Norma Jean – The Anti-Mother

Band: Norma Jean
Album: The Anti-Mother
Genre: Hardcore/Metal
Label: Solid State

1. Vipers, Snakes, and Actors
2. Robots 3, Humans 0
3. Birth of the Anti-Mother
4. Self Employed Chemist
5. Death of the Anti-Mother
6. Surrender Your Sons
7. Murphy Was an Optimist
8. Opposite of Left and Wrong
9. …Discipline Your Daughters
10. And There Will Be A Swarm of Hornets
The almighty Norma Jean are back to claim the heavy crown they’ve become so custom to wearing over the course of their last 3 albums. Since Bless The Martyr, Kiss The Child, Norma Jean has become hardcore/metal 101 for anyone entering the scene and for good reason: they repeatedly change the way metal is looked at and challenge both bands and listeners to perform and expect better. even through countless member changes the band has managed to continually grow their fan base and move more and more into the public conscious. However, if I am to be honest, I was not of a fan of their prior 2 releases [which are arguably their most popular] because I had a love for their original vocalist Josh Scogin, but after one spin of The Anti-Mother, I was 100% back into the band. This record is the sound of a band going through an evolution that will soon become necessity for bands wanting to survive. Even for a band like Norma Jean, who’ve always progressed their sound, this album is a, dare i say, epic step forward and that is definitely not a bad thing.

“Vipers, Snakes, and Actors,” the lead track, begins with the band building their sound from beautifully produced drums that are then greeted by thick distorted guitars, to Corey’s all too familiar voice booming into your eardrums to welcome you to the new face of Norma Jean. The song is very open in sound, with each instrument easily heard and many breaks fro emphasis on drums and bass. Corey has never sounded better [or more clear] than he does on this record and that’s obvious from the get go. This leads to, “Robots 3, Humans 0,” the single which screams of Thrice circa The Artist In The Ambulance. Corey brings out the singing that we found on Redeemer for an instantly catchy chorus that soars past the already incendiary guitars. Now, I know some will worry about this singing heavy sound, but Corey’s voice is rough sounding and keeps with the overall dirty feel Norma Jean has always created, but at the same time, opens the band for more mainstream attention. However, for those of you wanting the heavy screaming, NJ serves it up thick in, “The Birth of The Anti-Mother,” which shows a return to the near structure-less mayhem of old Norma Jean, but with better technical skills. The key on this track is the addition of gang vocals with a very obvious female in the mix. It takes the song to a whole new level and keeps the heavy, but makes it a bit more fun and will surely be a hit when played live. This may be the best song on the album overall based on all the sounds it mixes. It’s just wonderful, er, I mean, heavy and brutal.

“Self Employed Chemist,” is another Thrice sound alike track in that it is really heavy and Corey sings a lot. The distortion levels and drum work is all Norma Jean though and it’s done quite well. The album then takes a downward turn for me on, “Death of The Anti-Mother.” The song is meant to be an epic, slower paced metal tune, but it just seems a bit more forced than the rest of the album. The swirling strings at the beginning are a nice touch however, but as a whole it just didn’t click with me at all. The next track, “Surrender Your Sons..,” starts slow, which is a nice transition from the previous track, but then starts to regain the album’s footing while still keeping the pace a bit relaxed. The drums take the lead here with Corey singing softly and the guitars playing like ghosts in the back until the chorus and then it’s full speed ahead.

The seventh track, “Murphy Was an Optimist,” has the build up required to get you fully into a song before it ever truly begins. Once it does, Norma Jean play like a rattle snake battling a cougar with Corey belting notes over ferocious instrumentation. This may be the most ambitious sound the band has on the record as they seem to battle their rock and metal sides within this one 4 minute song. The follower, “Opposite of Left and Wrong,” is another very open track with almost nothing in the verses except vocals and drums, but it has this Southern feel and charm you can’t deny. It’s obvious the band is trying to get across their faith laced message more directly on this album and this song is evidence of that. This use of more laid back sections continues on, “Discipline Your Daughters,” and comes across quite well. The song itself is simply epic in structure, but still doesn’t get ridiculous time wise. Norma Jean have truly found heir footing in structure on this record and that’s very evident here. After this track we come to the closer, “And There Will Be Swarms,” which doesn’t let you sit down until its done. The bass is thick, the guitars are dirty, and the drums are relentless whole Corey stretches his vocal cords to the point of near exhaustion. The sounds here are crazy [including a female like choir near the end] and just leaves you panting for more,but unfortunately, the album has ended.
At the end of the day, if nothing else, Norma Jean has won me over once again. Anyone who fell away from this act throughout their career will find something to love on this disc and current fans will eat it up. Is it different? A bit, but that’s only in the greatest possible aspect. Though the album gets a bit redundant or lacking at times, it stays relatively strong throughout and puts the band into an area all their own once more. I say check it out, if not buy it instantly because as far as heavy goes, I’ve hard nothing like this all year and really, that’s what matters. Creativity is key and these boys have it and The Anti-Mother is evidence that they’ve got even more in store for us.
*Written By: James Shotwell*
GRADE: 7.5/10

James Shotwell
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