Norma Jean

support He Is Legend + Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster + The Showdown
author DY date 24/01/07 venue Islington Academy, London, UK

So with PP on vacation in Canada, the duties of reviewing this concert came to me, for which I'm grateful. Very grateful. The reason being that had I not been handed a free ticket and an extra reason to attend, I probably wouldn't have done so. And I would have missed out - big time. But more on that later. I arrived at the Islington Academy just in time to catch the end of Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster's set. They looked pretty active on stage and seemed to have the crowd engaged with them, but it would be unfair of me to attempt to give them a justified score, so I won't. During the time spent waiting for He Is Legend to take the stage, two things happened that have never happened before at a gig I've been to. Firstly, I noticed that there were signs around the venue stating that the band (Norma Jean) specifically asks that; "you refrain from smoking inside the auditorium" (which seemingly most people completely ignored), and secondly, Joan Osbourne's well known song "What If God Was One Of Us" was played through the PA, which got some laughs from the crowd. It's no coincidence that tonight's headliners are openly Christian.

He Is Legend

Anyway, on to the main support act. The very first thing that occurred to me when He Is Legend arrived on stage is that the vocalist, Schuylar Croom was undoubtedly high on some kind of drugs. Whenever he wasn't singing, and sometimes when he was, he walked around the stage with a glazed over look in his eyes and waved his arms around slowly. Even more concerning, on more than one occasion he sucked his fingers and drew a crucifix in the air in front of him and proceeded to pose like he was on the cross. This surprised me, as it seemed pretty disrespectful to the band that took them on tour with them. Schuylar's dodgy antics meant that the band had a slightly harder job to go out and impress me with their set.

There's no arguing about the music though. Their blend of ‘southern rock' and post-hardcore was performed brilliantly, the complex guitar riffs especially catching my attention. Watching He Is Legend play live, I am reminded of TL's observation that; "Instead of playing hardcore in the usual destructive manner, composition is more minded towards creating groovy passages", and it certainly keeps you interested. At times the band became so funky that Rage Against The Machine sprang to mind. The highlight of the set for me was the 10-minute instrumental jamming session that the band broke into during the penultimate song, which despite its length didn't leave me wondering when it was going to end, instead, hoping it wouldn't. The band finished with a cover of Stone Temple Pilot's "Dead And Bloated" and launched the crowd into a full on singalong packed frenzy. The band played a much harder version of the original with the vocals being screamed instead of sung. An impressive show.

Norma Jean

So to the headline act, Norma Jean. My lack of familiarity with the band's material was the reason for my stalling over buying a ticket, having only heard "O God The Aftermath" a couple of times, despite liking what I heard. Lacking familiarity with the band's material couldn't be further from the truth now however, as since the gig I haven't been able to turn them off.

The band exploded into their set with "A Grand Scene For A Color Film" and "Blueprints For Future Homes", the first two tracks from their most recent album, "Redeemer". From the first note the venue erupted as the band tore up the stage, pounding out brutal hardcore with amazing energy. The guitarists literally didn't stop moving, jumping or swinging their guitars throughout each song. Vocalist Cory Brandan Putman gave an incredible performance, screaming out everything he had into the microphone, whilst choosing to adopt the common ‘one foot on the amp, one foot on the floor' stance.

The band continued on, playing a mix of songs from their last three albums, including "Bayonetwork" from "O God The Aftermath" and "A Shotgun Message" from "Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child". Between each of the songs, a video played out on a screen to the rear of the stage containing various clips of what can only be described as clips of destruction and sadness, with a narration voiced over it condemning it all. No one really seemed to understand what the clips were about, but as the video peaked and the narrator began shouting aggressively the band launched straight into another aural assault on the audience, as if continuing where the narrator left off, which worked really well.

The band took some time out to thank the audience for coming to the show, and also thanked the bands that played with them throughout the tour. They then proceeded to launch immediately back into their set, having no mercy on any unsuspecting eardrums. What was fantastic about Norma Jean was that despite playing such intense and unmelodic hardcore, the songs didn't seem to replicate at all or become boring. This is owing to the creativity in the guitar parts, which were played out both with passion and precision despite the fact that the guitarists were mostly a blur on the stage.

Cory announced they had one song left, and to the delight of the crowd the band went on to play "Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste" from the band's sophomore full-length album, "Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child". The band then vacated the stage, leaving everyone in the venue dying to hear more. After a few minutes they reappeared, with Cory saying, "Ok we got ONE more".

The crowd went into ecstasy when Cory declared they would finish with another hugely popular old song, "Creating Something Out Of Nothing Only To Destroy It". It's true to say that rarely have I ever, ever witnessed so much energy both onstage and offstage at a concert and it was enough to send shivers down my spine as the band thrashed out the track with such passion. The atmosphere inside the venue was truly electric as the band played the monster breakdown, Cory almost turning himself inside out as he screamed "like bringing a knife to a gun fight". The band finished by wrecking the stage, with distortion and chaos, the guitarist climbing up the steel structure of the venue holding his guitar and Corey screaming into the microphone whilst holding the strobe light. Norma Jean delivered an earth shattering performance tonight and I'm thankful to have been a part of it. All that's left to say now is "Hey PP, thanks for going to Canada!"

9

Setlist:

  • 1. A Grand Scene For A Color Film
  • 2. Blueprints For Future Homes
  • 3. Songs sound much sadder
  • 4. Bayonetwork
  • 5. A Shotgun Message
  • 6. Liarsenic
  • 7. A Small Spark Vs. A Great Forest
  • 8. The End Of All Things Will Be Televised
  • 9. Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste

- Encore

  • 10. Creating Something Out Of Nothing Only To Destroy It

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