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When it comes to European metal festivals, Roadburn Festival in Tilburg (The Netherlands) is where you’re most likely to find the more left-of-centre, artistically challenging but also memorable performances from heavy and alternative music’s outliers.
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From Mono performing with a string quartet, to Tryptikon presenting Celtic Frost’s Requiem (again with strings) or Sleep pulling out one record after another, front-to-back across several years, it’s a festival defined by unique sets that go down in folklore for the artists’ fanbases.
Such was the case in 2016, when Salem hardcore legends Converge came together onstage with gothic metal songstress Chelsea Wolfe and Cave In guitarist Stephen Brodsky for the ‘Bloodmoon’ set, featuring re-wroked Converge songs in partnership with guests of the highest musical calibre.
The group performed several shows across Europe and the UK at the time, but as is the case with touring musicians, schedules, lives and releases soon took priority, preventing further live appearances.
However, the seeds of a project had been sown and after that little period of time half-a-decade ago, a full-length release was always on the cards.
This finally culminated this month with the release of Bloodmoon: I, a Converge record in title only, featuring Brodsky, Wolfe and Wolfe’s bandmate and musical partner Ben Chisholm coming together with Converge to compose and album of spectacular breadth, both enthralling and devastating in equal measure.
“It has the same sort of ‘teeth’ as a heavy album—but it has more dynamics, it’s more atmospheric … almost cinemagraphic at times, more orchestral … it has a different kind of aggression, an aggressive post-rock or normal rock vibe … but there’s also super doomy and groovy and heavy moments too. It’s got a lot of dynamic to it,” says Converge frontman Jacob Bannon, himself struggling to articulate the sum of his latest artistic endeavour.
“We’ve been sharing demo ideas for songs for over five years—that’s a lot of creative time, but of course we have other bands and lives—we would have months and stretches of no activity, and then we would suddenly jump into it again.
“This was very fluid—I was writing lyrics for Steve, Chelsea’s writing lyrics for me … there were all these moments of collaborative effort that you wouldn’t typically get in other collaborative relationships.”
For this record, it meant not having a relationship with the creation be exclusive—to let people in, and also let people leave—not try to control where it all goes.
[ Jacob Bannon ]
The varied cast of members suggests a supergroup-like setup for Bloodmoon.
However, Bannon is quick to point out that this is an extension of what Converge already does—albeit one that they were happy to share the creative reins on to truly get into the spirit of collaboration.
“We want this to be an extension of our band—not a new thing. It’s not new … it’s all been done before but we just thought the idea would be really cool,” he says.
“We’ve always had guest performances and collaborations of a sort—that’s been cool but we’d never done a true collaboration like this.”
“When you experience music from people who’ve been making music for a long time and they put together a new group, you get a sample of everyone’s talents, even though the songs won’t be that strong—that serves ego more than anything.”
“For this record, it meant not having a relationship with the creation be exclusive—to let people in, and also let people leave—not try to control where it all goes.”
“We wanted something substantive—we wanted this to be an artistic statement and have a collective musical character that was its own thing entirely that wasn’t just our own bands independently.”
As to why they chose to work with Wolfe, who serves as the main supporting character on the record, Bannon notes that it came down to gut instinct from listening to her music.
“We’re fans of her music—her second record Apoklaypsis was the one that connected with me … so powerful and intense … and it struck a chord with me personally at the time it came out,” he says.
Bloodmoon:I has succeeded on all fronts for Bannon and co., with a collection of songs sweeping and epic in sound and thematic scope.
Wolfe and Chisholm are the perfect injection of uneasy darkness into Converge’s crushing brand of hardcore, while Brodsky’s hand help shape the arrangements into compositions that are more symphonic than traditional rock.
It begs the question—if this is ‘Bloodmoon: I’, are we going to be hearing more instalments of the Bloodmoon chapter in the near future?
“We’ve been working at this for a long time, we’ve recorded a lot of material,” says Bannon.
“This, to us, was the most complete songs and had a sampling of all the nuances of this side of Converge … but we have plenty more in the bank, We’ll see what happens.”