Review Summary: Norma Jean release one of the landmark releases of the year and come at you with an album which rivals for their heaviest and darkest to date.
Most of the time, a band's seventh studio album can be a sign of many things. In regards to Norma Jean
, Polar Similar
shows a group at the height of their experimentation as well as their heaviness, showcasing an album chock full of insurmountably heavy riffs and overtly dark atmosphere. Since the band's inception into the metalcore world, the band have undergone countless overhauls (in terms of sound as well as band members). Their sophomore effort O' God the Aftermath
displayed a sound not dissimilar to pioneering metalcore outfit Botch
, with outings following displaying a band frought with constant change in terms of the music executed. Polar SImilar
is undoubtedly the band's heaviest and darkest release so far, with tracks such as 1,000,000 Watts
and Death Is A Living Partner
breathing pure sludge-infested material. The guitars are a mix of down-tuned powerhouse sludge and typical metalcore dissonance and the bass is an incredibly beastly overdriven tone which simply heightens the mountain peak of heaviosity.
Tracks such as Reaction
boast a slightly progressive edge, with the main riff bordering on the edge of a heavier Tool
perhaps. The quieter sections featured throughout the album also mark a masterful and careful approach to creating atmosphere and breathing space. Overall, this helps to make those heavy riffs even more monstrous. The drumming throughout the album is tight - in particular, the breakdowns hold a huge weight behind them, with the kit accenting the beats well. The acoustic outro to Reaction
leads into something of a particularly novel interest, with III. The Nebula
being a throwback to a southern sound. These interludes help to break the album up nicely, allowing the listener time to digest the material on offer. Whilst some may consider them to be slightly pointless, they serve their purpose well and overall help to add another dimension to Polar Similar
The closing tracks on the album, whilst probably not as heavy as the first half, certainly pack a mighty punch. The Close and Discontent
is a radical mix of southern and sludge metal, whilst An Ocean of War
opens up with a progressive-sounding guitar riff before launching into a mid-paced headbanger, again showcasing the band at their tightest in terms of cohesiveness as well as musical execution. As for the production, everything sounds polished as well as organic - something which lends to the great atmosphere created throughout the whole album.
The concluding fifteen or so minutes of the album comes in the form of two final tracks. Again, a mix of those cleaner guitar passages along with the monolithic sludge sections helps to layer up A Thousand Years a Minute
. Whilst all the music might stand up to the hype and expectation that preceded this release, it can be said the both the lyrics and vocals take a step back here. The lyrics, whilst focusing on quite an expansive theme conceptually, are relatively simple in terms of construction. Also, the vocals, espeically the cleans, seem a little lackluster. Whereas on albums such as O' God the Aftermath
, the vocals were raw and full of presence, the screams are tailored to a more tame manner, never really exploding in full force. Album closer IV. The Nexus
begins with a lonely and atmospheric guitar lead before quickly building into a tour de force of sludgy guitars and pounding drums. Overall, it is a pleasing end to a most satisfying album.
So, the seventh album of a band whom have undergone drastic change proves to be quite possibly their best yet. Everything here is of high quality - the instrumentation and production is second to none and the actual musical execution is superb. With numerous listens, [b]Polar Similar]/b] proves to be a very rewarding listen - an album chock full of great riffs and wonderful atmosphere, Norma Jean
show that with their seventh album, anything is possible.