Review Summary: I just threw my chair out the window it's so heavy.
A moment of honesty: Wrongdoers is the only Norma Jean album I care about. I wrote off Bless The Martyr and Kiss The Child when I was 13, much preferring the huge choruses of Killswitch Engage and whatever else was on MTV's Headbangers Ball that prided catchiness over chaos. Wrongdoers blipped up on my radar after 2013's year end cycle and slowly but surely worked its way into my roster of favorite albums of all time. The twin pillars of metalcore and sludge that supported the band's every desire to go buck wild was absolutely astounding; here was a band, six albums into their career, revitalizing themselves in a way I didn't think possible. This came at the detriment to the rest of their discography though... when you're listening to the pinnacle of a band's career, why bother listening to how they got there? It's not nearly as good.
I mention this story solely because I fear that's how people will view Wrongdoers after listening to Polar Similar.
That's not a negative thing, by any means. Polar Similar is hands down the best metal album of the year, and I'd make a very strong case that it's the new benchmark for popular metal as a whole. This is Norma Jean at their most ferocious, opening with the strongest 1-2 (and yeah, 3-4 as well) punch I've heard in YEARS. Vocalist Cory Putman's admonition of "I hope you burn/I'll be the king of the ash" roaring over the tremendously sludgy drop A riff of "I: The Planet" is the stuff of mosh pit legend, pressed into full effect when I saw them live earlier this year. Following tracks "Everyone Talking Over Everyone Else", "Forever Hurtling Towards Andromeda" and "1,000,000 Watts" don't do much to buck the trend, but the riffing is top notch, Putman's excellent one liners are tossed around like spare change, and, most importantly, the songwriting is SMART. Norma Jean have always excelled at swapping octaves to withhold and administer heaviness, and it's all the little things like that which make Polar Similar such a masterpiece.
If there's any faults, Polar Similar's opening is so strong that listening to the album all the way through in one sitting causes the back third to drag. Picking it up with a fresh set of ears displays a deep, wearied depression that's equally as enjoyable as the punishing fury of the former two thirds (special mention to "Death Is A Living Partner" and potential best track nominee "Shattered Sun"); straight through, the writing comes across as plodding and dull. And sure, the interludes are superflous and unnecessary. But these are small blips in an ocean of war. It's not often a band creates their magnum opus 7 albums into their career, but Norma Jean have never really shown any signs of slowing down. Lucky us.
Best Track: "Everyone Talking Over Everyone Else". From riff nirvana to windmill machine at the toss of a dime.