By Lane Oliver
There are some bands that have that one album that is considered groundbreaking for the time period in which it was released. A good example of this would be The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Calculating Infinity. These kinds of monumental albums can create “purist” fans that only praise the band for that singular effort and do not care for anything after it, due to the band’s changing of sound on subsequent efforts. I would consider Norma Jean’s Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child as one of these albums due to my experience talking to fans of Norma Jean in the past. Some of these fans venerate the groundbreaking album, sometimes their sophomore album as well, but do not care for anything after that. While this is unfortunate, people are entitled to their opinions and what defines music as “good” is subjective. But, if you allow me to go out on a limb, I believe Norma Jean’s Wrongdoers might be the album that pulls past fans of the band back.
To me, Wrongdoers encapsulates everything Norma Jean has done up until this point and then some. Wrongdoers is fast, chaotic, sludgy, catchy, melodic, and features a good amount of experimentation that keeps the listener on their toes. Hardcore fans of Bless the Martyr or O, God era Norma Jean will be pleased to find that Wrongdoers has a nice healthy dose of that chaotic metalcore sound that you fell in love with all those years ago. Tracks such as “If You Got It At Five, You Got It At Fifty”, “The Potter Has No Hands” and “The Lash Whistled Like a Singing Wind” all feature grinding, off kilter riffing that hits like a rampaging elephant in musth. But this calculated chaos is not all Wrongdoers has to offer. The album still maintains heaviness while exploring different styles and textures and melodic lines. The album opener “Hive Minds” and “Sword in Mouth, Fire Eyes” both feature Norma Jean venturing into almost sludge territory with these down-tuned, groove-ridden riffs that cycle into oblivion. Other than these heavy riffs, Norma Jean craft triumphant sounding melodic choruses and intricate interludes. Then there are songs like “Triffids” and “Funeral Singer” that combine Norma Jean’s penchant for controlled chaos, the sludgier riffing and memorable melodic choruses into one big entertaining extravaganza. Songs like these seem to take from the more recent Norma Jean sound that came into being with Redeemer. Norma Jean has taking what they have already done and made it more solid than it ever was. These side winding, eclectic compositions are brought to a close with the fourteen minute “Sun Dies, Blood Moon”. I love the track’s bluesy, southern metal tinged melancholic riffing and the inclusion of string accompaniment. It makes for a doomy final dirge. The track goes on a bit longer than it needed to but it’s “epic” in every sense of the word regardless.
Wrongdoers is nothing extremely out of the ordinary for Norma Jean but some people, including myself, would not have expected their songwriting prowess to be increased ten-fold. The album truly does capture the very essence of Norma Jean, past and present, and combines into fifty minutes of pure ecstasy. It’s got everything past and present fans of Norma Jean need to get their fix. Could this be considered Norma Jean’s magnum opus? I don’t know for sure but it’s pretty damn close.
Label: Razor & Tie
Release Date: August 6th, 2013
Favorite Tracks: “If You Got It At Five, You Got It At Fifty”, “The Lash Whistled Like a Singing Wind”, “Triffids”, “Sun Dies, Blood Moon”.
For fans of: The Chariot, The Bled, Botch, Coalesce and Every Time I Die.