Norma Jean

The Anti Mother

Written by: PP on 19/09/2008 15:19:51

Norma Jean's newest opus "The Anti Mother" starts off exactly like their 2006's masterpiece "Redeemer" ended, with "Vipers, Snakes, and Actors" being a virtual candidate for the non-existent 12th track on the album. Their trademark riff oscillations are there, Cory's screaming vocal is as distinguishable and fantastic as before, and the band's challenging chord progressions indulge the listener into lethal mosh crazes all throughout the song. But if you came into "The Anti Mother" thinking this will be "Redeemer: Take Two", you're in for a surprise.

Already the second track, "Self-Employed Chemist", namely shows a new, different side to Norma Jean we haven't seen before. Cory's voice has matured significantly and he largely uses a melancholic clean vocal for the entire song. Not just that, but there's also more melody in the song than on any previous Norma Jean track to date, and what's surprising is that it might also be the best track Norma Jean has written to date. The chorus is haunting, easily memorable and, yes, even singalongable to an extent.. it's made of the kind of ingredients that give you cold chills down your back when you hear it over and over again, whether it's the complex guitars drawing inspiration from metalcore or the crushing breakdown while Cory extends his voice into a piercing scream in the end.

Then comes "Birth Of The Anti Mother" and cleans the table with destructive riffs that switch at breakneck speeds, strangely emitting groove at the same time, basically classic Norma Jean from "O God The Aftermath"/"Redeemer" albums. But even here there's a new element, child-like gang vocals courtesy of Holly Rae and Camille Driscoll precede Cory's ravaging scream attack that should scare most of your parents far, far away from your vicinity.

"Robots 3, Humans 0" follows the lead of "Self-Employed Chemist" in adding truckloads of melancholic melody to the band's arsenal, again showcasing a whole other side to Norma Jean that we didn't know about before. But perhaps that's because the song wasn't written alone by them. Cove Reber (Saosin) and Chino Moreno (Deftones) co-wrote the song together with the band, although it's difficult to hear their input other than in the final melancholic chorus where Cove's high-pitch voice sticks out nicely. The drumming is absolutely phenomenal in the song as well, nominating this as another highlight on the record. But truth be told, Reber & Moreno aren't as explicitly showcased on that song as they are on the next song they co-wrote, "Surrender The Sons", in which you can hear Chino's desperate scream leading the song forward. Strange as it might sound, it fits brilliantly into the Norma Jean soundscape, and in places it really feels like Norma Jean morphs into Deftones sound territory, before returning with the southern fried groove the band is most known of.

The co-writing isn't just limited to those two songs: "Opposite Of Left And Wrong" sees Helmet's Page Hamilton contribute on guitar and some vocals, once again stretching the Norma Jean envelope into a direction it hasn't really been to before. There's a shitload of breakdowns in the song, but the occasional vocal (and guitar) screech by Hamilton draws it away from metalcore towards something that can't really be pigeonholed into just one genre.

...and that's about it for the most important sections of the album. On the remainder of the songs. Moreno & Reber contribute on "Murphy Was An Optimist" as well, and Reber further on "And There Will Be A Swarm Of Hornets", but both songs sound much more like "Redeemer" era Norma Jean than anything else, and their actual contribution in the songs can't be properly heard.

In the end, "The Anti Mother" is a huge artistic evolution from the band's past, making especially the first two albums pale in comparison. However, it'd be wrong to say that "The Anti Mother" is better than "Redeemer" overall. The latter had far more songs which induced the listener into crashing against his own walls while screaming along to Cory's furious vocals, whereas this record is more about improved soundscapes and more intriguing song structures. It is by no means bad, because Norma Jean is one of the few metalcore-ish metallic hardcore bands who are amazing, but I'd still put on "Amnesty Please" or "Blue Prints For Future Homes" on instead, but that choice is damn difficult and will no doubt alter from person to person.


Download: Self-Employed Chemist, Robots 3 Humans 0, Birth Of The Anti Mother
For the fans of: The Chariot, Botch, Oh Sleeper
Listen: Myspace

Release date 05.08.2008
Solid State

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