Norma Jean


Written by: PP on 02/09/2013 23:24:15

Norma Jean are one of those genre-defining bands that keep spitting out solid, if not outright brilliant records every few years as if to remind the metalcore scene that, yes, it is indeed possible to sound unique and different in the genre every time you thought it was no longer possible. While fourth album "The Anti Mother" in 2008 might have been their weakest and most experimental record yet, it was still a solid album overall, and a necessary precursor for the hauntingly beautiful "Meridional" two years after. While the band may never top the pure rage-turned-into-insanely catchy hardcore songs that was "Redeemer" in 2006, "Meridional" was as close as they were gonna get, albeit for slightly different reasons. Where "Redeemer" trusts in the stop/start technical mathcore in the vein of Botch, "Meridional" went with melancholy overload to juxtapose Deftones-esque ambition alongside their otherwise fierce, southern-fried expression.

In the context of these two masterpieces, sixth album "Wrongdoers" is a wholly different beast. While the title track's tearing "we make love to the same mistakes and never get tired" chorus has elements of "Meridional"-esque delivery of melancholically screamed vocals, the majority of the record is focused on uncompromising ferocity of the kind you thought you wouldn't ever get to hear outside of an Every Time I Die record. In that sense, the two-minute steamroller "If You Got It At Five, You Got It At Fifty" is the kind of venue-destroying track that will see people hang for their lives from the rafters to avoid the chaos in the mosh pits, helped by its dissonant riffs and relentlessly grating instrumentals. Similarly, "The Potter Has No Hands" has moments of expanding soundscape, but this is quickly wound up into the confined spaces of insanity that can only be achieved by mixing together barrages of horror chords and Cory Putman's unique delivery that's positioned perfectly in between a nonsensical scream and a decipherable clean vocal style.

Although these short-but-sweet pieces of hardcore fury are in spotlight throughout the album, there are moments where Norma Jean demonstrate why they are the best songwriters in southern fried metalcore, such as on "Triffids" or "Sword In Mouth, Fire Eyes", which sports dirtily distorted guitars and lengthy periods of clean singing by Cory. Likewise, the nearly seven minute long opener "Hive Minds" showcases the endless ambition this band has been known for on the last two albums, not to even mention the 14 minute closing mammoth "Sun Dies, Blood Moon", where clean vocals are also used extensively to create a quintessentially Norma Jean-like atmosphere throughout the song. Desperation, emotion, melancholy. Three words you can't avoid mentioning in a Norma Jean review.

So you see, the record really is a combination of the band's earlier, heavier material and the expanded ambition of the newer records since then. It's not backtracking as much as it is exploring yet another corner in the seemingly infinite Norma Jean universe, which of course means it's virtually guaranteed to be a good record. But after spending a few weeks with the release, it's not quite up there with the two records most discussed in this review, despite having a couple of epic tracks that will surely be excellent additions to any Norma Jean setlist. A must purchase for any fan of heavy music, nevertheless.


Download: Wrongdoers; Sword In Mouth, Fire Eyes; Triffids
For the fans of: Every Time I Die, The Chariot, Botch
Listen: Facebook

Release date 06.08.2013
Razor & Tie

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