Converge - Jane Doe
Equal Vision Records
12 songs (45:22)
Release year: 2001
Converge, Equal Vision Records
Reviewed by Thomas
Archive review

It isn’t easy to find the proper words to describe the genius that lies within this record and the people behind it, nor is it easy find the right words that describes the music, the emotions and the impression it makes upon the first listen. Jane Doe is Converge‘s breakthrough, their milestone, and the first in line of a few absolutely excellent albums. After three albums with some careful experimenting, mainly with metal, that varied greatly in quality, Converge hit everything dead on with Jane Doe. The framework of their music finally set roots, and though the songs are still of the experimental kind, they keep a keen eye on their goal and never drift of without any direction at all. Bannon and company showed the hadcore/punk-scene, that tons could be done within the boundaries of the genre if you allowed your inspiration to be the boss but still managed to keep track of it. Jane Doe consists mainly of what I’ve just said. Riffs, polyrhythmic blasts and unique vocals that makes many want to label them mathcore yet still within the fairly simple framework that is punk.

While unique in many different ways, except the vocals, the songwriting might be what sticks out the most for my part. The intelligence is nearly untouchable and with perfect teamwork Kurt Ballou and the rest of the guys churn out songs that may be chaotic, but yet so organized that every person with musical understanding would turn their heads in amazement. While some songs, like the rhythmic paradise that is Thaw might bring bands like Meshuggah to mind, others, despite being way above their technical level, may be reminiscing The Ramones, Black Flag and even Dead Kennedys. Like both Jacob Bannon and guitarist Kurt Ballou have stated numerous times, high profile metal bands like Slayer and Entombed have also delivered their share of inspiration and while not as audible here, there are songs here like Fault and Fracture that is put together by some surprisingly extreme metal bits and pieces as well as their own unique style and sound.

What’s fairly interesting here, and what’s part of making their songwriting so unique, is that guitar genius Ballou can play whatever the hell he wants and still make it sound overwhelmingly awesome. From the straightforward-ness of Homewrecker to the bizarre yet strangely interesting Concubine and the weird but engaging post-hardcore-like riffs that colour Distance and Meaning ever so brightly with a Refused-ish tone. Despite the production being a little thin, the guitars brings enough power and might to the table that it’ll clutch your throat and punch you continuously in the face with every single song from start to finish. Even slower cuts like Hell to Pay and Phoenix in Flight that one would have though boring at first shines with emotions, and the equally slow but absolutely terrific title-track and finisher is able to shake every momentum, rock every emotion as well as draining you of all your breath before crushing you completely with a fist of exploding rage. In addition to all this, the perfect, yes perfect, and extremely precise and technical drumming adds another dimension to the music. As mentioned earlier, the teamwork between Ben Koller and Ballou is perfected by the former who follows every twist and turn with excellence. He fills every hole with interesting turns and extremely exciting fills. He makes what is often the hardest part of this kind of music seem as easy as if he was born to do it. He’s equally creative as his axe-wielding colleague and with some off-time beats that is out of this world it wouldn’t surprise me if the man can bend time and space.

What about the vocalist? you ask. I can’t write the first Converge-review on the site without devoting an entire paragraph to the sick sick man that is Jacob Bannon now could I? Absolutely not, seeing as how he’s equally unique in his very own way just like Ballou. I have never heard, and I doubt I ever will hear, anyone that sounds like this guy. It’s impossible to describe, but I’ll steal a line from a review elsewhere stating that he sounds like a dog barking through a distortion pedal. That might not sound positive, but oddly enough he delivers a type of aggression that you will not find in any other band. Obviously he is also the reason so many people struggle to get into the band which makes him the easiest victim for criticism. When you’ve experienced Converge enough however, you will find his vocals merely normal for a band of this nature, and nothing you will ever hear comes close to what this man is able to deliver. His occasional clean vocals fits perfectly as well as they bring in a lot of atmosphere, especially on the title-track.

Despite the high score I give this, it is not given that anyone will like it. I highly doubt that people that despise hardcore will even give them a fair chance, even though it might help that they wear their metallic influences with pride on a couple of songs. However, people into slightly experimental music as well as hardcore in general that haven’t heard this is clearly missing something. If you’re new to the band, this is the place to start. Take it from here and leave the earlier albums for later seeing as how they’re far from the level Jane Doe is on. I have yet to hear a hardcore-band that have delivered an album with so many dimensions and so many elements to get into as this. Converge haven’t even pulled it off themselves, and I doubt they ever will.

Killing Songs :
Concubine, Fault and Fracture, Distance and Meaning, Homewrecker, The Broken Vow, Heaven in Her Arms, Thaw, Jane Doe
Thomas quoted 94 / 100
Adam quoted 92 / 100
Other albums by Converge that we have reviewed:
Converge - You Fail Me reviewed by Milan and quoted 85 / 100
Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind reviewed by Koeppe and quoted 93 / 100
Converge - Axe to Fall reviewed by Thomas and quoted 91 / 100
Converge - No Heroes reviewed by James and quoted 94 / 100
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