Norma Jean – Wrongdoers (Razor & Tie)Wednesday, 14th August 2013
Norma Jean is one of the more polarizing groups in metal these days. On one hand, the metalcore stalwarts are a critical and commercial success, beloved by their fans for their breathtaking live sets. On the other hand, some dismiss them as phonies for their Christian-based message and prominence within their over-saturated genre.
Haters gonna hate – we all know that. But the haters are missing out on some of the more exhilarating and remarkable heavy music out there.
Since they began gaining traction in the early 2000s, Norma Jean has straddled the line between Every Time I Die’s party-time hardcore and The Chariot’s beautiful bedlam. If 2010’s Meridional saw the band really round into form, then Wrongdoers proves that Norma Jean has a stranglehold on the scene they helped shape.
Any inclination that the band has gone soft can immediately be dismissed, as opener “Hive Minds” begins with an ominous drum intro before the bottom falls out and pandemonium ensues. The first half of Wrongdoers might be the finest material the Douglasville, Ga., quintet has ever released, which is particularly impressive since the band has again altered their lineup, leaving guitarist Chris Day as the only remaining founding member.
Wrongdoers seamlessly mixes the rage and brutality of early efforts like Bless the Martyr, Kiss the Child with the focus and sophistication of Meridional. The album is chock-full of elastic riffs, rumbling bass, anthemic choruses, dissonant guitar screeches and the robust presence of vocalist Cory Brandan Putnam, who continues to be one of metal’s most underrated frontmen. Putnam effortlessly bounces between gut wrenching screams and growls, and layered, clean vocals – best evidenced in the furious “Sword in Mouth, Fire Eyes.” The band displays Dillinger-esque technicality in the chaotic “The Potter Has No Hands,” while the finale, “Sun Dies, Blood Moon,” is a 14-minute opus that slowly crawls and builds to a feverish finale.
“We make love to the same mistakes,” Putnam wails on the tremendously catchy title track. If that’s the case, then keep at it, gentlemen.