brutal title track. “Beautiful Ruin” is excellently worded and represents the band at the top of their game. The riffs, the rhythm, the vocals, it all works. In contrast to “Melancholia” it’s difficult to see how this wasnt the centerpeice of The Dusk In Us. It bleeds hopelessness and has an emotional weight that blows the other three tracks on the EP out of the water. Koller’s drumming on this track is succulent and the way Ballou and Newton intertwine their parts lends to the cohesiveness of it all. Bannon is there all the while, wailing like a banshee beyond the moor of existence. There’s a broken honesty to the lyrics that celebrates life’s journey as much as it seems to hate its outcome.
In the context of The Dusk In Us, it’s easy to see why many of these tracks were left off. They are generally well rounded attempts by a band that rewrites its formula with every song. Blistering and wildly free from the constraints of a record, Beautiful Ruin works as its own self-contained apparatus of destruction. The tracks seem to be loosely themed around the deterioration of society and the impending collapse of reality as it currently stands. Prophetic or simply keen in its timing, Beautiful Ruin is a well-staged accompaniment to Converge’s ever-expanding body of work.