Review Summary: Norma Jean Grows Up...
I'm sort of surprised by the number of comments claiming that both this new album and Redeemer are not good records. *shrugs* I suppose it's truly a matter of opinion and preference. But I enjoy melody in with my chaos. And I think that Norma Jean's first release (Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child) with Josh Scogin is a chaotic mess and a poor example of any kind of music. I just can't find any reason to get into it.
I believe that the band progressed quite well and evolved with the release of O God, the Aftermath. With the new vocalist (who I like better), the band was struggling to find balance and their own sound. They borrowed from their influences quite heavily but released an impressive blast of metal music. For me, things didn't pick up till Redeemer. The songwriting (once again, in my opinion) improved by leaps and bounds. The lyrics were far superior to previous releases. The album released angry headbanging chaos next to subtle melodies that had been only hinted at on the previous record. I enjoyed each track as a separate entity. But my favorite song off the record is probably "The End of All Things Will Be Televised."
I approached this new album hopeful and skeptical. Keeping in mind that I should listen to it as a new, stand-alone work rather than trying to compare it to past releases. Ultimately, I enjoyed it a lot. The band experiments much more effectively with melody. And integrates it beautifully with the heavier parts of the album. I think Cory Brandan's vocals improved. I think the lyrics are again stellar. And the record is very diverse. Though, I would have liked to have seen more tracks with just Norma Jean. I do think the guest spots are used effectively.
I think the new record is a natural progression of their sound. It's equal parts their older work and a new sound. It retains elements of hardcore sensibility while also tossing in dashes (musically) of Rage Against the Machine (to my ear), Soundgarden, and sometimes even the progressive and psychedelic flashes of Pink Floyd rear their head. Which is a delightful surprise. I eagerly anticipate the band's next record. Because I think they have yet to decide on a sound. Which means, they have yet to hit their stride. I think they continue to improve as a band. And, they are not afraid to experiment even when so-called fans start tossing around the term "sell-out" without providing the album a proper chance to grow on them. It's grown on me.
They didn't sell out. They evolved. They expanded. They improved their range. It's like the transition from black and white TV to color. Some people are hesitant and don't think the change is necessary. Eventually, it becomes obvious that the change was a well needed improvement.
DISCLAIMER: This review started at as a comment that got too long. I didn't go too far in depth. But I felt it needed to be said for people's consideration. It's basically a glamour piece plastered with straight opinion all over the place. Forgive me. You can give this bad boy negative ratings all you want. I just ask you consider the album independently of what other people have said. And outside of what other Norma Jean records have sounded like.