Album Review: Norma Jean - 'Wrongdoers'

11 August 2013 | 9:04 pm | Staff Writer

When doing the wrong thing never sounded so right.

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If music is a game of balance then Norma Jean walk the tight rope with remarkable ease. What is striking is the Georgia quintet continues to hit all the required marks against tough backdrops, which include personnel and previous label changes. Essentially, the band evolves but stays familiar enough as to not alienate traditional fans.

Wrongdoers’ represents the perfect mix of Norma Jean – past and present. In a neat manner of putting it, it’s an exploration into the band’s vast stylistic range.

While it has been attempted with predecessors, ‘Wrongdoers’ finally signals the point where it all coalesces. We see (or rather, hear) the intensity and unconditional energy that made rookie albums, ‘Bless the Martyr…’ and ‘O’ God the Aftermath’ absolute beasts. Equally, the moody, alternative sounds (think Thrice, Deftones) that were perhaps first explored on ‘Redeemer’, are evident here too. ‘Meridional’ re-aligned things after the lacklustre ‘The Anti Mother’, making this sixth studio album a key release. With three new members, Norma Jean prove they’ve still got plenty to offer. There’s bark in this dog yet.

Anyone who saw Norma Jean on their recent (and looooonnnngggg awaited) return journey to Australia this year realised the band still has a very strong following.

Wrongdoers’ doesn’t get out of the gates quickly. ‘Hive Minds’, at six-and-a-half minutes, is a slow burner. However, ‘If You’ve Got It At Five, You’ve Got it At Fifty’ is where the musical power and passion first comes through.

The full-length opens itself up to listeners, but it’s after the female spoken-word interlude ‘Afterhour Animals’ that this record delivers the one-two punch. ‘The Lash Whistled Like A Singing Wind’ is lifted straight from the ‘O’God’ hymnbook. Short, fast, unashamed. ‘Neck In Hemp’ is the perfect moment of this release – heavy and memorable .

To say ‘Wrongdoers’ is a satisfactory release is too neutral. It is more than adequate, it is an album that further progress Norma Jean in both reputation and sound. For new fans, it’s a strong starting point, but for long-time lovers this album keeps you engaged.

Norma Jean have done a lot of things right for a long time and ‘Wrongdoers’ should provide due respect for this consistency. Loud, engaged and incredibly honest, full-length number six can and should only be viewed as a success. A notable release of 2013.

1. Hive Minds

2. If You Got It At Five, You Got It

3. Wrongdoers

4. Potter Has No Hands

5. Sword In Mouth, Fire Eyes

6. Afterhour Animals

7. The Lash Whistled Like A Singing

8. Neck In the Hemp

9. Triffids

10. Funeral Singer

11. Sun Dies, Blood Moon

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