Norma Jean have been around for a good while now, 11 years since their debut album in fact, and it may not seem like it’s been that long.
They’ve had a couple of personnel shifts all while witnessing the post-2000 melodic metalcore scene twist and contort into the different shapes, from Killswitch Engage to em… Attack! Attack!, and lived to tell the tale; and now while there’s little credibility left in metalcore, broadly speaking, Norma Jean are a band that can proudly keep their heads up high.
Sure, they’ve toyed with their formula a few times down through the years but for the most part, they’ve stuck to their guns and for that they exist in their own field. This is exemplified strongly by new long player, ‘Wrongdoers’.
In many regards, everything about the album’s running order is predictable – glossy production, clean hooky riffs, big choruses, good cop/bad cop vocals and the occasional breakdown for good measure. But it’s the palpable grit and vigour in the band’s execution and their playing to their strengths that makes ‘Wrongdoers’ such a good album.
The ‘big chorus’ is the backbone of the record and you needn’t look further than the anthemic title track title for proof, which is probably one of the best tracks that Norma Jean have penned in years. ‘Sword In Mouth, Fire Eyes’ meanwhile is an equally ferocious and catchy number, striking the right balance.
The band still aren’t ones to shy away from ambitious undertakings when the time is right, as 14 minute closer ‘Sun Dies, Blood Moon’ attests. The song swoops in and out of broody ballad-like passages, complemented by string samples and their familiar metalcore bouts, and is capped off by a particularly thunderous breakdown.
Soon the track fades out and the final couple of minutes are taken over by stoner rock instrumental that Sleep would be proud of, as bizarre as that sounds. As a closer it was a risky move but one that’s ultimately paid off well for them, ending the record on a high.
Norma Jean deserve a few hat tips for pulling this album off, for creating an interesting and invigorating album in an otherwise dull scene.
3.8/5 – Jonathan Keane ::: 22/09/13