This is Norma Jean's debut album..... as Norma Jean anyway. The artists formerly known as Luti-Kriss are back with their follow up to their successful full length debut "Throwing Myself." With this album, Norma Jean should truly make a name for themselves (especially since they no longer share a name with a certain hip-hop artist). So what else is new besides the name? Not much. They still keep their general sound only matured and solidified. It's a major step up from "Throwing Myself" in every possible way, especially in the production. This time around they worked with Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz, who besides being in an upcoming, amazing band is really making a name for himself as a producer. Let's dig in to the CD itself now.
Vocally, Josh Scogin makes the biggest improvement. That isn't a knock on his vocals on the last album, it's just on this album his vocals are less distorted, more real, and actually more full. When I say "more full," I mean they have that extra "umph" that really kicks your ass. They are not quite death metal vocals, but are a little heavier then hardcore vocals. I guess that would make them metalcore, but they kind of stand out on their own, kind of like if Jamey Jasta from Hatebreed tried to do metal vocals with a hint of Mike Patton in his styling. Make sense? Anyway, the vocals on this album totally rip. On the track "I Used To Hate Cellphones But Now I Hate Car Accidents," there is even some eerie, choruslike background vocals. Many of the songs have a very dark, dramatic feel to them. This album is just as amazing lyrically as it is any other aspect of the album. They seem to have deep, personal meaning, but can be interpreted on a more general level. Just look at the song titles, it seems Josh has so much to say that the titles are longer then some band's entire songs! That is definitely not a knock, because I wish more bands had something worthwhile to say in their songs. I think I've established myself as a lyric person, and this is an album that I would want to associate myself with lyrically.
Musically, this album just rips, but at the same time is just as dramatic as it is chaotic. Tons of pace changes and cool, almost experimental sounds. On the track "The Entire World Is Counting On Me and They Don't Even Know it" there is a part about mid-song where it sounds like a skipping record, it's stuff like this that the album is full of that really keeps me interested. There are tons of cool breakdowns thrown in all over the album, but no solos that are going to blow you away. At the same time, I wouldn't want anything like that on this album, because it would create a totally different vibe. On the slower stuff, it blends with the vocals to give a very dark, melodic feel to the song, and many times these darker moments actually serve as a precursor for Josh's vocal explosions. I really like the sound Norma Jean has created for themselves.
Since Norma Jean spent nearly 16 minutes on the track "Pretty Soon, I Don't Know What, But Something Is Going To Happen," I figure I can at least spend a paragraph on it. The name of this song could not be more appropriate, nor could the placement of the song as the fifth track of 11. I like the placement because of the build up the song has, over six minutes of music that has it's ups and downs before Josh bursts in. The vocals continue in the same manner as the intro does, with ups and downs for about three minutes, and then there is what seems to be an outro to the song, but only serves as yet another curve in the song. It gets really downpaced with a drum/lead guitar solo before building up again that leads right back into the song before Josh comes back in almost three minutes later. Just when you think it's over, it keeps going, and going, and going. As I mentioned, the title is almost prophetic, because as a listener you know something is going to happen, you can feel the build up, then it comes and you're just like "wow." It truly is an epic, amazing, and worth the purchase of the CD itself.
There is no such thing as a sophomore slump for Norma Jean. It just seems that as this year goes on, more and more amazing CD's keep coming out, and this is definitely one of them. Fans of bands like ZAO and especially fans of Christian metalcore/hardcore bands are going to be all over this. Norma Jean really has a unique sound, so it's hard to compare them to anything else out there right now. I will say though that this album is amazing and a must have for your CD collection, but even moreso, you need to see this band live. I think after seeing them destroy both the crowd and themselves live, I can truly say I "get it." You should too.
"Pretty Soon, I Don't Know What, But Something Is Going To Happen"
"Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste"