Norma Jean is back with a vengeance. Out for blood, the Georgia quintet recently released The Anti Mother, a characteristic raging masterpiece that screams for the scene respect that this band deserves and usually gets.
Since Josh Scogin left the band to form the Chariot, a lot of unfounded talk bustled across the scene that Norma Jean wasn't up to 2002's Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child level, that O God, the Aftermath (2005) wasn't quite on par with the band's previous work. Still, some people were impressed with the offering. Personally, I wasn't exactly impressed, but it wasn't a terrible album. It never really made a significant spot in my rotation, but it was good for a stray listen every so often.
Cory Brandan, Scogin's successor, powered the band back to hardcore splendor with 2006's Redeemer, which ironically enough seemed to redeem the band's status as scene pioneers. It was pretty clear to me at the time that if you weren't ready to move on with the band away from its roots, then there was always the Chariot, which essentially picked up where BTMAKTC left off.
To me, Redeemer had a sonic quality that could be felt more than heard; the band's typical dissonant style was still there, but poppy hooks bled through the noise and formulated strong tunes, supported by an evenly unpredictable drum pattern that wasn't too "out there," as much I cannot say for the previous recording. (Pop in OGTA and you'll see what I'm talking about.) I like experimental music, but I felt like OGTA wasn't really working for them. I think the band felt that too, as Redeemer is such a drastic countermeasure (and was released only a year after the previous recording).
Stepping in the dominant footprints of Redeemer, The Anti Mother is a tantalizing and catchy journey through the evolution of the band that loses no edge or momentum from earlier work, capturing a raw earnestness that pumps through unfamiliar riffs laced with surprisingly strong hooks, bolstered by the characteristic heaviness and dissonance that only Norma Jean can seem to capture.
Norma Jean appears to have finally found a niche in the realm of melodic metalcore, solidifying their position as pioneers of the scene. If you're not happy with it, then go listen to the Chariot. I can't offer refunds -- only peace of mind.
"I guess a liar's heart is still true even if her lips are not."
- Cory Brandan, "Birth of the Anti Mother"
Previously posted on www.ibreathetheunderground.typepad. com
I've been waiting in dire anticipation at least a year for this, so it is with great pleasure that I present you Underoath's fourth full-length studio recording, Lost in the Sound of Separation.
Christianity and brutality have never quite melded the way this sextet from Tampa, Florida has demonstrated over the past ten years. Blurring the lines between art and chaos, music and dissonance, and elevated spirituality and earthly frustration, each song Underoath has recorded is like a raging, insistent battle between good and evil. Aaron Gillespie's honest vocals seem eternally pitted against Spencer Chamberlain's explosive growls in an epic struggle for dominance, like two sides of the same coin tumbling down a bottomless well.
Underoath's latest offering plays deeper into that same dynamic, building up something beautiful and destroying it in a whirlwind of crunching guitars and wailing vocals. Fans of the band might remember Define the Great Line's (2006) face-melting intro, "In Regards to Myself" -- that is, until they pop this baby in and let "Breathing in a New Mentality" spin. The urgency of the record doesn't push its own limits as it drifts purposefully from song to song, drilling the band's staple catchy melodies into your head and leaving a hole in the back of your skull so the music can come and go as it pleases.
Although I'm a firm subscriber to the notion that production can be a record's biggest downfall, the quality difference between DTGL and LITSOS is most tangible in the drums, facilitating a self-sustaining product that feeds on a dominant beat, with layered guitars and the usual vocal meandering. Another production upgrade is apparent in Gillespie's vocals; nearly flawless, the recording captures the emotion and power that stands independent of Chamberlain's screams, while simultaneously working with them to present the contrast that solidfies Underoath as a unique ship in a sea of metalcore bouys.
Clearly, this is not a detour from previous records, but the evolution that Underoath fans could have only been dreaming about waiting for the album to drop.
"Oh, God! It's racing through my veins / I'm afraid there must be some kind of mistake."
- Underoath, "Breathing in a New Mentality"