Review Summary: A fantastic live rendition of a classic album that will convert even the staunchest non-listeners of live albums!
Jane Doe is an album that hasn't been topped in the hardcore scene in its 16 years of existence. It's an album that I hated upon first listening, as I believe many fans of the album did, but slowly grew on me with each listen. Even if you find the music on the record completely unlistenable at first due to the density and beyond-intense nature of the music, there's an alluring quality to it that urges you to give it more listening time. It's unlike anything else you'll ever hear. For me personally, as well as a wealth of other listeners, it completely destroyed the barriers of what I thought music could be. I had never heard music this intense until I heard this album, and it opened me up to many new bands with similar styles that I now rank up there with my favorites. Jane Doe is an offensively chaotic exercise in a particular brand of dissonant, ugly and yet simultaneously heartbreaking brand of hardcore that Converge have become known for.
Admittedly, I looked at the announcement for Jane Live with relative indifference. I knew I would listen to it, but for me, live albums have just never been my cup of tea. Although not always true, many of them just seem to find a way to sap any energy that might have been found on the original recordings out of the tracks live, which is ironic considering that there should be MORE energy in a live album. On this live recording of the classic album, that is exactly what Converge did. In fact, I'll go as far as to say this recording blows the original out of the water. It's THAT good.
The major difference between this and the original is the production. On the original recording, the production can be described as midrange-y and harsh. That really isn't a bad thing, as I think it complements the vibe of the record well. However, this live recording is on a whole new level. The kick drum on Ben Koller's set is very noticeably louder and punchier, which really adds a whole new level of intensity to the music. In the original, the drums were present but never seemed to pop out like they do on Jane Live. Frontman Jacob Bannon's distinctive, unintelligible shrieks sound fresh and as subhuman as ever. Kurt Ballou's guitar tone cuts through better than on the original recording, and he does more with less in this setting, seeing as that he is the sole guitarist in the majority of the tracks, save for the last few. I found that I didn't even miss many of the overdubbed guitars found on the original, although when guitarist Steven Brodsky joins the band for the title track at the end of this album, it sounds absolutely massive. Bassist Nate Newton sounds very familiar on here; I couldn't find much difference from the original, however, his backup vocals, particularly the ones found on 'Hell To Pay' are much more present in this mix. I had honestly never heard them in the original, but after going back I could hear them way in the back of the mix to the point where it made no difference if they were there or not. Having his extra screams and backup vocals adds another dimension that was just lost on the original.
I can't review this album without at least touching on the incredible overhaul the artwork received. The main cover, redone by Ashley Rose Couture, is a real life rendition of the iconic Jane Doe artwork, and it is absolutely stunning. Converge have always maintained a visual aesthetic to complement their music, and they did not disappoint on that front in the slightest with this release.
I would highly recommend this live album for those who know and love Jane Doe. For newcomers, listen to the original first. It will give you that much more appreciation for how incredible this live release is!