This Is Hardcore: Converge – Jane Doe
Gallows guitarist Lags picks his essential hardcore and punk releases – every Thursday on TeamRock
In 2001, Converge released the most savage record in the history of punk. It's generally agreed that 'Jane Doe' eclipsed all their prior releases, as well as setting precedence for everything that followed. It was certainly an album that defined their art forever, both musically and aesthetically. This record would also see the band redefine hardcore as a whole, maintaining the DIY ideology but pushing the sound to all new extremes.
For me, Jane Doe represents a moment of clarity between the five band members – an accumulation of all those years on the road, matched with their dedication to perfecting their craft. The resulting 12 tracks terrify and astound in equal measure. From start to finish, you don’t just listen to Jane Doe, you experience it. There’s no escape from the album’s twists and turns, the passion they put into their playing, or the gripping lyrical nuances for a band so brutal. 14 years on and it’s just as enthralling and hasn’t softened one bit.
Album opener Concubine stands out as the track which encompasses Converge’s meticulous yet devastating sound. Mammoth riffs collide with blistering blast beats dropping down to a thunderous four to the floor drum pattern, whilst vocalist Jacob Bannon’s hellish screams bleed into the chaos. “There I stay gold, forever gold”, poetic and emotive, Bannon breathes fire into every word. Second track Fault And Fracture allows drummer Ben Koller to demonstrate his speed and strength behind the kit, with each snare hit as punishing as the last and not a beat out of place.
The avant-garde locust noise that introduces Distance And Meaning is a symbol of Kurt Ballou’s experimentation with guitar effects, a trait he’s widely recognised for today. Here Converge depart from the thrash metal stylings of Slayer and instead favour the art punk of San Diego’s Swing Kids. The pace drops for Hell To Pay, a glorious combination of Hoover’s glistening emo and the biting post-hardcore of Jesus Lizard, only to pick the pace back up again for next track Homewrecker.
The Broken Vow, Bitter and Then Some and Heaven in Her Arms see Converge return to their Boston roots, a scene which produced many a fast and violent hardcore band. They harness this aggression and flatten everything in their way. Phoenix in Flight is a sludgy wall of distortion that spills out from the speakers as the instruments wrestle for space. Meanwhile Phoenix in Flames is a 42 second beating in musical form. Thaw, the album’s eleventh track, proves to be as crushing as everything else on the album.
Title track and album closer Jane Doe is a cool 12 minutes long. Slow and brooding, Kurt Ballou and Aaron Dalbec showcase their deft off-kilter riff work in the verses and break into soaring melodies for the chorus. Meanwhile Nate Newton’s long and slow bass strokes menacingly lurk in the background.
Aaron Delbec left the band after the album’s release to focus on his side-project Bane, but his departure didn’t deter the remaining four members. To this day they dominate the underground scene through Bannon’s record label Deathwish Inc, Ballou’s recording studio GodCity and the numerous musical projects associated with Converge.
Chaos reigns, and long may it do so.