For Fans Of
Is it possible to redeem something that essentially was unbroken to begin with? While the fan, aficionado, and music analysts out there might scratch their collective heads pondering such a thought – the question has no apparent conclusion. The long and short of it pertinent to this specific case, is that Norma Jean have never fallen in to mediocrity. Rather just taken different musical paths through their journey as a band.
It is clear upon a cursory listen that ‘Meridional’ is intended as a diverse affair. The assorted qualities of each of the band’s previous four releases are each given their own moments.
Norma Jean has never been your straightforward, plucked right from the overcrowded barrel type of heavy band. Bursting out when metalcore was a rising genre and not an easy bashing ground, Norma Jean was always a different proposition all together. Their sound was the exception not the rule. There was no breakdown after breakdown mixed with Swedish inspired metal riffs formula going on.
However, the Atlanta act has not been immune to criticism. Whether rightly or wrongly, the Christian metal quintet seemed to cop some vitriolic opinion regarding predecessor album, ‘The Anti-Mother’. Granted it was not their best work but it was not a disheartening departure either. It seems the people making the most noise were those wishing for an ‘O’ God the Aftermath vol. 2.0’. Well, ‘Meridional’ is not version two. It was never going to be. Instead, what the listener is presented with is a different beast all together – complete with its own charms, unique delivery and brooding forces.
What ‘Meridional’ achieves is a balance that one gets the feeling was attempted at varying degrees on ‘The Anti-Mother’ and ‘Redeemer’ but did not come off quite as polished. ‘Blood Burner’, ‘The Anthem of Angry Brides’, and ‘Bastardizer’ appeal to the band’s heavier and technical roots, while ‘Deathbed Atheist’ is a reflection of Norma Jean’s modern evolution. Each song showing the band’s wide range.
Nothing is ever going to match the intensity that was ‘O God…’ but this release contains its own kind of presence. Probably not as chaotic and discordant but still one that is identifiable. ‘Meridional’ is atmospheric, moody and at times downtrodden but still equally upbeat and optimistic in other instances.
We won’t call this a return to form because Norma Jean were never out of touch to begin with. Instead, ‘Meridional’ is a reflection of a group that has honed, evolved, diversified, and strengthened their sound over the years. Yes, there have been some mixed results along the way but ‘Meridional’ in the words of the band themselves might just be their best work to date.
Where this offering ranks in the Norma Jean catalogue is open to opinion. The beauty though is that those with a strong liking for ‘old-school’ Norma Jean (a la ‘Memphis Will Be Laid to Waste’ et al.) will find enjoyment on ‘Meridional’. While equally, those who like the subtle Thrice and Deftones influence that crept into the band’s repertoire in more recent times will similarly like what Norma Jean delivers here.
1. Leaders and Self Enlisted
2. The Anthem of the Angry Brides
3. Deathbed Atheist
5. A Media Friendly Turn for the Worse
7. Blood Burner
8. High Noise Low Output
9. Falling from the Sky: Day Seven
10. Everlasting Tapeworm
12. The People that Surround You on a Regular Basis
13. Innocent Bystanders United