It seemed like this Norma Jean album may never come and, as a fan of this band since I first heard “Redeemer” I have been hoping it would see the light of day and would be stronger than 2011’s “Meridional”.
Having intially heard them back in 2006 I quickly delved into their back catalogue and was thrilled to discover a band bursting with energy and a huge range of ideas that set them apart from many of the more one-dimensional hardcore bands. “Wrongdoers” grinds into life with a sinister pounding intro one expects to burst into trademark fury any time soon, but instead a slow-burning riff builds and vocalist Cory Putman works his way from tempered rage into barked venom.
It is instantly apparent that Josh Barber has done a wonderful production job here. Previous efforts have sounded a little thin despite achieving the volume and harsh abrasive feel this band merits but “Wrongdoers” has a fatter, warmer sound that adds richness to the bass and drums of new guys John Finnegan and Clayton Holyoak.
Essential to the band’s groove, they bring fresh energy to the mix and, to the surprise of some I’m sure, Norma Jean do not seem to have suffered from the loss of founding guitarist Scottie Henry. Such a major change to the band’s core could have produced a watered down result but Jeff Hickey fits right in and shreds with aplomb.
Second track ‘If You Got It At Five You Got It At Fifty’ is a welcome furore of howling guitars and screams, taking us right back to their early noise days. The title track itself is brimming with emotion, insightful lyrics and a borderline metal chugging riff that will no doubt incite moshpits in a hall near you soon.
‘Potter Has No Hands’ jerks and veers like a rabid dog on the loose and ‘The Lash…’ is a proper pummelling, with sufficient feedback and blunt force trauma to make you glad it’s only 68 seconds long. A lesson in how to make every single note count and as good as anything they’ve ever recorded. The closing trio keeps the pace frenetic, the emotion high and the sonic twists and turns eclectic and bold.
Closing with the sprawling and uncharacteristically epic ‘Sun Dies, Blood Moon’ there are nods to Between The Buried And Me and Conan amongst others, yet still bearing the unique hallmark of Norma Jean.
This overflows with grace, sorrow, anger and hope. It is by turns ugly and beautiful and quite simply the best thing they have released in years. It may even overtake “Redeemer” as my favourite in weeks to come. Rarely off my stereo, this band have earned your ten bucks. Buy it today.