Don’t be fooled by those promo photos of Norma Jean all dirtied up in your new AltPress issue because their latest album, Redeemer, shines with a clean-cutting and smooth sound from alt-rock master producer Ross Robinson. Norma Jean’s last offering, 2005’s sludgy O` God The Aftermath, was the first with vocalist Cory Brandan, who replaced the much loved Josh Scogin. O` God was received with mixed reactions, but one thing most people could agree on was that it sounded like Botch Jr. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong from being influenced by such a great band, but when it dominates your sound, it becomes a bit much, and that was the major downfall to O` God. Norma Jean looked to redeem themselves with their third album from Solid State, and, with help from Robinson, succeeded greatly. The eleven track beatdown is a return to what made Norma Jean so loved in the first place. Back is the melody, Brandon’s vocals have improved dramatically, and the guitars are bombastic.
Vicious guitars and Brandan’s scream kick off the album’s opener, “A Grand Scene For A Color Film,” in grand fashion. The minor breakdown following by the emphatic lyric “Let’s break out the shotguns/we’re going to town!” is one of the song’s highlights. The next track is “Blueprints For Future Homes,” which was the first song that Norma posted on their Myspace page, which led to a lot of angry responses from “fans.” This song may feature a bit more “singing” than your normal NJ song, but that doesn’t take away from the track, as it is still a crushing display of metal. “A Small Spark vs. A Great Forest” begins with a rising riff and Daniel Davison’s tribal drumming which eventually leads into Scottie Henry and Chris Day’s sonically abusing guitars. The track balances between when to turn it up and when to turn it down well, and the closing breakdown is especially vibrant. “A Temperamental Widower” picks up the pace and kicks you in the throat repeatedly, something O` God never did. The beatings continue with “The End Of All Things Will Be Televised,” as Brandan’s unforgiving vocals rip through this song. The next track, “Songs Sound Much Sadder,” is my favorite on the album; the verses are fast and in your face, the chorus soars, and the final breakdown with the off-key drumming is awesome. Definitely one of my favorite Norma Jean tracks ever. “The Longest Lasting Statement” chugs throughout the first verse and then kicks into high gear. “Amnesty Please” begins with a menacing riff and fuzzed out vocals from Brandan, with a nice breakdown shooting in and out to balance it out. “Like Swimming Circles” is another barnburner, while “Cemetery Like A Stage” begins with a haunting intro and a twisting guitar riff and continues on to beat your head in. My major beef with the album, though, comes in the final track “No Passenger: No Parasite.” It begins slowly, with Brandan repeatedly singing “Wake up.” Now, this doesn’t bother me, what bothers me is the continuous repeating of said line for the next three or so minutes. Around the fourth minute, the guitars kick in, but it’s too late to save this song. It should have been used as either an intro track or interlude in the album, instead of closing it. The first ten songs I really dig, but the final track just kills it for me, leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Other than that hiccup though, Redeemer is quality.
In the end, Norma Jean has finally come into their sound, combining the best elements from Bless The Martyr and Kiss The Child and O` God, and factor in the fine production from Robinson and what you’ll get is one of the more solid metalcore albums of 2006.Redeemer will bring in new fans as well as bring in old ones who left after hearing O` God. The only two major downfalls of this album are the weak closing track and the fact that, really, Norma Jean isn’t doing anything extraordinary, rather just making a solid album. It’s not going to change lives, it’s not going to redefine a genre, rather it’s going to knock the crap out of you. Norma Jean has been Redeemed from their missteps and are back to take your on a wild ride.