Fresh and Exciting
Posted May 18, 2009
I was at a store in Abilene, Texas when I picked up Norma Jean vs. The Anti Mother. I was visiting relatives and new music is the only antidote for boredom there. It's either listen to new music or sit around talking about hunting with your cousins. That's probably why I seem to buy more CDs in Abilene than in any other place on Earth. lol
I'm not the biggest Norma Jean fanatic, but I have three of their albums which I've enjoyed. I guess if I had to put a label on them it would be "Chaotic Metalcore". But I don't think that's entirely accurate. It's only chaotic sounding to someone who's never heard them before. It really takes a huge amount of precision and planning to play and write music like this. So it's really more organized than chaotic. And in reality, jamming the blues is more chaotic because with that kind of music usually you have no idea what you're going to play and how it's going to come together when you start.
The album opens with "Vipers, Snakes and Actors". It's pure Norma Jean. The song takes aim at legalistic, self righteous Christians who "wear that cross like a crown... wear that cross like a dagger". And who "cleaned the outside of their chalice... but it's filled with robbery and self indulgence". And they remind us that with this sort of behavior "nothing is the outcome". I've had more than my share of dealings with people like that, so it's a song I can identify with.
With "Self Employed Chemist" all the "me"s and "you"s make the lyrics somewhat ambiguous if the writer doesn't elaborate. This style of writing is a common flaw in much of Christian music.
"Birth of the Anti Mother" is basically about getting rid of lies and deception, although the lyrics describe "lies and deception" more like "vomit and blood", which is probably one of the reasons there isn't a larger female following for the band. lol
And I just have to mention the crazy guitar noises at the end, it's just great. It's what Hendrix would do if he played metalcore!
With a name like "Robots 3 Humans 0" you know it's gotta be good. And the song lives up to it's name. The drums and guitars are TIGHT on here. Musically it's one of the best. The band joins different parts of the song together seamlessly, which is very difficult to do. I've played songs which had similarly disjointed parts with some of the more adventurous bands I've been in, so I know how everything has to go exactly right or you have a train wreck. I bet Norma Jean is incredible live to be able to play these songs.
"Robots" is the highlight of the album, although it doesn't overshadow the other songs by much. I'd recommend you listen to the whole album all the way though without hitting shuffle. You don't need shuffle.
"Death of the Anti Mother" depicts the judgment of evil itself. The "I" in the song could refer to any number of things. Is the "I" literally Cory Brandan, the lead vocalist? Is "I" referring to a saint or angel? Or is it written from the viewpoint of Jesus, with the line "we will burn for this... we will both of us burn" referring to to the time after Jesus' death when he went down into hell to free the righteous and take them to heaven? Or is the "I" something else entirely?
Musically the song is slow and soft with a feeling of uneasiness and impending doom. It builds into a slow and heavy guitar driven monster. It's one of my personal favorites and a great follow up to "Robots".
"Surrender Your Sons..." builds in the intro and suddenly drops off to a clean guitar and singing, not screaming, on the verse. The chorus almost sounds like a heavier Showbread. It has more singing than most Norma Jean songs, but metal heads do not fear, it's as brutal as ever. The breaks and singing do nothing but give the heavy parts that much more impact.
"Murphy was an Optimist" has a sort of modern indie rock flavor to it and plenty of Norma Jean style curve balls. The blend of genres makes it interesting (in a good way) and adds a new dimension of sound that can be heard on every track in the album.
"Opposite of Left and Wrong" gets back to the full on fury that is metalcore. Long time fans should especially like it.
"...Discipline Your Daughters" uses the guitar to bend notes to create a nauseous feeling in the music. It's slightly softer than what we're used to from Norma Jean, but just slightly.
"And There Will Be A Swarm of Hornets" is a great closer. With guitars literally swarming like hornets and fleshed out with gang vocals and a long outro, it's epic. Not to mention it's eight minutes long, so it better be epic!
Overall, this has been my favorite Norma Jean record. It's slightly softer than the others, with more of a modern rock influence but it retains an edgy, adventurous quality that should please long time fans. The breaks only serve to make the heavy parts that much more brutal, and it offers a dynamic that makes it the entertaining enough to listen to the whole album free of boredom. Remember, this is not for the faint of heart. Headbanger will love it, but The Jonas Brother would probably rather be struck by lightning.
If you want to hear something fresh and you have a slightly eclectic taste in music, you have to check this out. It's one of those albums you'll want to listen to again and again. If you're looking to buy it, get the whole album instead of two or three songs off iTunes.
For fans of Underoath, Inhale/Exhale, August Burns Red, all metalcore and hardcore and Michael W. Smith. (Just kidding on the last one...)
I gave it four and a half stars out of five. It would have been perfect, if the lyrics weren't filled with vague "me"s and "you"s.
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