Friday, March 04, 2005

Norma Jean - O God, The Aftermath CD Review

Back when Solid State was starting to become an established label, you knew that anything they put out was going to be heavy and intense, that was their calling card. I would routinely buy each new Solid State release that came out, knowing exactly what I was going to get, and I rarely found myself disappointed. Over the last couple of years, however, Solid State has gone through some changes as to what types of music they put out. No longer was each new release a blistering metalcore or hardcore disc, but instead there was more variety. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but no longer could you count on every release to be what you expected it to be. Interspersed between releases from The Chariot, Haste the Day, and Zao were much mellower affairs from bands such as Beloved, Underoath, and Dead Poetic. Suddenly a line had been drawn in the Solid State camp between the emocore half and the metalcore half. Almost in reverence to the “old” Solid State, Norma Jean throw themselves right back atop the Solid State metalcore camp, with their extremely polished, if somewhat pretentious, disc O God, The Aftermath.

Since their last release, Norma Jean have taken on a new vocalist—Corey Putnam, formerly of Eso-Charis, and in doing so have managed to cause quite the controversy amongst their hardcore fans. With Josh Scogin leaving the band to play with The Chariot, Putnam had some big shoes to fill. Many people picked up The Chariot’s debut cd in the hopes of hearing a continuation of what Norma Jean had created on Bless the Martyr, Kiss the Child, but beyond the vocals and some chaotic moments it wasn’t the same. Given that The Chariot didn’t turn out to be the Norma Jean, Jr. that many had hoped, the newly fronted incarnation of Norma Jean had the tremendous task of picking up where their debut left off.

Anyone who was a big fan of Bless the Martyr shouldn’t have a hard time getting into O God, The Aftermath. Sonically, there has been some growth to the band, but there isn’t a huge change in style that will outright alienate longtime fans. The vocals, while not the same as Scogin’s, are definitely better than they were expected to be. Many thought Putman would pale in comparison to Scogin, but on this release he established that he can rip out a growling roar with the best of them. By the time this disc runs its course you’ll wonder how it is his vocal chords have managed to survive. One mildly interesting thing of note is Putnam’s infrequent attempts at singing, albeit not singing in the traditional sense, but taking his growl and injecting it with just enough melody to make some unique and gritty passages, often reminding me of Phil Anselmno’s more aggressive moments.

As it is, this disc is a competent metalcore release, but it lacks the punch and edge of Bless the Martyr. Looking at this cd in a musical vacuum, it would be exemplary in almost every aspect, but given that metalcore is so saturated right now with so many bands that sound unbelievably similar to Norma Jean, this cd has a hard time standing above the crowd. Metalcore fans will enjoy it, but anyone expecting greatness will be quite disappointed.

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