An aggressive offering from the metalcore veterans.
I’m dating myself here, but as a regular user of MySpace back in the day, I quickly realized that the NORMA JEAN name was essentially an inescapable one. Every metal fan I could find on the website who was worth their salt listened to and appreciated them. I distinctly remember the first time I listened to O’ God, the Aftermath for myself and how I was left stunned by the fact that any music could be that complicated. I’m older now, a lot less dewy-eyed, and a lot more obnoxiously picky, but NORMA JEAN still manage to impress with their newest record All Hail.
Right off the bat, it’s made quite clear that the band has consciously moved into a heavier and darker direction. The tracks on All Hail are less noodly and less atypical, incorporating elements of more straightforward metalcore bands into the mix. I’m actually reminded a bit of a band like EVERY TIME I DIE, with the catchy, memorable riffs and the spoken, almost theatrical vocal style. The breakdowns on Translational and [Mind Over Mind], the lead single from the record, are positively crushing and would almost sound more at home on a WHITECHAPEL record. In fact, the production on the entirety of this record, courtesy of Will Putney, is absolutely top tier and really brings a level of clarity to All Hail that allows its dynamism and creativity to shine through.
The vocals on this record are probably the most unchanged element in NORMA JEAN’s style (which is a credit to the band) and bring me right back to the first time ever hearing the band. Vocalist Cory Brandan has an incredibly distinct delivery and a wide variety of styles at his disposal, ranging from impressive clean vocals to a gritty roar that’s perfectly at home in the metalcore genre. NORMA JEAN boasts one of those rare, inimitable vocal stylings that is instantly recognizable and so deeply engrained in the band's identity that it's unclear how they'd even sound without it.
Of course the vocals aren't the only thing to rave about on this record. The guitar work is top notch and satisfyingly creative. The lead riff on the track /with_errors is everything I could want from a metalcore band. It’s catchy and emotive - essentially all I’ve come to expect from a band of NORMA JEAN’s caliber. In fact, this entire track is a good summary of what you can expect to find on the rest of All Hail: there’s aggression, melody, technicality, and memorability. It takes me right back to the days when I was a wee Christian lad listening to LIVING SACRIFICE, DEMON HUNTER, and - of course, NORMA JEAN’s early material. Actually, on that note, I’m not sure if NORMA JEAN is even still a Christian band. They’ve always seemed rather reticent to discuss the topic, suggesting that faith is an important part of their personal lives but not necessarily an integral part of the band.
With All Hail, NORMA JEAN offer enough accessible elements for newcomers to the heavier genres to embrace, while still maintaining the aggression and energy that longtime fans of metal and hardcore have come to love.
All Hail is out October 25th on Solid State Records. Grab yours HERE.