Norma Jean - O' God, The Aftermath (Cover Artwork)

Norma Jean

O' God, The Aftermath (2005)

Solid State

While reminiscing on my youth recently, I thought of Super Soakers. There were different kinds of Super Soakers with different water-squirting abilities. When I was into Super Soakers (admittedly, a brief chapter in my life), there was nothing cooler than the Super Soaker 200, with its two barrels of water and awesome pump action. But all I ever got was the Super Soaker 50, which was cool, but not nearly as cool as the almighty 200. Norma Jean's latest album, O' God, The Aftermath, is like the Super Soaker 50 of metalcore. It gets the job done, and it isn't without substance, but there are so many better bands playing this style than Norma Jean that there's hardly any reason to bother with this album.

What's most striking about O' God, The Aftermath is the drastic change from their 2002 semi-landmark Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child. Whereas that album found Norma Jean reveling in a whirlwind of breakdowns and high-pitched dissonance, they have since effectively ditched that sound. What we now hear is a band that sounds like it just found out about Botch five minutes ago, and hurriedly wrote an album because of it. The resemblance to Botch and other bands like A Life Once Lost or Meshuggah is almost too much to handle. And just when it's sounding like copycat metalcore, Norma Jean suddenly busts into a chorus of sorts that sounds like it belongs on modern radio. The bouncy nü-metal riffing in "Bayonetwork" is a perfect example. And in certain parts, especially the singing interludes in "Disconnecktie," the vocals evoke comparisons to rock radio lamewads Chevelle. Are they trying to be accessible to moron nü-metal kids and hardcore kids at the same time? If so, they need to knock it off.

Before you start writing an angry reply to this review, let me say that I don't hate this album. In a heartbeat, I would still take Norma Jean over bullshit bands like Atreyu or From Autumn To Ashes. None of the tracks on O' God... are unlistenable. There is a fair amount on here that is even good. Norma Jean still has the talent to write a few excellent riffs that brutalize and don't rely too heavily on Botch influence.

But we all know Norma Jean's past incarnation as the lame Christian nü-metal group Luti-Kriss. When they broke up, they immediately wrote and released Bless The Martyr..., presumably in a hurry to distance themselves from their old crappy music and associate with a growing new genre. The result, while an album that holds up okay, ended up feeling just a little fake. O' God, The Aftermath feels the same way, like a totally different band giving their sound a heavy makeover. It's tough to accept these drastic changes as "stylistic growth." You have to wonder if Norma Jean could ever make an album that really sounded exclusively like Norma Jean. And even though this album debuted at #60 on the Billboard charts, they'll still have to wallow in metalcore's second-rate ranks.