Artist: Norma Jean
Album: The Anti Mother
Record Label: Solid State Records
Release Date: August 5, 2008
Norma Jean have been a front runner of the metalcore movement, creating urgent, passionate and heavy music for over eight years. The latest offering from the Georgia quintet, titled The Anti Mother, is a fresh sound for the group, who have spent the last two years touring in support of their 2006 release, Redeemer.
The Anti Mother is a concept of a character drawn up by the band to represent something that is outwardly beautiful, but possesses deceptive traits. Lead vocalist Cory Brandan has stated that this is both Norma Jean’s most melodic, as well as heavy record to date. Ironically, the concept bodes well with the album itself, as the music is very deceptive of what fans have come to know and embrace as Norma Jean.
What you won’t find on The Anti Mother are the double bass breakdowns and drop-D tuned riffs of their blistering debut Bless the Martyr, Kiss the Child or the sporadic time signatures and Botch-like song structures of O’ God the Aftermath. But what you will find is the more straight-forward hard-rock approach similar to much of Redeemer.
One thing immediately noticeable about The Anti Mother is the drastic change in Brandan’s vocals. The guttural screams and growls found on previous albums have now transitioned into more melodic screams. Songs like “Self Employed Chemist” and “Robots 3, Humans 0” seem to be showcases of Norma Jean’s take on radio nu-metal, as Brandan puts in his best effort to use his singing voice, but gives a lackluster performance.
Norma Jean has soaked up influences from many bands, and in many cases, do their best to mimic their peers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In the past year, Norma Jean has constantly toured with southern-rock enthusiasts Every Time I Die, and the influence is apparent on songs like “Birth of the Anti Mother.” The group also does their best Deftones impression on “Surrender Your Sons,” and managed to recruit the Deftones’ lead singer Chino Moreno, who aided in the songwriting, creating the standout track on the album. Another guest spot comes from Page Hamilton, lead singer of Helmet, whose obnoxious vocal melodies on “Opposite of Left and Wrong” sear through your eardrums, forcing you to find the ‘next’ button immediately.
Despite its shortcomings, The Anti Mother has its share of impressive tracks. Along with “Birth of the Anti Mother” and “Death of the Anti Mother,” Norma Jean scrounges up all of their collective talent, resulting in “And There Will Be a Swarm of Hornets,” easily one of the band’s best works to date. The song is as beautiful as it is relentless, and proves to be a grand closer on an underwhelming album.
Throughout the years, Norma Jean has managed to create great albums that push the boundaries of metal and rock. However, The Anti Mother is uninspiring, and will be filed away onto the large shelf of mediocrity that exists within this genre.
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