Parker’s Profound Portfolio Probes – Jane Doe by Converge

Parker Reviews Jane Doe by Converge

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Parker Traman

Parker’s Profound Portfolio Probes

Jane Doe (2001) by Converge

 

Before I begin this deep dive, I will tell you one thing: this record is NOT for everyone. When you turn on Jane Doe, you enter a world of distortion, hectic energy, regret, and misunderstood beauty. 

This record can take a toll on you depending on how you connect to the sound, and how well you relate to its subject matter. But nonetheless, I am reviewing this album, because I think it’s amazing. So, here we go.

Jane Doe was the fourth album released by Salem, Massachusetts-based metalcore group, Converge, in 2001. As their past three albums, Halo in a Haystack, Petitioning The Empty Sky, and When Forever Comes Crashing were lost in the shuffle of underground metal music, Jane Doe helped push their respective genre into the limelight.

Twenty years after the album’s release, new metal bands are still popping up, citing Converge and Jane Doe as one of their primary influences.

Now, a record so influential and so important must’ve been a smash hit in the mainstream. Well, no, it wasn’t, which is a shame. 

Jane Doe is very much not a product of its time, as its sound still resonates to this day, and, as I said, it still influences bands to this day. So without much further ado, let’s dive in track-by-track.

The record opens with, arguably, Converge’s most well-known track, “Concubine.” At only one minute and nineteen seconds, it’s the shortest track on the record (kind of, but we’ll get to that later), but no doubt, it is the most punishing.

Starting off with a short guitar riff, the song spirals down into a rabbit hole, chalked full of blast beats, punishing riffs, and most importantly, distorted vocals.

The vocals on this record do rub people the wrong way, as most of the time, you cannot decipher what in the world Converge vocalist, Jacob Bannon, is screaming. And even worse for some people, there are barely any points where Bannon is melodic, barely letting up his ferocity.

Along with every song on this record, “Concubine” deals with the topic of love. The lyrics to this record may surprise you, considering how evil sounding the music is. Bannon’s writing on this record is unforgettably poetic and heartfelt, as he details a failed relationship that he was in not long before making the album. 

As “Concubine” wraps up its chaos, guitarist Kurt Ballou simply strokes a couple strings on his instrument and we are immediately led into the second track, “Fault and Fracture.”
“Fault and Fracture” doesn’t let up though, as it’s just as intense as its predecessor. Although not as brutally fast as “Concubine,” “Fault and Fracture” puts more focus on Ballou’s guitar work and drummer Ben Koller’s amazing ability to flow with the vicious music.

As well as keeping the same intensity that “Concubine” had, “Fault and Fracture” also features the same somber lyrical content. After all, the first line on this song is simply, “You were most beautiful as the damage and the trauma.” Really says something, doesn’t it?

“Fault and Fracture” amps up the intensity as it progresses, eventually dissolving into an array of distorted noise as it abruptly ends.

The next track on the record, “Distance and Meaning,” is the first example of the album’s diversity, going in a more post-hardcore/punk rock-fueled direction. 

One of Ballou’s most iconic guitar riffs opens this song, as Koller matches the same disjointed, and somewhat disconnected nature with some oddly funky drum work. 

Bannon also changes it up, as he doesn’t scream for the majority of the song, instead opting for a more “talk-yell” approach. 

The lyrical content features the album’s first references to death, as Bannon spits, “That’s where they die.”

The chorus hits, and we get a barrage of classic Bannon screams that eventually lead back into the talk-yell. 

The entirety of this song bleeds creativity out of the band, and that doesn’t change, as “Distance and Meaning” leads into one of the most underrated tracks on the record, “Hell to Pay.”

On this track, bassist Nate Newton takes the wheel, leading the track with his sandy and chunky bass riffing. 

This song is so much simpler, as it’s slower, and features less complex rhythms and time signatures. Bannon also somewhat whispers his lyrics during these verses, recalling him being lost in, “blinding lights.”

But of course, like every song on this record, the intensity hits, as Ballou steps into the limelight during the chorus, utilizing more experimental guitar work.

Newton also leads the vocal charge during the chorus, as Bannon lightly sings in the background. It’s just a whirlwind of anger and crunchy distortion.

After another trip to the verses and chorus, Ballou leads the bridge, as he continues his odd and spastic riffing, as Koller finally turns up the heat, ditching the simple beats for fast fills.

Newton screams the song away, as Bannon amps it up in the background as well, and ultimately, we’re left with distorted feedback as one of the greatest lead-ins to a song ever occurs.

As the feedback progresses, Koller begins his drumming, his ferociousness apparent. We’ve entered the fifth track, “Homewrecker.”
Up there with “Concubine” as one of the most brutal songs on the record, “Homewrecker” sets out to accomplish one thing, and it does so in spades, and that’s to hurt your eardrums.

This track is LOUD with a massive capital L. Bannon lets out his most ruthless screams on this track, and Koller, by a country mile, performs his very best on this track.

“Homewrecker” never lets up, as the band allows Koller and Bannon to carry the song. The chorus is quite literally just Bannon screaming incoherently, simply nothing else, and it’s great. 

It’s clear Bannon was ticked off while recording this song, as any normal person would’ve ripped out their vocal chords performing this track. But Bannon’s vocals seem to be a special breed. 

The song continues its tirade until the very end, as the band wraps it up and we finally get a moment of silence.

But not for long, of course.

Immediately we are taken back to the fiery depths of the band’s noise, as “The Broken Vow” keeps the unrelenting sound similar to “Homewrecker.”

The two-minute and thirteen-second-long track provides us with one of Converge’s most iconic lines, as Bannon and Newton shout, “I’ll take my love to the grave!”

The song’s title and lyrics hammer home the pain Bannon felt when his lover left him, vowing to her, as she broke her’s to him, that he would never stop loving her, even though she didn’t love him.

The song comes to a screeching halt, and we are again met with a frantic and unrelenting song, this time in the form of “Bitter and Then Some.”
Intentionally featuring drained out production that sounds like it’s being recorded through a tube, “Bitter and Then Some,” is barely a minute-and-a-half’s worth of Bannon letting out his screams. Similar to “The Broken Vow,” Newton and Bannon are somewhat chanty with their vocal deliveries, and they switch off from each other quite often.

“Bitter and Then Some” ends and we are meant with a change of pace, but absolutely not a change in heaviness. “Heaven in Her Arms” is our next stop.

“Heaven in Her Arms” remains a fan-favorite to this day, and there’s even a metal band from Japan whose name is taken from this song. 

This song focuses on one simple statement that nearly every partner says to another: “I love you,” and it’s clear these words are important to Bannon, as he details a man who was killed by those three words.

This song also contains one of the few instances of a breakdown on the record, as the music slows down and the guitar riff takes hold of the music.

The ending to the song, similar to “Hell to Pay,” is just distorted feedback as it leads into, in my opinion, the best song on the record. And that song is “Phoenix in Flight.”

By far the most unique song on the record, “Phoenix in Flight” takes you on a journey full of distorted guitar riffs, slow, methodical drumming, and echoed vocals that all weave together in this beautiful blend of chaos and noise.

This song also features warped guitar noises in the background, courtesy of Stephen Brodsky, vocalist and lead guitarist of fellow metalcore band, Cave In. Brodsky continues to contribute to Converge’s music to this very day, appearing on later records and even performing live with the band during their Jane Live performance, where the band played the entire record in full to a live audience at the 2016 Roadburn Festival.

“Phoenix in Flight” also holds the distinction of being the only track to feature screams, as Bannon actually sings melodically in the background. And before you ask, his voice is quiet because of the echo applied to his voice.

After the first minute-and-a-half or so features Bannon singing, the rest of the song is purely instrumental, as each member plays a continuous loop of music. Ballou plays the same riff, as Newton leads behind him, and Koller progressively changes his drum pattern as the song goes on.

Once the song reaches its climax, the distortion is amped up, and we are treated to a closing segment worthy of a good old headbang.

And then armageddon occurs, as we are immediately led into the forty-eight-second long track, “Phoenix in Flames.”

The polar opposite of “Phoenix in Flight,” “Phoenix in Flames,” is fast, nonsensical, and scary. Bannon sounds like an actual animal on this song, screaming his heart out as Koller shows off some of his most frantic drumming on the record.

Bannon’s screams lead us into the penultimate track, “Thaw,” which I have a personal story with.

One night, at around three in the morning, I was falling asleep with Jane Doe playing in the background, which is odd considering how loud this album is. But anyway, I had finally drifted off to sleep, and this song woke me up in a frenzy.

This song is actually kind of scary, as Bannon’s screams are layered and echoed, and all he shouts during the chorus is, “Thaw!”

Ballou’s guitar riff on this record sounds like it’s coming from the mind of a psychopath, as it’s jumbled, yet proficient.

Bannon never lets up, as eventually the song concludes with a nice slow burn. And now, we’ve reached the end.

The title track off this record may not be Converge’s best song, most popular, or most iconic, but I’ll be damned if I say that this isn’t the band’s most emotional song.

Bannon pours his heart out as this eleven-and-a-half minute long track wraps this record up with a neat little bow.

The song takes the “Phoenix in Flight” approach with its speed, as it’s slow and methodical. When the quote-unquote “chorus” occurs, Bannon lets out a soft cry, simply saying, “I want out.”

The song repeats itself over and over again, until it all descends into silence and a faint Ballou riff plays.

The band follows suit, playing slow, soft music as Bannon begins his well-spoken sentiment.

His pain is apparent, as he tells his love that he’s, “Lost in you like Saturday nights; Searching the streets with bedroom eyes; Just dying to be saved.”

The band repeats this a few times over, until Bannon lets out by far the most iconic Converge line ever.

Bannon huffs. puffs, and blows your ears out as he shrieks, “Run!”

The entire song then dissolves into this fast paced, guitar riff-based therapy session, as Bannon lets up and allows his bandmates to take over.

This goes on for almost three minutes until everything begins to fade, and eventually reduces itself to ash.

And there you have it, Jane Doe by Converge, one of my all-time favorite albums. If I could, I’d make this review, or deep dive, one-hundred pages long, but that wouldn’t be convenient now would it?

If you’re interested in this album at all based on what you’ve heard, search it on Spotify, YouTube, or literally anywhere you stream music. You can buy the CD or vinyl, but who buys physical copies these days?

All in all, this is a great album, and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s prepared.

 

Rating: 9.5/10 (Amazing)

 

Highlight Track:

“Phoenix in Flight”