Review Summary: Something I needed to do for a radio thing. It's not entirely a review, but it basically functions as one.
For how highly I consider this album and its effect on certain parts of my life, a mere 5 minutes to describe something so iconic, so establishing almost makes me feel as though I’m insulting it. The vision and the shape and the dissonant beauty all converge (haha) to create one of the more astonishingly cathartic pieces of music ever engineered. I’ve written pages upon pages of different thoughts on this, and the constant rearranging combinations of words and sentences to better fit something more around the 5 minute mark have all ended in saddened and frustrated disappointment. I’m wasting time here VIA this pointless introduction though, so I’ll just cut to the chase - Converge are metalcore’s undisputed pioneers, and their 2001 opus 'Jane Doe' a pinnacle of an unfortunately maligned genre.
Remember that girl that dumped you so unexpectedly and for no reason? What about that one you were hopelessly infatuated with, yet due to your lack of confidence you merely looked at her admiringly from a distance, or better yet you Facebook-stalked her? Don’t say you haven’t been there, don’t say you can’t relate or maybe I’m just weird... fear not though, broken-hearted - something other than The Cure’s 'Disintegration' exists for your ailing cause. She’s readily available too, despite the fact that she’s a disembodied, blotchy head on an album cover that looks sinisterly down upon anyone with those sultrily half-closed eyes. She’s still always there, though. For all the broken hearts, the drunken hookups where you thought there was something more, just little bit more than just a slimy kiss on the dance-floor, or the breakups you seem to reluctantly fall in love with thinking of every frigging scrutinizing detail about - rest assured dudes, she’s always gonna there.
Many who have heard the album would agree that it is one of the harshest and naturally unlistenable pieces of music ever created, and rightfully so - its sole purpose is to resonate with those primal feelings of all-consuming hatred experienced after, say... a “dissolving relationship” or an “emotional fallout”, to quote frontman Jacob Bannon on the album’s lyrical content. Elements as far removed from the overall sound of hardcore such as 80s post-punk blend seamlessly with the grind-influenced hardcore-punk that Converge trademarked as the core sound in the late 90s. Jane Doe extends these roots to fruition, finally bringing metalcore to a sort of underground mainstream as it gained widespread attention from various sources such as Kerrang and Pitchfork Media. Admittedly, Botch’s 'We Are the Romans' came before Jane Doe as a shining light in metalcore, yet the latter was the album that catalyzed the genre’s explosion into mainstream heavy circles.
To choose only two songs that epitomize the imperfect perfection that is Jane Doe is almost as criminal as my decision to cite it as my favorite album that I may only ever be able to talk about professionally for 5 minutes. Nevertheless, these songs are the breakneck, punky ‘Homewrecker’ and the revolutionary title track, which comes as close to sludgecore as Neurosis did on their third album, 'Souls at Zero'.
‘Homewrecker’, like many of the other songs on the album, begins in an incomparably brutal fashion. Few of the other songs can be said to have something resembling a chorus, however. One of punk’s defining features lies in the shriek-alongs that are chanted by the crowd in the moshpit as the singers give their vocal chords a much-needed recuperation. ‘Homewrecker’ is no different, as “NO LOVE / NO HOPE” has become something of an anthem for Converge. The cannonball sent in this fiercely repeated message is short but not sweet, yet it loses none of its poignancy. Call it a discordant beauty for sure, but this kind is unusually found in its simplicity.
The title track leaves absolutely nothing behind, often cited amongst the band’s faithful fans as the entire discography’s crowning achievement. A slower brand of the band’s sound was experimented with on the band’s prior records, yet was never quite perfected until this. Even without the sound, the song’s sheer statistics are imposing. I can recall ripping the album from the CD and listening to it all the way through, and looking at Track 12 as though it were the elephant in the room. In many ways, it still is. Shivers... no, shatters are still sent down my spine when I look at the tracklist and think of everything that comes before it, all songs converging (haha) into something that feels like a sharply monolithic 11:34s of conflicting yet seamless noise. From the sludgy verses and wails that feel never-ending in the choruses to the consciousness-blasting fade-out, I have never heard such a musically diverse cohesiveness.
So, even though I feel I’m nearing the end of my allocated 5 minutes, I’m sure it goes without saying that I could talk for much longer and I desperately hope that I get the chance to bring my thoughts to more minds than just my friends, as Jane Doe stands alone as an instantly recognizable icon for those who know of it. Sure, the album is by no means for everyone to listen to and take what I have from it as its inaccessibility could be seen as a detriment, yet to ignore its existence is to neglect an aspect of humanity. The sounds and messages revealed by the purely painstakingly therapeutic sound of the album are enough to reawaken those parts of the emotional spectrum most people would rather forget.
For those who consider themselves to be musically knowledgeable and eclectic yet bypass this with that natural ignorance to heavy music which many seem to have, they are overlooking an essential part of what the subjective experience of music has become.