Sometimes when a band has a fairly unique idea, it can be translated into a good album that gives a breath of fresh air to the music scene. Or it can end up like Norma Jean's Bless The Martyr and Kiss The Child
. Norma Jean is a Christian metalcore band from Georgia. They also seem to be the definition of a one-trick pony.
They use pretty much the same formula for every song. The guitars generally play high, ringing, dissonant notes wedged in between pounding power chords. This actually sounded interesting to me for a little while on the album. While I admittedly haven't listened to that much music compared to many of you on the site, I hadn't really heard much of anything like it. However, this only sounds fresh for a short period of time before it just gets old and annoying. The high, dissonant parts are effective in moderation. But there's a fine line between effectiveness and irritation. Norma Jean apparently has no reservations about stepping over that line.
The vocals don't really have much going for them either. Josh Scogin's scream is rather poor. There are times when his slurred, abrasive scream fits with the mess that is the instrumentation, but there are also parts on the album that are nearly unlistenable. The vocals in the first part of Face: Face
are just terrible. Scogin sounds like a dying animal in his shriek in the intro, and it doesn't get much better once the song gets going.
What makes the screaming seem even worse than it actually is is the fact that there's almost no clean vocals on the album. The closest thing to singing you'll find on the album is the outro of one of the few highlights, Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste
. mewithoutYou's Aaron Weiss makes an appearance in which he half-talks, half-sings for about a minute, and sadly it becomes one of the vocal highlights. Scogin somewhat raps (unimpressively) on I Used to Hate Cell Phones but Now I Hate Car Accidents
Norma Jean does try to break out of their mold at one point in the album. Pretty Soon, I Don't Know What, but Something Is Going to Happen
is a nearly 16 minute song that slowly builds. However, the climax really isn't worth the wait, as the build-up is rather dull and uninteresting. And when we finally get there, we're rewarded with mediocre riffing and screaming. Yay! Really, this song seems like a failed attempt at an epic song. Well, they failed. But at least they tried.
As much as I've been ragging on this album, there are a couple worthwhile tracks to be had. The previously mentioned Memphis…
is Norma Jean's style put to the best use. The dissonance isn't as irritating, the screaming, while not great, is still somewhat enjoyable, and it features the largest amount of clean vocals on the album. It shows what Norma Jean is capable of if everything falls into place. Unfortunately, that tended not to happen very often.
While not as good as Memphis…
, the song Organized Beyond Recognition
is also a highlight. You can actually understand Scogin's screams! The discordant guitars of the other songs are tamed down quite a bit. However at over 7 minutes, the song drags. A lot.
Bless The Martyr and Kiss The Child
was a disappointing record. While they never really showed signs of great talent or musicianship, I expected a fresh, new sound. Instead, I got a sea of inharmonious noise.