Norma Jean vocalist Cory Brandan explains The Anti Mother as “The Anti Mother is a character we created which represents anything that is deceptive, and yet possesses an outwardly beautiful nature.” Which makes sense, as the fourth album from the metalcore staple is the most melodic album they’ve created. Going back to work with Redeemerproducer Ross Robinson, the band has learned how to channel that aggressiveness into something more melodic, while still being just as destructive as before. How this turns out on disc is yet to be heard.
“Vipers, Snakes, and Actors” begin the showdown in fine Norma Jean fashion: Brandan’s growl is overpowering, the drums hit like Josh Hamilton, and the guitar chords could be arrested for causing a domestic disturbance. “Self-Employed Chemist” features Brandan’s singing skills and musically it sounds like something off a From First To Last album. It’s not my favorite song, but it is rather catchy. “Birth Of The Anti Mother” is rambunctious, with a dizzying guitar and bass combo. It’s an auditory beatdown, as Brandan screams “We came for blood!,” while “Death Of The Anti Mother” is a slower, sludgy song, putting the dismay on display.
The band enlisted some guest vocals on The Anti Mother, but with a little twist. The band asked their guests to co-write the song with them. The first evidence of this is “Surrender Your Sons” which features Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno and Saosin’s very own Cove Reber. The track has a definite Deftones vibe to it; it’s beautifully haunting in the verses, while incredibly vicious in the chorus, making it one of the highlights on the album. Page Hamilton of Helmet fame helped with the creation of “Opposite Of Left And Wrong,” a chunky alt-rocker with huge cymbals, while the call and return of the two vocalists is stimulating. “Discipline Your Daughters” features more singing and doesn’t sound like a Norma Jean song at all, whereas “And There Will Be A Swarm Of Hornets” is a nine and a half minute sprawling headbanger that closes out The Anti Mother, leaving a buzzing sensation in your ear canal.
It’s no surprise to me that Norma Jean is at their best when they let everything hang out and go apeshit with breakdowns and vocal shredding. While they show that they are more than capable to add melody to their repertoire, it feels awkward and forced at times. “Self-Employed Chemist” and “Discipline Your Daughters” feel out of place. Tracks like “Vipers, Snakes, and Actors” know how to rock the party though. In the end, you are still getting what you expect out of the Douglasville, GA, quintet: solid metalcore (albeit, metalcore you have heard before; they aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel here) with a furious assault of energy and a tinge of melody, only this time a lot more melody. It may take a few listens for fans to really get into the album, but overall, The Anti Mother continues the solidity and consistently that Redeemer began. The actual music seems oxymoronic to the origin of the title, as the beneath the rough exterior of Norma Jean lies clean and pure melody.