Review Summary: I want out.
Much like Sputnik’s own Channing Freeman’s experiences with The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me, I have the same feelings for Converge’s Jane Doe. I’ve listened to it so much that my initial thoughts of amazement turned into thoughts of complacency and certainty, for I was certain that every damn time I listened to it, I’d hear the same abrasive and uncompromising sound. Though I won’t call it the epitome of music or the epitome of metalcore/hardcore, I will say it affects me on many levels. “The epitome of emotion” is more fitting for something like this. Jane Doe isn’t just music, it’s every feeling of despondency and upheaval within a human being. To call this music is like coming to the conclusion that birds are birds because they can fly. Everything on this release is much deeper than chords, time signatures, lyrics and other hogwash music critics look for on an album. This album takes me back to a time in my life where I didn’t feel like living anymore. I was 16. My friends, being older than me, naturally grew estranged and became supremely unimportant acquaintances. I was afraid of the life ahead; would I survive or crash and burn like so many others? This phobia of things to come would summon an urge to pop this album in every single night. It constantly reminded me why I didn’t want to live anymore, why I felt constant animosity, why I was so afraid. I would always pick up on that one line in the title track, the one in the chorus. It always stood out to me, being the most discernible phrase in the entirety of the LP. I used to ask about the lyrics of this album and after a few thousand listens I can say I’m reluctant to try and listen for them now. I honestly don’t want to know what Jacob is screaming because it would ruin the album for me. To me, this album is about not having words to say; simply being too overwhelmed to have thoughts. That’s why curious listeners will most likely not find a shred or shard of correct lyric save for sung passages because, mostly, there isn’t any being said. The majority of the lyrics are for the listener to perceive, even more be felt. Regardless of my opinions and beliefs about this work, I have to say that I’ll always remember it even if I can’t listen to it anymore.
As inferred before, the main feature of this album is its feeling; the destructive, chaotic and bleak disposition of hating someone and forgetting about someone. It’s more complex than a break-up album though; don’t let the title fool you. “Jane Doe” doesn’t just represent a woman; it represents someone who might have been your lover or friend in a past scenario but now is just another individual. Everybody has a “Jane Doe”, and if you don’t, well, you’ll have one eventually. The destruction and the chaos is shown to the listener right off the bat. “Concubine” comes and goes quickly; bashing the feelings into your brain, then it directly segues into “Fault and Fracture”, which does the same. This trend continues down through the LP, never letting up or becoming uninteresting. The bleakness comes in the softer passages. “Hell to Pay” is a break from the aural assault, but never truly as it’s gloomy down groove drains more than is soothes. “Phoenix in Flight” shares this functionality, perhaps even more so. In this song, the passages have a heavily inebriated feeling, like the bottom of a fifth. After the bout of depression, “Phoenix in Flames” brings destruction, bound to *** up any listener. “Thaw” closes out the aggression on the album by beating the listener to a pulp once again, leaving only mere shreds of life left. All of that lunacy happens in a measly 35 minutes, and the album hasn’t truly started yet.
Lo and behold, “Jane Doe”, title track of said album; 11:35 seconds of pure emotional catharsis. I apologize in advance to anyone who opposes this notion but, this is THE album closer; slow, burning and painfully beautiful. The bleak passages prior to this song only served as foreshadowing to it, for this is what manic depression sounds and feels like. Forget about the first part of the song, it trudges along and Jacob screams his heart out verbatim for 7 minutes; the second part is the real masterpiece. Converge gets melancholy, allowing for one last breath before unleashing all of their energy around the 9 minute mark. Jacob comes back with the screaming but this time it’s nothing like it was before. Whatever form he was following gets thrown out the window, as words and thoughts become meaningless when he starts roaring. Then the feeling of fulfillment befalls the battered and bruised listener, somewhat like finishing a 5 page essay feels like on Adderall.
Ultimately, this is a great album by a great band. Contained within its inaccessible, downright ugly sounds is a beautiful human characteristic, vulnerability. We are all vulnerable to anything at any given time. The concept is not a hard one to relate to, in fact, it’s probably the easiest to relate to. The ability to relate to this work is why it’s enjoyed and cherished by so many people. This album is a testament to what music can do for an individual. Simply put, Jane Doe is an experience that should not go unexperienced.