There is no easy way to describe Converge. Each release in the band’s catalog varies greatly from its predecessor, yet the band refrains from adhering to the limitations of one genre.
There is one album that stands out as not only Converge’s greatest achievement, but possibly the greatest hardcore metal record to be released in the past 15 years – the unequivocally perfect Jane Doe.
It’s been nine years since Jane Doe was dropped into the public’s lap, and it maintains every bit of urgency and forward thought that it arrived with. Jane Doe is equally gorgeous and grotesque. It’s not as much a Converge record as it is the soundtrack to the most painful experience of vocalist Jacob Bannon’s existence.
Each track is the embodiment of lost love and unbridled anger. Opening track “Concubine” begins with ominous dissonance before blindsiding the listener with hardcore aggression, creating one of the most pummeling opening tracks ever recorded. Jane Doe is 45 minutes of pure chaos, and it spent a great deal of time being out-of-print on the vinyl format.
There had been rumors of a vinyl repressing of Jane Doe for as long as it had been unavailable. This past April Fools’ Day it was put up for sale at the Deathwish Inc. online store. Surely, it was an elaborate joke. The band and their label were just making light of the fact that a surprise release of such a beloved album would cause quite the stir for vinyl enthusiasts the world over.
But it was real, and the merchants learned all too quickly the importance that Jane Doe wields – enough to crash the label’s server within mere moments of the official announcement. After months of delays held back the official release, Jane Doe finally turned up sporting a package that was well deserved and long overdue.
Converge is known as much for its music as its overall aesthetic. Bannon, the band’s lyricist, vocalist and art designer, has created a style that is wholly unique and instantly recognizable. With a newly created booklet that contains original artwork and lyrics – which are indecipherable, but a nice touch regardless – this release boasts the add-ons that have always been deserved. The expanded artwork that graces the gatefold jacket and expansive booklet makes listening to Jane Doe all the more gratifying.
While this attention to detail is a fantastic addition, it pails into comparison as to what makes this album worth owning: the vinyl and the music contained between the grooves.
On each side of Jane Doe – labeled as J/A and N/E instead of the traditional A/B, C/D as seen on normal double LPs – the tracks sound crisp and absolutely devastating. The songs are appropriately full and each instrument recieves the attention it deserves. Nothing is buried in the mix and the mastering on this release is one of the best in recent memory.
Jane Doe blasts through the speakers and pillages everything in its path for every second it spins on the turntable. It’s a powerful album in composition, but this release sees the album’s physical medium being pushed to its highest quality, and it is all the better off because of it.
One of the most refreshing aspects of this release was the decision by Deathwish to not make it a limited pressing run. While many labels are issuing albums in quantities not nearly high enough to satiate the fans’ thirst, Deathwish went the opposite way. With nearly 4,000 copies released, and additional pressings coming from Epitaph and Equal Vision Records, it allowed fans the chance to secure a copy of this landmark release without having to resort to second-hand auction blocks.
However, given Converge’s reputation for creating absurd color combinations for the band’s records – 2004’s You Fail Me being a stunning example – there was equal attention given to Jane Doe. This first Deathwish pressing made sure to give a nod to the collectors.
The rarest variant is the Red/Gold Swirl, which is limited to 150 copies worldwide. It has been said that of this, only 50 copies were released to the public – 25 to the first orders placed and 25 randomly sent out via mail-order – leaving 100 copies in the hands of the band and label. Somehow, lightning struck and allowed for one of these to find a way to this writer, and it could not have been a more exciting moment.
Jane Doe has been waiting for this grandiose treatment for some time, and it has finally reached perfection in this package. Converge set the bar untouchably high with the album in 2001, and now it has finally paid reverence to the stunningly gorgeous woman it created all those years ago.