Review Summary: Not quite the 'return to roots' promised in the lead-up to the record's release, but rather a messy mishmash of the different directions the band has taken throughout their career.Meridional
, album number five from Georgia's Norma Jean
is not quite the 'return to roots' promised in the lead-up to the record's release, but rather a messy mishmash of the different directions the band has taken throughout their career. Throughout its 67 minute playing time, we hear technical mathcore reminiscent of O God, the Aftermath
("Leaderless and Self-Enlisted"), melodic tunes complete with vocal harmonies reminiscent of Redeemer
and The Anti-Mother
(most of the second half) and dissonant, ball-busting breakdowns ala the group's first album ("Bastardizer").
Certainly, Norma Jean have gone in a lot of different directions throughout their career and most of them have divided followers of the group's work. Those who liked the brutal simplicity of Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child
were turned off by the Botch
-style technicality and absence of breakdowns in the second album. Those who liked the second album were turned off by the simple and melodic structures of Redeemer
and The Anti-Mother
. What we get with Meridional
, then, is a band trying to play it safe and please all parties while throwing in a few new tricks, and to some degree it works. Fans of the more technical sound, for example, will find a lot to like about the album's first few tracks, especially "The Anthem of the Angry Brides", a blatant but tasteful rip-off of latter day Dillinger Escape Plan. The ambient interludes throughout ("Septentrional", "Occidental", "Oriental" (a hidden track at the end)) are a nice touch, as is the presence of instruments like acoustic guitar ("High Noise, Low Output"), synthesiser ("Falling From the Sky: Day Seven") and even piano ("Innocent Bystanders United"). Ultimately though, these embellishments do little more than provide a cosmetic enhancement for a bunch of ideas that are not particularly new.
Ultimately, it's hard to imagine fans of any era Norma Jean outright hating Meridional
, but it's also difficult to imagine anyone being overly impressed either. For sure, Meridional
has a bunch of good moments, but chances are if you've heard any other Norma Jean album, you've already heard what it has to offer done better.