Review Summary: I’m witnessing the end of the world, and I like it.
One of the most consistent and tenured bands in metalcore, Norma Jean are back with their first album in 3 years, ‘Deathrattle Sing For Me’. The band’s consistency is almost anomalous for an outfit that has a revolving door of lineup changes, with ‘DSFM’ being the latest in a string of incredibly strong records since the band’s defining 2006 album ‘Redeemer’, each increasing in intensity and creativity with time. This in part, makes ‘DSFM’ that much more impressive, being released one day removed from the 20th anniversary of their debut album ‘Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child’ with the fact that this late into the band’s career, the band is still releasing some of their best material to date. As is the case with every Norma Jean release, the album feels like an old friend, a familiar face, but one that has matured and grown since the last time you saw them, constantly expanding their core sound and experimenting with new ideas. At this stage of the band, you know exactly what to expect from a new Norma Jean record, and yet every single time, they never cease to shock and surprise you. One of the loudest-mixed albums I’ve ever personally heard, ‘Deathrattle Sing For Me’ is a visceral listen, with intentionally jarring volume jumps and thick layers of distortion, rarely relenting during it’s 53-minute, 13 track runtime. This is exemplified on the abrasive opening cuts “1994” and “Call For The Blood”, which consist of digitally altered and distorted riffs and samples beyond recognition, which make for an off-kilter, but intriguing listening experience.
Shockingly, the digitalization of Norma Jean’s sound works in the band’s favor, crafting not only some of their most chaotic moments to date, but also the most massive record from the band yet. Intensified by the distorted samples and digital effects, singles “Spearmint Revolt” and “Sleep Explosion” are thoroughly engaging offerings, with bone-crushing breakdowns and soaring choruses that will be stuck in your head for days on end. The charging punk rager “Any%” is a fireball consisting of pure, pulsating adrenaline in the best way possible. Injecting lots of energy and excitement into the record, the track is perfectly placed and classic Norma Jean at its finest.
While “Deathrattle’ thrives on total chaos and pulverizing riffs, that isn’t to say the record is without it’s softer moments. Treading on even more new territory for the band, the brooding “Penny Margs” and “Parallela” take heavily after 90’s alternative and grunge. Driven primarily by ominous atmospherics and unsettling note selections, the slower tracks still connect perfectly with the record’s heaviest moments. The tracks often provide perfectly placed breathers in the trackless, avoiding burnout in what is an incredibly dense, and at times overwhelming listen. Despite this, the denseness is however still very much present, with cuts like “Memorial Hoard” and the 8-minute closer “Heartache” being dominated by droning, sludgy guitars.
‘Deathrattle Sing For Me’ is an intense album. With a reported over 200 individual audio tracks across the 13 songs, The album is weighted down by its sheer length and density. The record is structurally chaotic, adapting various styles such as sludge, grunge, punk, and alternative into the band’s already harsh metalcore sound. Despite this, the entire album feels incredibly cohesive, with many of it’s tracks leading into the next with dynamic production and passionate, emotive vocal performances from frontman Cory Brandan. This is perhaps best culminated in “A Killing Word”, a full-force assault of drum fills and bludgeoning riffs that blends unhinged aggression with the soaring rock choruses of “Sleep Explosion” and atmospherics of “el-roi”, feeling like everything the record tries to be condensed into one track. Due to its overwhelming nature, the album is a grower, taking repeated listens to fully digest, and while it doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor ‘All Hail’, its still an incredibly solid album and one of the best metalcore releases of 2022 thus far. While easy to miss the midst of its own chaos, ‘Deathrattle Sing For Me’ is bookended by two circular poetic hooks that sum it’s sound and lyrics up itself perfectly: “I think I’m witnessing the end of the world and I like it”, “This world was never meant for me, or I was never meant for it”.
ALL HAIL THE ALMIGHTY NORMA JEAN.