Serene, ambient, tranquil. These are words that will never be used in the same sentence as Norma Jean unless they carry the words ‘are the destroyers of all that is…’ in front of them. Since 2002 they’ve defined (and are continually redefining) their own brand of aural chaos in a way that has changed the face of underground extreme-noise-core metal.
Redeemer is an 11-track, 40-minute open book; a band at their peak ripping open their hearts and minds to reveal just how incomprehensibly talented and inspiring a band can be. I don’t care if you don’t ‘get it’, music of this calibre commands the sort of respect that Tony Soprano gets from anyone who is in his debt.
Produced by Ross Robinson, this album could easily be the heaviest thing you will hear this year, and that’s a pretty mean feat when you consider that a fellow writer ‘ere at musicOMH labelled their first release as “a whole new scale of migraine inducement” and considered the follow up O God The Aftermath to be “a candidate for heaviest album in the world ever”. It would seem that raising the bar with every release isn’t just an ideal for the Norma Jean boys, it’s imperative.
“Just what are you trying to say?!” screams vocalist Cory Brandan repeatedly during the opener A Grand Scene For A Colour Film; a good question sir, and one many might indeed ask you! Even more intriguing if you are inclined to dig a little deeper is that the depth in what Cory is in fact saying reads like poetry for a lost generation.
For a band this chaotic, you’d think maybe they just go in, switch on and spaz out on their instruments until they get a hectic enough of a take to be satisfied. Not so dear reader. The impressiveness of their cacophonic sound suddenly leaps over into realms that are depressing to observe when you realise that after spending over 50 days simply rehearsing, each song was intricately built up and then deconstructed, lyrically, musically and (ahem, I thought this was metal…) spiritually.
Spiritually? Indeed, for those of you unaware, Norma Jean are about as dedicated to the man upstairs as they are their music, and if Redeemer tells you anything, it’s that Sunday Christians, this lot most defiantly ain’t!
The End of Things Will Be Televised is somewhat of a prophetic soundtrack to, well the end of uh, all things unsurprisingly. Brooding, frenzied and supplemented by a dirty bass line throughout, the breakneck kilter of the chorus should come with a whiplash warning. Amnesty Please gets even more insane, and leads me to conclude Mr Brandan must have vocal chords constructed from barbed wire.
If you dig deep enough past the frantic discord, there is even some melody to be extracted from his voice, which is demonstrated on No Passenger: No Parasite with splendour; a slowly building battle cry of immense proportions, which sounds like there is an army of backing vocalists, steadily rising to help Norma Jean in their single handed take over of the entire underground scene. There may be people who are afraid of this band, but you’ll meet few who don’t revere them in one way or another.
While there’s as much chance of catching Norma Jean on Songs Of Praise as there is seeing Donny Osmond at Ozzfest, their faith has done anything but hold them back. While there are plenty of scoffers who will proclaim there is no place for such things at the table of metaldom, but if Deicide can spend their whole career growling about Beelzebub, why not turn the tables? Faith matters aside, if the UK judges Norma Jean purely on the strength of their music, it won’t take much before they’re overtaking the Church of England in the popularity stakes.