Save Yourself

Written by: DY on 18/10/2007 17:31:42

Now celebrating their 11th year, New Jersey metalcore/hardcore veterans Nora have somehow gone unnoticed to the team here at, that is, until now. Released back in July, "Save Yourself" is the band's third full-length record and, according to the promo sheet which goes as far as to call it their "Master Of Puppets", their very best to date. A bold statement indeed. So, knowing nothing of the band's prior material, apart from the fact that their last effort, 2003's "Dreamers And Deadmen" won plenty of critical acclaim, I set about getting stuck in to 10 tracks that would hopefully have me understanding the justification behind it.

Carl Severson's brutal screams of "Where's your heart? Where's your heart?" in the brilliant opening track "Somebody Call Somebody" immediately set the tone for one of the most personal albums I've heard from any band in a long time. Written in the wake of a tragedy (the death of the drummers daughter) that marked the beginning of four hard years that nearly saw the band finish, "Save Yourself" deals with the concept of discovering new life within you at a time when you are broken as a means to being able to carry on. It was the band's ability to quite literally 'save themselves' that held the band together and led to this record even making it into existence.

One of the more catchy songs on the album, "Broken" features some infectious and precise guitar riffs, contrasted with some open ended strumming, all performed underneath the bellowing urgency-filled vocals. Next comes the title track which fulfils it's purpose perfectly, utilising long, tearing screams to issue a blunt challenge to the listener: "What if you had to depend on yourself? Could you save yourself?". The guitars are darker than your usual metalcore, and lean more towards hardcore in the vein of Norma Jean. "Famous Last Words" sees the album return to a more metalcore style with the exception of any clean vocal parts and traditional song structure. You'll notice that throughout the album the song structuring is far less obvious than the traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure and songs rarely contain any repetition within them.

Severson's vocals are, for the most part, indecipherable, but take a look at the lyrics in the inlay and his writing abilities are displayed in abundance. Every song is written with such passionate openness and honesty that you can even begin to feel the pain he has endured for so long, almost like you were looking him right in the eye. This is certainly one of those albums where you can't get away with ignoring the lyric book and let the audio stand alone, as the experience of the record is so much enhanced once you read the words that Severson is screaming down your ear holes in songs like "Have You Ever Had A Really Bad Day?". Once you understand how close the band hold this album to them and the pain they went through to make it, the songs are really given another dimension.

It's easy to see where the band have drawn influence from, especially listening to the beginning of the "The Moment, The Sound, The Fury" where the likeness to Norma Jean's "Creating Something Out Of Nothing, Only To Destroy It" is uncanny, to the point where I was questioning whether I had clicked on the latter song by accident. Whilst Nora's guitars are somewhat less frantic than Norma Jean's, similarities can be seen in the way they contrast melody with the vocalist's frenzied screaming.

"Save Yourself" is a relentlessly hard hitting album from start to finish that lyrically journeys into the depths of suffering and comes out with a self belief and willingness to succeed that is translated into the music. Both musically and lyrically, the album is no doubt full of character, passion and brutal honesty, but sitting somewhere between the harder end of metalcore and hardcore (a little closer to the latter) possibly constrains it from reaching it's full potential. The record maintains a decent pace and while occasionally pulling itself up from the dark down tuned guitars into some nice riffing, unfortunately never dares venture into the guitar solo it would if they were a metalcore band. Likewise, it lacks the chaotic guitars that give Norma Jean the edge that makes them legends in the hardcore genre. Not to say that there's anything wrong with being mid-genre, but in this case it means Nora are just missing that little special spark that would earn them a grade higher. Nevertheless, this is an album worth having and will have you coming back to listen again and again.


Download: Save Yourself, Broken, Famous Last Words
For the fans of: Norma Jean, Poison The Well
Listen: Myspace

Release date 23.07.2007
Provided by Target ApS

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