Right now, think of a song by any band you’ve heard and loved. Then try to determine why it sticks out in your memory. Is it because of a guitar riff? A few lines in the lyrics, perhaps? Or is it the way everything comes together? It can obviously be any of these things, but more often than not, you’ll find that it’s because something in the song either hit home with you, made a lasting impression, or maybe even grabbed you from the start. Now, the album at hand, Converge’s metalcore opus Jane Doe
, is readily described by those who have heard it as an experience that produces these kind of results, but to end the list of effects it has there wouldn’t be telling the whole story. In fact, the only way to fully understand this story is to experience it yourself, being forced to be in a totally different state than before you listened.
What is Jane Doe
? Simply put, it is the result of a conglomeration of emotions, messages and afterthoughts birthed from a relationship gone sour. Many of the (largely indecipherable) lyrics are directed towards an anonymous female figure, someone that vocalist and lyricist Jacob Bannon has nothing but contempt and bitterness for. Before I make this sound like it’s just another record filled with angst-driven writing and a complaining singer, there’s a few things that must be understood. Firstly, Jacob Bannon possesses vocal chords capable of shrieks, screams, yells, and even a bit of cleans, all not sounding like anything by any vocalist, in metalcore or music period. For the first few listens, his vocals actually sound like they’re too low in the mix, but if they were any louder they would overwhelm everything else, as loud and insane as it is. Secondly, it’s not just Bannon that sounds angry. The entire band produces such an intense and cathartic rampage that it almost suffocates the listener. This isn’t like the music you consider angry; its energy is so ridiculous that you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget you’re listening to recorded music and not the emotions themselves of the people creating it. And finally, there’s a difference between music that wants your attention and music that demands it. Jane Doe
does neither; it simply takes
it without your permission.
The type of metalcore Converge play is borderline unheard of in recent years. The irony of it is that a lot of people consider them, along with Botch, to have contributed greatly to the pioneering of the genre. Many metalcore bands today are identified with things like chugging riffs, screamed and yelled vocals, breakdowns, almost non-existent bass, and the periodic clean vocals, usually implemented for choruses. Over their career, Converge have explored many variations of mixing hardcore and metal, from the largely punk-influenced Petitioning the Empty Sky
to the thrashy and sometimes sludgy sound of their most recent offering, No Heroes
. However, Jane Doe
is a prime example of their sound because it captures the intensity and passion of old school hardcore, but is constructed with the brutality and technicality of an accomplished metal band. What makes their formula, in particular on this album, so great is that it doesn’t contain any of the things that are overdone in metalcore today; it’s extremely difficult for any element of a sound so unique and pure to overstay its welcome. Quite frankly, I’m surprised no other band I’ve heard of rips them off and then calls them an influence (the latter happens very often, but I have yet to hear anything truly like this). The guitar tone is yet another unique feature of Jane Doe
, both for metalcore as a whole and the rest of the band’s catalogue; the sound is extremely heavy without being over-distorted, and is complimented perfectly by quick and precise (and audible!) bass lines and ever-evolving drumming that changes time signatures at the drop of a hat. The sound as a whole is undoubtedly memorable, and Bannon’s surreal wails top it off with an even more unforgettable performance.
There are a lot of albums out there that share some of the traits of Jane Doe
I’ve been praising. Sure, it’s technically impressive. Sure, the wailing screams of Jacob Bannon are unique and sometimes eerie. And so what if the guitar tones are unlike anything else out there? Flattering musicianship is an appeal that only lasts so long, and even some of the most unique albums get forgotten at some point. Converge haven’t just crafted an album consisting of technically astounding and, easily considered, perfect music; they’ve created a force that will inevitably become familiar to your memory because it will never leave it. The utterly brash and unrelentingly brutal nature of it has a tendency to evoke extreme reactions from those who listen; you’re likely either going to embrace it or be repulsed by it. In the end, however, it doesn’t matter which happens, because regardless of how well you get along with Jane Doe
, it’s going to be an up close and personal friend whether you like it or not.