Thursday, August 22, 2013

Norma Jean - Wrongdoers

Norma Jean has always been a bright light in metalcore. The band’s existence has spawned some of the best music in metalcore and in a some way Norma Jean opened the gates for the fantastic band that is/was The Chariot. Norma Jean’s last album Meridional was well received by many, but something about the album didn’t quite click with fans overall. It is in no way a band album, and it features some of my favorite songs such as ‘Deathbed Atheist’ but overall something about Meridional felt out of place. It wasn’t as solid overall as Redeemer and it didn’t quite hit the high notes of The Anti-Mother. Now though we’re met with the release of Wrongdoers, and this album is nothing short of fantastic. This is the album fans have been craving.

The album starts with the track ‘Hive Minds’ which has this dark intro that sets up the nearly seven minute opener very well. It’s a very strong way to open what turns out to be a very strong album overall. The foreboding feeling of the drum pattern mixed with the crazed guitar and Brandon’s raspy scream makes for a nice thick atmosphere that’s soon crashed by Norma Jean’s great ability to combine heavy music with frantic noises and chaotic instrumentation. The clean vocals employed by Norma Jean have always been above par in my opinion. They fit their sound perfectly and they are generally used at perfect moments to push the emotion of the song further.

The majority of the rest of the album doesn’t feel as long as ‘Hive Minds’ does, with the average track coming in at just over three minutes, but each track hits hard and nothing feels repetitive or like it’s just meant to be filler. There’s a slight change of pace with the song ‘Sword In Mouth, Fire Eyes’ that hearkens back to slower more thundering songs like ‘No Passenger: No Parasite’ and ‘Disconnecktie: The Faithful Vampire’. It flows into a very short ‘song’ titled ‘Afterhour Animals’ that consists of some ambient noise and a calm woman’s voice trying to get you to relax and be at peace, which then transitions into another short song entitled ‘The Lash That Whistled Like A Singing Wind’ that smashes through the tranquility the last track tried to establish. Chaotic hardcore is known for this abrasive combo of different sounds and Norma Jean is definitely a master of doing such a thing.

The album ends with quite a monster ‘Sun Dies, Blood Moon’. It clocks in at 14 minutes, which got me a little worried for a moment as the final track on Meridional was 25 minutes but that’s mostly because there is about 15 minutes of silence before a hidden track appears. ‘Sun Dies’ however is 14 minutes of pure greatness. It’s a hell of a way to close out the album. It’s the most atmospheric track on the album, incorporating some string work and acoustic guitars, and is the most clean vocal laden song to be found here.

There is so much to take in with this album that it definitely warrants repeated listens, and its replay value is definitely above high. Norma Jean fans should have a hard time not loving this album. Wrongdoers is likely the strongest release of their since Redeemer and contains some of the most focused and well written work of their career.

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