Review Summary: This is how it's done.
Thank you, Norma Jean, (and Will Putney), for fully unleashing the chaotic potential that this band is fully capable of on All Hail. Even from the first two singles, “[Mind over Mind]” and “Landslide Defeater”, I knew this was going to be a monster of a record, and one that would be coming in hot for my AOTY list. It’s now my job to prepare you for what you’re about to experience.
While there might not be a “Hive Minds” or “Sun Dies, Blood Moon” present on All Hail, Norma Jean still had some tricks up their sleeve on how to build and close their latest effort. Norma Jean breaks through with “Orphan Twin,” another giant intro to match (if not overtake) “I. The Planet,” and “[Mind over Mind],” two massive tracks where the mosh pit will never be able to rest. The metalcore icons continue to flow breakdowns, riffs, and lyrics designed to be screamed at the top of your lungs, all without making any of it seem forced. Every “Yeah!” that Cory Brendon lets out is a reminder of how natural All Hail’s energy is to this band. Tracks like “/with_errors” and “Translational,” reminiscent of “Triffids” or “High Noise Output,” take a calmer approach initially, but still manage to blast through any conceptions that Norma Jean are going to soften up. Moments like this are shared on other tracks throughout the record as well, giving the entire work a, much appreciated, fairly dynamic range. Albums with goals to be the loudest and craziest seldom remember that listeners have to breathe every now and then. While I’m not comparing Norma Jean’s efforts to those of Frontierer or Sectioned, Norma Jean definitely gets right what those groups intentionally choose to leave out.
One significant change I noticed when first listening to “[Mind over Mind]” was a slight change in vocalist Cory Brendon’s delivery. In metalcore terms, Cory seems to hit a lot more “highs” on this record than in previous works and they sound incredible. This man needs to be in the same conversation as vocalists like Sam Carter and Rory Rodriguez. His ability to effortlessly transition from pissed-off screaming his head off to perfectly pitched yelling to his signature pleasantly-rough-around-the-edges singing voice amidst the chaos is noteworthy in and of itself. Shining brightest on “Careen” and “If [Loss] Then [Leader],” Cory’s singing breathes in needed melodies to All Hail’s cluster of madness.
I’d also like to applaud the return to the shorter transition/interlude tracks on this album, reminiscent of Wrongdoers’ “Afterhour Animals,” rather than the long, multiple bores that made it onto Polar Similar and Meridional. (While I’m all for atmospheric tension and building of an album’s world, tracks like “II. The People” or “Occidental” failed to do much for me.) And, like I said, though there may be no “Sun Dies, Blood Moon,” All Hail closes with a trio of incredible track that I like to imagine being one, continuous 13-minute closer. Featuring Silent Planet’s Garrett Russell, “Anna” closes with one of the most unexpectedly heaviest moments Norma Jean have ever put to tape. An emotional track dedicated to a lost loved one, “Anna” reluctancy to release its unbridled rage is such as satisfying build that ends All Hail on a sky-high note.
Why Norma Jean is seldom given equal recognition as their peers (Fit For a King, Silent Planet, The Devil Wears Prada) is beyond me. All Hail is a milestone in heavy music in 2019 and should be looked up to as such. Not many bands can step up to the plate time and time again to deliver album after album of fresh sounding heavy music like Norma Jean has and continues to do. All hail the Almighty Norma Jean.