Norma Jean were formerly known as Luti-Kriss, which besides being a crud name, got them frequently mixed up with bad-boy rapper Ludacris. It’s a safe bet that this won’t be happening any more. Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child (finally getting a proper UK release) is about as close to rap as France is to a nation upholding religious freedom. Some would call it hardcore, some heavy metal, some metalcore. Whatever, one thing’s for sure – it ain’t pop.
Undoubtedly influenced by metalcore mainstays such as Converge, nevertheless, Norma Jean have taken the genre and given it a swift kick up the jacksy. Opener – The Entire World Is Counting On Me, And They Don’t Even Know It (those coo-el song titles are another plus) – tells us as much with utterly, utterly gargantuan guitar riffs that are slowed down, sped up, stopped and started in a way like you’ve never heard before. Ever wondered what the soundtrack to a cardiac arrest sounded like? Well, now you have your answer.
Produced by Killswitch Engage‘s Adam D, the guitars in every song sound simply jaw-dropping. I Used To Hate Cell Phones But Now I Hate Car Accidents grooves where the tracks before it have ground, while closer, the succinctly-monickered Organized Beyond Recognition, actually takes the intensity down slightly but is every bit as claustrophobic.
And they know how to surprise the listener too. Were they hand claps I heard in It Was As If The Dead Man Stood Upon The Air? And what about track five – Pretty Soon, I Don’t Know What, But Something Is Going To Happen (love it!) – which is a musical playing out of its title and, at 16 minutes long, may be the heaviest prog rock song ever. After six and a half minutes of sledgehammer grind, Joshua Scogin’s vocals appear out of nowhere, and usher in a whole new level of bludgeon before the five-minute musical outro.
This is as extreme as it gets, kids. Joshua Scogin sounds like he gargles sulphuric acid for breakfast and eats sandpaper for lunch. If the guitars scraping their fingernails down the chalk-board don’t get you, then the head-pummelling bass and drums will. And to top it all off, these are good Christian boys (sample deciphered lyric: “Christ is not a fashion, fleeting away”). Cast aside your prejudices and prepare to be blown away. Literally.