Norma Jean’s Meridional (2010) was, simply put, an outstanding album with a great balance of raw metalcore heaviness, infectious melodies and just left of centre trimmings. It was a pinnacle for Norma Jean. TheAnti Mother (2009) was slightly eschew, but an eclectic mix of harmony, metal and high profile guests, which confused fans but still showcased brilliance. Prior to that was Redeemer (2006), which properly began the flirtations with tuneful choral parts amongst the discordance and honestly evolved nicely from the prior chaotically progressive O’God The Aftermath (2005) and original enthusiast’s favourite Bless The Martyr, Kiss The Child (2002), a violent and visceral metalcore onslaught featuring primary vocalist Josh Scogin (The Chariot).
So it would be fair to say that a challenge had been set for this long-running post-metalcore outfit. Equipped with another line-up change and three years in the making arrives ‘Wrongdoers’ and somehow these five Georgians have defied all odds and delivered genius again. If one were to ask vocalist Cory Brandon and his militia that make up NJ what one of their most important influences was, it would be of no surprise that mathcore band Botch from Washington would be a highly regarded reference (a similar scenario would be found for post-hardcore experimentalists Thrice [RIP]). Thankfully this inspiration still shines through.
Opening track Hive Mind could actually be taken from Thrice’s back catalogue (namely The Alchemy Index Volume 1: Fire) with Cory Brandon as a guest vocalist, but this is in no way a bad sentiment, just provides justice for Norma’s innate talents to craft versatile heavy songs. But before the listener settles in and becomes comfortable, they are blasted with intensity in lead single If You Got It At Five, You Got It At Fifty which carries on astonishingly from their previous album Meridional. This viciousness is maintained through following tracks like: Potter Has No Hands (a throwback to the O’God era), The Lash Whistled Like A Singing Wind (a one minute blast of early Every Time I Die motivated lunacy) and the initially early hardcore inclined Funeral Singer which slows to an atmospheric near doom metal sound clashing with mathcore experimentation.
The more melodic tracks have been accomplished to NJ’s best performance thus far with Sword In Mouth, Fire Eyes blending a Deftones vibe with post-hardcore leanings, as well as a near indie guitar introduction to the album’s title track Wrongdoers, before becoming a cataclysmic assault of everything the quintet do well; unbelievably in one song.
Sun Dies, Blood Moon closes the album and is reminiscent to the sadly defunct post-metal conquerors Isis even giving a slight nod of respect to their new outfit featuring Deftones’ Chino called Palms. At twelve minutes, this slow burning effigy really closes this chapter of Norma Jean quite expertly.
Ultimately what can be found with full-length number six is a remarkable collaboration of what the band has achieved since Cory Brandon joined the band and their first release (O’God The Aftermath). Gratefully for Norma Jean and specifically Cory, now at an admirable 37 years old, age is of no deterrent or detriment.