Norma Jean Ė Wrongdoers
Record Label: Razor and Tie Records
Release Date: August 6 2013
If thereís one band in hardcore/metalcore that Iíve always rather enjoyed, itís Norma Jean. Theyíve never been my favorite band, but theyíve always been a band that I really enjoyed. Iíve been a fan for around five years or so, since 2008ís The Anti Mother dropped, and I enjoyed that record a lot. I havenít listened to them in a couple of years, since last record Meridional. I donít remember too much about it, but it was a great record. In the last few years, I havenít been much into heavier music, so this was a band that kinda passed me by for awhile, even though I really enjoyed them. I just stopped listening to a lot of heavier music, because I wanted to get into more stuff. Well, needless to say, the band has released yet another record, sixth LP Wrongdoers, and to be honest, I didnít really have any clue about this record until a couple weeks ago when I first read about it. I picked up at my local Best Buy, because it was on sale, and itís by Norma Jean, so I was already slightly familiar with it, just knowing that I would most likely enjoy it. Well, I was totally right, because this is a great record. Thatís even an understatement. This record is wonderful in every single way. Itís the way that a metal/hardcore record should be done. Itís just as ferocious as it is melodic and beautiful. Thereís a great balance, and I love when bands do this. A few other bands have released records this year that are kind of similar, at least in terms of the overall concept. Iíll admit right off the bat that I donít really love this band. I like them a lot, but theyíve never released a record that really sucked me in, and made me absolutely love them, and I was kind of hoping that this record would do that, so does it? Well, to a varying degree. Itís a very solid record, and deserving of all the praise that it gets, but being someone whoís not really into heavy music anymore, Iím still not finding myself really loving this band, either. Itís not bad, and in fact, itís great, but it just doesnít click with me.
The record starts off with ďHive Minds,Ē which is actually one of the longest tracks on the record, not counting the closing track, ďSun Dies, Blood Moon.Ē ďHive MindsĒ clocks in at around seven minutes, so itís quite a doozy for a intro track. Having a track that long is a risk that some bands are willing to take. Itís not a bad thing, itís just that when I go into a record, I donít want to start off with a really long song before I actually dive into it. This record pulls it off nicely, however. It takes a minute to get started, as a pummeling guitar riff dominates the song for a brief moment, but when it does (around the minute and a half mark), vocalist Cory Putman lets his roar be heard. Iíve always really liked his harsh vocals, and even his cleans were always really enjoyable. Heís not the best singer in the world, but as a screamer, heís absolutely fantastic. ďHive MindsĒ is definitely one of the best tracks on the record, and it perfectly blends the ferocity and melody that they were trying to go for with this record. Some songs are quite fast, loud, and aggressive while a few others are chilled out, laidback, and a very pleasant experience. ďHive MindsĒ encompasses both of those elements. For the first few minutes, itís a very ferocious and angry tune, but suddenly, around the four and a half minute mark, it becomes slightly chilled out, with an instrumental taking over until it comes back full circle towards the end. All in all, itís one of the best songs on the record. Second track ďIf You Got It at Five, You Got It at FiftyĒ is one of the shortest tracks on the record, at a little over two minutes, but itís one of the most aggressive. Itís just a nice burst of hardcore, really. It doesnít really do anything interesting, but itís just fast and loud. Following that, the title track is also one of my favorite songs, too; itís more chilled out, with Putman using his cleans for a majority of the track. The instrumentation is still quite aggressive and heavy, but Putmanís cleans make an appearance for most of the song, and itís nice. A breakdown, so to speak, also makes an appearance in the middle of the song, and you know what? Itís really cool. Itís hard for bands in the genre to make breakdowns interesting, but whatever breakdowns do appear on this record, theyíre done well.
Itís after this song, though, that the record does kind of slip a little bit. By that, I just mean that most metalcore/hardcore records tend to sound the same after awhile, because thereís really nothing memorable to separate every song, and thankfully, these guys arenít some generic post-hardcore band who need a clean chorus in every song. The songs themselves are really good, but they just get lost within the mix. There is a pair of really interesting songs towards the middle, however, and those come in the form of sixth and seventh tracks ďAfterhour Animals,Ē and ďThe Lash Whistled a Singing Wind.Ē Theyíre both around a minute long, but theyíre rather odd songs. The former has a female voice basically talking like a relaxation tape and it doesnít make too much sense. The latter is another short little burst of hardcore, but it kind of ends just as quickly as it started. The only other song that really is memorable to me is the last track, ďSun Dies, Blood Moon,Ē mainly because itís 14 minutes long. Long songs tend to be memorable, but this one is memorable for a couple of reasons. The song first starts out as a rather aggressive piece, then suddenly switches gears into a sprawling ambient track for awhile until Putmanís screams take over again until the track goes quiet and a rather odd instrumental takes over until the track ends. It ends just the way the record started, actually, which is quietly. Overall, itís a really solid album, but this record still doesnít make me love Norma Jean. Itís great, but when it comes time for end of the year lists, I donít think itíll make mine.