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With Drowning Man, Playing Enemy, and Nora. Thursday, September 20, at the Blind Lemon

A five-man group from Boston, Converge started mutilating the distinctions between hardcore and metal on its first full-length, 1997's Petitioning the Empty Sky. On Petitioning, it fuses the speed of traditional hardcore and punk with squealing guitar leads that might do Slayer proud and throws in a bevy of thick-riffed breakdowns to keep things moshable. Singer Jacob Bannon's lyrics drip with suicidal anguish and rage, as he switches between blinding screams and a genuinely haunting style of off-key crooning. Converge's latest album, Jane Doe, covers just as much sonic terrain as past albums, but the delivery has matured as the group has progressed from the meandering mood swings of Petitioning. The band starts out with both barrels blazing, purposefully pitting members of the rhythm section against one another, in order to create fast-paced, chaotic song structures. The album soon gives way to psychedelic prog rock on tracks such as "Hell to Pay," which pulls the rhythm section back together while flirting with Southern-tinged rock grooves. The group's punk influences show through as well on "Heaven in Her Arms," a song that delivers a shrewdly pared-down power-chord melody to accompany the chorus. Unfortunately, there seem to be far fewer traditional guitar leads on Jane Doe than on previous material, due in part to Converge's move toward a more technically obsessed style. It's also a result of the production, which gives a caustic, incendiary edge to the vocals and rhythm guitar, but leaves the remaining leads somewhat buried. Jane Doe is a step forward for Converge, though. It's by far the group's most listenable album to date, making good use of the band's dynamic sound and minimal use of melody.

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