Any music journalist that covers hardcore has probably wrote about the greatness of Jane Doe, but fuck it; that’s because it’s as good as the genre gets and enough nice things can’t be said about it. Released in 2001, Converge were already hardcore kings thanks to their 90’s work, which established Jacob Bannon’s banshee-like bark, Kurt Ballou’s haywire crunch and the band’s overall cathartic, layered pummelling. However, Jane Doe elevated the kings, to gods.
“you find yourself asking ‘how is that even possible?’”
The first record with Ben Koller and Nate Newton in the fold (the best rhythm section in hardcore), Jane Doe see’s the telling of a frustrating relationship Jacob Bannon went through. Such an experience is the foundation of many many albums and it can go anyway depending on the artist. As Bannon has his inhuman (but emotionally very human) vocals and the rest of the band’s sonic battery on his side, the only way was making a sorrowful masterpiece.
Jane Doe is filled with vocals so throat-shredding you find yourself asking ‘how is that even possible?’ and riffs that can be purposefully galloping, brick-to-the-face stompy, all-over-the-place unpredictable and often all of these things at once. Koller and Newton are a concrete backbone that manages to shine themselves even alongside the one-of-a-kind musicianship of the Converge OG’s.
“it’s an emotionally cathartic journey with enriching chapters that build and build on top of each other.”
Make no mistake though, Jane Doe isn’t one of the best albums ever because it’s off-the-charts heavy, it’s because it’s an emotionally cathartic journey with enriching chapters that build and build on top of each other. The first half of the record is mainly Bannon exercising his pure frustration and anger over his experience, whilst the second half sees an aftermath when there’s little left in the room to smash up.
Perhaps the most gut-wrenching moment on the record comes at the end of Heaven In Her Arms with Bannon sating that ‘three simple words bled me dry: ‘I love you’’, as if to say that those words that normally strengthen a bond and offer comfort made everything so much harder when it all went wrong. Phoenix In Flight is the album’s moment of serenity. Bannon’s bark turns to a spectral out-of-body glow, the barbaric sonics turn to ascending peace and the lyrics see Bannon having some closure, saying goodbye with a ‘Let her wings catch the sky, just remember my name girl, and remember what died.’
“This record changed everything.”
Then there’s the title track. This fricking song, the 11-minute opus that closes this thing with several minutes of cascading crushes where the guitar plays like a guillotine firmly cutting down and mercilessly coming back up to do it again. However, in the final minutes of this song and the album, we see Bannon at his barest, crooning ‘lost in you, like Saturday night, searching the streets with bedroom eyes, dying to be saved’ before him and his team take one last sonic charge to show that no matter how low life can get, always fight back.
This record changed everything. You wouldn’t have the likes of Nails if this album hadn’t raised the bar in being punishing. You wouldn’t have the likes of Touché Amoré if Jane Doe hadn’t displayed the power of wearing your heart on your sleeve at full speed. Jane Doe is still untouchable and if you haven’t given it your time, be prepared to a few thousand times.
WORDS: MAX CUSSONS
Converge hit Europe for a run of shows this month, check out dates below.
Wed April 25 2018 – MANCHESTER Academy 2
Thu April 26 2018 – LONDON Electric Ballroom