Out of all the metal-core bands that emerged in the late 90s and influenced many of the post-hardcore and what I like to call “pop-hardcore” bands today, none has remained as esteemed and well-respected as Atlanta’s Norma Jean. Originally going by the name of Luti-Kriss, Norma Jean’s heavy-hitting sound has evolved over the years and broke new ground every record.
Ex-vocalist Josh Scogin (currently frontman for The Chariot) contributed on Norma Jean’s first two records: “Throwing Myself” and fan favorite “Bless The Martyr, Kiss The Child.” After various member changes, Cory Brandan was recruited in 2004 to permanently fill Scogin’s shoes, and the band released its first record in three years, “O’ God The Aftermath,” in 2005.
“O’ God The Aftermath” was not something that astounded followers of Norma Jean’s previous work, but retained devoted fans and pulled in new listeners. On Sept. 12, Norma Jean released “Redeemer,” an extremely dynamic collection of chaotic metal-core that has been torn apart only to be put back together.
“Redeemer” opens with blood-curdling screams and unstructured noise, making headway into a prepared rhythm to set up for a classic breakdown with Brandan shrieking, “Let’s breakout the shotguns, we’re going to town,” in “A Grand Scheme For A Color Film.” Guitarists Chris Day and Scottie Henry have perfected their sharpness as they play unpredictable and disharmonized riffs in faultless congruence with each other.
However, I was disappointed when I heard the second track, “Blueprints for Future Homes.” The song encompasses a more pop-metal sound with clean singing.
“A Small Spark Vs. A Great Forest” and “A Temperamental Widower,” return to the unbearable brutality of Brandan’s wide vocal range. He has been able to expand his vocals from “O’ God The Aftermath” and find the lush distorted resonance Norma Jean’s sound appreciates so much.
One of the most powerful songs on the record is “The Longest Lasting Statement.” Paranormal guitar feedback and rolling drums serve as appetizer to this tune’s main course: Eardrum bursting guitars complemented with vocals that go deep into the core of the earth on top of enough bass to shake the overhead projector off the ceiling in Clark A101. This is the most vicious we have heard Norma Jean since “Bless The Martyr, Kiss The Child,” and it is truly breathtaking.
Tracks such as “Amnesty Please” and “Cemetery Like Stage” resemble cuts off of its last record, including the necessary “build-up-to-break-down,” satisfying the metal-core crowd.
But why has Norma Jean included more annoying clean singing in a select few of its songs on “Redeemer”? Could it be because of Korn/Limp Bizkit producer Ross Robinson encouraging it? Or that it is trying to appeal to a MTV2 Headbangers Ball crowd? Probably both, but the important thing is that the band’s true fans will appreciate and respect the overall intensity of this record.
Norma Jean has broken down barriers and created something different with every new record. It will never be able to replicate a record like Scogin and other members did in “Bless The Martyr, Kiss The Child.” In fact, Scogin’s new project, The Chariot, will never be able to surpass that level, either. But as a band that has undergone significant change and adaptation, “Redeemer” shows us what Norma Jean can do at the top of its game.
KCSU Music Director Jake Mountjoy can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org.