Converge: Jane Doe

Jane Doe
Equal Vision

A lot has been said about the whole “math rock” genre. But no one ever seems to apply the label to any type of music that doesn’t have its feet planted somewhere within the realms of pop. All that’s going to change right now. Converge is all about the math rock. How else to account for all the changing drum patterns, schizo time signatures and guitar riffs that tend to morph two or three times within a few short measures? So math rock it shall be, albeit one of head banging proportions.

Not that it’s any good. This is definitely a niche album, one for those pissed off kids who don’t give a whit about melody or lyrical substance. Converge sounds like In/Humanity with a bit more talent in the guitar department and a few recognizable notes. But it’s pretty much the same apart from that. Screamed, over the top vocals, resulting in as much of an indecipherable din as the rest of the racket going on here. The band was kind enough to print its lyrics, but it did so in such a haphazard way that you could still only pick out some of the lines and wonder what the rest are. Not that it matters. Obviously, the band doesn’t care if you sing along or not.

Converge formed in 1991 with founding members Hacob Bannon (vocals) and Kurt Ballou (guitar). In 1997, after a few EP releases, they issued their debut album Petitioning The Empty Sky, followed up by When Forever Comes Crashing the following year. They shared a split LP with Agoraphobic Nosebleed on The Poacher Diaries and repeated the process this year with Japan’s Hellchild. Now the band is “back” again with their next full-length, Jane Doe.

With bassist Nate Newton, guitarist Aaron Dalbec and drummer Ben Koller completing the Converge lineup, Jane Doe is about as brutal as it gets in the hardcore metal genre. Apparently the band also writes some of “the most poetic, non-typical lyrical writing aggressive music has ever seen”, but if that’s the case, it certainly can’t be deciphered here. Just jump into the pit and get demolished.

The CD artwork looks like something out of a murky graphic novel, with all sorts of retouched photos of various women looking all doomed and vampish, heavy on the mascara and eye shadow. The lyrics are stamped all over their visages, and as previously stated, there’s no telling what is actually being said with the words printed up. For all anyone knows, they might as well just be some lyrics to some other songs.

The sound of Converge is usually of the breakneck speed variety, with all the minor chords, the drums that do multiple fills that actually keep the time instead of a “normal” drum pattern, and guitar riffs that erupt left and right and don’t seem to really “fit”, but then nothing really fits here. It’s just one big blast of distorted howling, with Bannon shredding his voice in the process. Occasionally, Converge slow things down, like on “Hell to Pay”, but usually the band is happy just to scream away, with the guitars going up and down the scales and the bass doing its bottom heavy boom boom boom doom laden notes. Don’t come looking for something to snap your fingers to here.

Jane Doe is unrelenting. As stated before, it’s certainly not an album for everyone. It couldn’t be. One would definitely have to have a taste for speedcore and thrash here. After a while, the songs all start sounding exactly the same, as evidenced by playing just the first few seconds of most of the songs here back to back. But that’s undoubtedly not the point here. There might not be a point at all, other than to just use the music to get out some aggressive emotions, but for some that might be enough.