Norma Jean
All Hail


3.9
excellent

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
October 29th, 2019 | 340 replies


Release Date: 10/25/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Make it loud.

Norma Jean are aging in reverse. All their contemporaries have either broken up or moved onto milquetoast radio rock in an attempt to get a cut of that Bring Me the Horizon cash cow. Norma Jean, though, just hum along like a well-oiled engine. Cory Brandan's vocals seem to get gnarlier with every release, finding new ways to unleash that tortured sing-scream that's been so essential to the band incorporating melody into brutality. If this is Jeff Hickey's last album on guitar then he went out on top, with absolutely delicious guitar tones and fretwork bringing some math influence, a terrific sidestep from Polar Similar's bluesier licks. Every song is structured like it could be the band's last statement, throwing in everything and the kitchen sink: time signature switches, disgustingly heavy breakdowns, oases of calm with stadium-filling melodies inside the gauntlets of punishment.

They're so locked in as a unit they can write a killer song in their sleep, which admittedly, can become something of a crutch. All Hail is thankfully more stylistically distinct than its predecessor, which really just threw Meridional and Wrongdoers in a blender and hoped for the best. But "[Mind Over Mind]" and "Trace Levels of Dystopia" are Norma Jean operating at the baseline, talented enough to put out good music on autopilot but not pushing the envelope in any particular direction. This is partly why Wrongdoers is their best achievement – Norma Jean took their sound and stretched it out both ways like elastic, perfecting both the long doomy mood piece and short furious blasts of hardcore punk adrenaline. Closing out the decade the band was left with a choice; keep doubling down on these styles until they tapped that well dry – see: "Death is a Living Partner", "The Nexus" - or try something new.

All Hail takes up the challenge of sequencing every sound Norma Jean have tried out – from Redeemer on, before you freak about the lack of Bless the Martyr... here – into one complete package. For the most part, I can't fault a thing. The record's back half is absolutely incredible, with the earth-shattering breakdown on "Translational" leveling the playing field for the band to get wild. "Careen" is the big showy setpiece, building from an unnerving ambient soundscape to a punishing post-metal banger in five minutes and change, but closing out the album Norma Jean elect for something closer to the heart. "Anna" is a surprisingly emotional epic written while the band was reeling from the death of a fan; Cory's vocals, inherently dripping with emotion anyway, are put to some of their best use ever as he rips his way across the track. The solemn transition into the Opethian acoustic "The Mirror and the Second Veil" really sells the feeling of a whole different kind of closer, a fantastic new sound for the band to work in the future.

That's All Hail's major innovation, but it's hard to be upset when they mix past iterations of their sound into the picture so well. "Orphan Twin" toggles between cleans and harshes as effortlessly as ever, only missing out classic status for its frustratingly short runtime. "/with_errors" and "If [Loss] Then [Leader]" resurrect the massive hooks of The Anti Mother in a better framework, while "Safety Last" and "Landslide Defeater" take it as a goal to up the band's already respectable bar for crushing breakdowns. ("Landslide Defeater" gets points for tactical deployment of a fucking hunting knife for a pickslide, but for my money "The Anthem of the Angry Brides" retains that crown).

This is far from Norma Jean's conclusive statement on ambition or innovation, but as a capstone to an era which began with Meridional, All Hail feels oddly appropriate. It's never been easy to predict where this band will go next; it could be that Hickey's departure and the new decade induce another sea change to keep things fresh, or they just keep pumping out terrific metalcore every three years until the genre catches up and takes some pointers. For a band that's outlasted more than one complete rotation in membership, twenty years of grind and the lure of drifting away into the ranks of metalcore's disappointing nostalgia acts, it's hard to imagine any choice being the wrong one.



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user ratings (352)
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
markfromearly (4)
This is how it's done....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2019


42700 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

BURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRN BABY BURN

TheSpirit
Contributing Reviewer
October 29th 2019


26187 Comments


phuck yeah

Digging: Sigh - Imaginary Sonicscape

tyman128
October 29th 2019


1586 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great review! the absolute consistency of Norma Jean over the past three album cycles has been absolutely incredible, they're basically unstoppable.

I personally think this edges out Wrongdoers and Polar Similar to me, but they are all extremely fantastic. The back half of this album is one of the best stretches of music the band has ever done in their career for sure

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2019


42700 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

Hive Minds through Sword in Mouth is the one for me but yeah these southern bois are crazy consistent. Translational is so goddamn good

tyman128
October 29th 2019


1586 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Translational is fantastic, my personal favorite from the album is Anna. An absolutely amazing way to end off the album, and I really love the addition of Garret Russel's (Silent Planet) vocals into, really adds to the emotion

AsleepInTheBack
October 29th 2019


6045 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I wasnt hugely keen on their last record - i didnt find it all that heavy despite the general consensus - but I'll give this a whirl based on the last sentence of that first para

Atari
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2019


25131 Comments


Nice writing as always, Row

Didn’t love this on first listen but you’ve convinced me to give it another go. Did you hear anything off the new Counterparts? The singles pretty much blew me away

Digging: Proper. - I Spent the Winter Writing Songs About Getting Bet

Moge
October 29th 2019


459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this thing is more consistent than an abusive relationship

Digging: Alcest - Spiritual Instinct

rafalafa
October 29th 2019


171 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Translational is fantastic, my personal favorite from the album is Anna. An absolutely amazing way to end off the album, and I really love the addition of Garret Russel's (Silent Planet) vocals into, really adds to the emotion"

Said it in the other thread, but Garrett's feature is absoultely inspired. Such a great choice.

Also, K N I F E S L I D E.

onionbubs
October 29th 2019


12077 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great review for a hell of an album anna is fucking massive

Digging: Secret And Whisper - Great White Whale

Essence
October 29th 2019


6303 Comments


wish cory brandan wasn't such an absolute dick, haven't been able to stomach their music since i saw the dumb shit he writes

AsleepInTheBack
October 29th 2019


6045 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Oh fuck that opening riff is huge

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2019


57021 Comments


normie jean

Digging: Counterparts - Nothing Left to Love

Feather
October 29th 2019


5504 Comments


The almighty norma jean have crushed the devil wearing prada for possibly the final time.

NoHellsNoHeavens
October 29th 2019


106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is how you metalcore.

ghostboobs
October 29th 2019


18 Comments


they are still a fucking band??

5secondsofsummerfan
October 29th 2019


36 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Never really noticed how similar the singer's clean vocals are to He is Legend. Especially on the track Anna.

outliers
October 29th 2019


1098 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

all hail the tragedy amirite boys

Emim
October 29th 2019


28021 Comments


The whole track sounds like it could fit on a He is Legend album, which is not a bad thing.

kingjulian
October 29th 2019


1656 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

"they are still a fucking band??"

Yes, and the best they've ever been

Digging: Norma Jean - All Hail



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