Norma Jean

Meridional

Written by: AP on 25/08/2010 17:02:53

Norma Jean's latest creation "Meridional" comes with excellent garnishings: possibly the coolest title and album art this scribe has ever stumbled across. Surely such an artistic masterpiece would contain more of the same in terms of music, it thought, and quickly claimed ownership of its pending review despite protest from certain other staff members. Norma Jean's music also happens to belong in that endearing, chaotic metalcore genre that happens to be my self-proclaimed area of expertise, and considering that the band's last two albums, "The Anti Mother" and "Redeemer" fell in the wrong hands, it was time to rectify past mistakes and take on this task with prudent defiance.

"Meridional" is, to some, one of the most anticipated albums of the year, a make-or-break effort after the disappointingly gentle "Anti Mother" cast doubt on the band's integrity. Some will undoubtedly disagree with this statement, but the general consensus among the band's fans seems to be that this new softness was too bold a step after the beautiful cacophony of the first two albums. But not ones to back down, Norma Jean have decided to invite said back fans back in with their most eclectic album to date, a delicately balanced affair between light and dark, past and present. It begins with a testing, retrospective duo in "Leaderless and Self Enlisted" and "The Anthem of the Angry Brides", which recall Norma Jean at their absolutely heaviest but also inject fresh maths to the equation, and unearth a Dillinger Escape Plan and Botch kind of edge we knew the band had but have not yet seen. If impossible time signature shifts and strange melodies are your thing, then these two batterings should hit right at home.

"Bastardizer" adheres to similar strategies, but not before the progressive piece "Deathbed Atheist" has reminded us that the slower, lighter, more accessible Norma Jean is also here to stay. And if still in doubt, the ludicrously catchy "A Media Friendly Turn for the Worse" should hammer the message in. Then there's other faces like the haunting interludes "Septentrional" and "Occidental", which, according to the band, are essential pieces in the perfect puzzle they have allegedly assembled in "Meridional", sonic pandemoniacs "Blood Burner" and "Everlasting Tapeworm" which nod toward the very early Norma Jean and present Chariot, and the ambitious progressive attempts like "Falling from the Sky: Day Seven" and album closer "Innocent Bystanders United", which provide the contrast that sets Norma Jean apart from their contemporaries and unites the band's entire discography into a career-defining album, for better, or for worse.

Forming a definitive opinion about "Meridional" is thus no simple process. Some of the poppier moments à la the chorus in "The People That Surround You on a Regular Basis" are strikingly mild and somewhat detract from the gratuitous fury that drives Norma Jean's music, but at the same time their instant catchiness makes them impossible not to appreciate. The abundant extremity thus sounds even more extreme next to these glimpses of hope; but then again, it feels like something is missing from the band's once-so-merciless expression when Cory shows off his strained clean singing prowess. But "Meridional" is by no means easy listening, as fans of old Norma Jean and The Chariot will still find it sufficiently violent and uncompromising. As such, "Meridional" is the best and most diverse Norma Jean album to date, but lacks the hard-hitting primal rage that made such an impact on me on "Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child" and "O God, the Aftermath".

Download: Leaderless and Self Enlisted, The Anthem of Angry Brides, A Media Friendly Turn for the Worse, High Noise Low Output
For the fans of: Architects, Botch, The Chariot, Oh, Sleeper, Underoath
Listen: Myspace

Release date 12.07.2010
Razor & Tie

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