Norma Jean – O’ God, The Aftermath
Release Date: March 1, 2005
Record Label: Solid State Records
Norma Jean is back with a vengeance with their sophomore effort, O’ God, The Aftermath. Gone are the ridiculously long titles (as the vocalist left to sing in The Chariot, the titles followed him). Norma Jean is still noisecore at its finest, new vocalist and all. Cory’s voice is perhaps a little tamer than his predecessor, but that’s in no way undermining his vocal talent. His scream is rich and powerful, without being too throaty. Norma Jean has toned it down a bit for this album, with the occasional burst of melodic screaming, but for the most part it’s still the same brutal hardcore that made them popular in the first place. In today’s modern scene, Norma Jean is always one of the first names mentioned in association with the genre “Noisecore,” and that tag remains true. The album is full of non-stop energy, with chaotic song structures and dissonant guitar chords. While their sound is still very much full of noise, they have managed to create a more complete album than their first. Some songs like “Bayonetwork” actually have melodic choruses that appear out of the mess of pure noise that Norma Jean throws in your face.
It’s extremely hard on a record like this to distinguish one song from another, as the songs in general have very little recognizable parts or structure. As previously mentioned, there are a few songs that have choruses and melodies, which is hard to find on their first release. While each song is a smash mouth offering of brutality, the songs don’t really grow old. It can be hard to get into a record without songs that have easily memorable parts, but Norma Jean manages to achieve this. I’ve listened to this record at least six times since I got it, and I have yet to pick out a standout or weak track. A sense of complete chaos and passion is conveyed throughout O’ God, The Aftermath. The songs breathe unbridled raw energy that translates into non-stop head banging. Listening to O’ God, The Aftermath is almost like being at a live show – you can just picture the band tearing up a venue with each and every breakdown and transition. Speaking of transitions, there are no shortages of them as songs change direction at the blink of an eye. There’s a great mix of gradual transitions and snap decisions that perpetuate the continual chaos.
The production on the record is phenomenal as well. The vocal levels are somewhat low, letting the music carry the record, as it should. The guitars are loud and the drum triggers hit hard and loud. These levels allow for the songs to be driven by Norma Jean’s incredibly creative song writing instead of being carried by vocal lines. The end result is going to be a longer replay value for people that listen to the album. In the end, it’s the talent that makes this a great album, not trite melodies or sing-along choruses. The record does have its fair share of melodies, such as in “Liarsenic.” Old-school Norma Jean fans may be upset at the band’s minor shift towards the occasional structured chorus, but personally I did not really enjoy their earlier work, so this works for me. At times, the singing sounds almost numetal-ish, which undercuts some of the musical integrity. It’s these moments when I don’t enjoy the record. Singing is fine, but delivering it in a way that doesn’t act counter intuitively to the rest of the record is key. Fortunately, the huge majority of the record is still completely chaotic and raw.
O’ God, The Aftermath is a great CD. They’ve picked up right where they left off, and Cory is a fine replacement at vocalist. If you’re into any other noisecore bands, then pick up O’ God, The Aftermath today - because it may be the years best for the genre. If not, give it a shot anyways – I typically prefer metalcore bands like Unearth, but this record has made me a Norma Jean believer.