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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Converge

Jane Doe

Review by Mike Korn

This is one of the most extreme recordings I own. It's about as raw, dissonant and wild as anything in music today, yet it does not easily fit any definition. It certainly is not death metal, as it has none of the trappings and the riffing doesn't fit; it's not hardcore because the music is way more advanced and quirky than that simplistic style; it's not experimental "noise" music because it has more coherence and less pretension. What this is is loud! If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say "Jane Doe" is some kind of concept album revolving around the story of a suicidal or murdered prostitute. You'll get no help from the lyrics as they are totally unreadable in the CD booklet and Jacob Bannon's insanely shrieking vocals are indecipherable. Bannon's constant screaming or his alternating drone can annoy at times but there's no doubt that he's packing a lot of pure anger into this project, much more than you hear in other so-called extreme recordings. The music jumps around a lot and is exhausting to listen to but the whole record comes across as very cathartic and quite a powerful experience. If you have the nerve to endure pure rage in musical form, call up Converge and ask for "Jane Doe".

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2001 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Concubine
Short and to the point, this opens up fast and jerky and then blows up into pure grindcore. This tells you that "Jane Doe" is going to be a grueling experience.
Fault and Fracture
Not much relief here, this is another extremely fast and abrasive track. It is full of wild time changes and amazing drumming from Ben Koller. It actually sounds like a series of crescendos stuck together - crazy, intense stuff.
Distance and Meaning
Starting off with a cartoonish, herky-jerky riff and some snotty vocalizing from Bannon, I didn't care for the riffing here and the track zooms all over the place.
Hell To Pay
A slower, more pounding tune, it begins with a thick and chunky bass groove, almost like something from Alice In Chains and gradually becomes heavier. It finally veers into total doom territory by the end.
Homewrecker
An awesome headbanging monster of a track, packing some great riffs in, it also comes across as a lot more cohesive and less jumpy than the other tracks. This is a great hardcore/metal crossover tune.
The Broken Vow
This starts with screaming thrash, slows down slightly and then surprisingly goes into a chugging hardcore power riff that will surely start mayhem in the pit. This is good stuff.
Bitter and Then Some
A brief blast of hardcore anger, this is fast and angry.
Heaven In Her Arms
This starts much the same as the previous song but with a kind of somber feel to it. Then it changes direction radically in the last third with a kind of mid-paced thrash riff, almost like something old Metallica or Exodus would do.
Phoenix In Flight
A slow, dirge-like track with some almost childish chorus vocals on it. It features lots of weird guitar noises, and is very experimental in tone.
Phoenix In Flames
There is not much to this one except a fast burst of drum and bass, with Bannon shrieking over the top. I did manage to make out the words "falling down" somewhere in there!
Thaw
There is more herky-jerky riffing going on in this track. It is not one of my favorites, as I didn't really care for the hooks in this one.
Jane Doe
If you needed any proof that Converge were distancing themselves from their hardcore roots, this is it. The track lasts almost 12 minutes and there's no speed at all in it. It's a very downbeat track, with some lurching, doomy riffs. There's a lot of repetition, and just when you're ready to scream "enough", it switches into an almost psychedelic type of doom, with a faint trace of blues. Those childish singsong vocals return. It is a very, very odd track, unlike anything I've heard in extreme music.
 
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