Norma Jean - Redeemer (Cover Artwork)

Norma Jean

Redeemer (2006)

Tooth & Nail / Solid State

Had enough of metalcore yet? Tired of bands trying to reinvent the same old breakdown using only one note? Surprised that Cookie Monster himself has not taken the reigns of a generic hardcore band by offering up his super heavy mosh-tastic growl? Well, Norma Jean is sick of you too! And they're making you aware of this by releasing another album, Redeemer, chock full of more-of-the-same, mediocre heavy music that will be eaten up by sixteen-year-old boys and girls alike proclaiming them as "OMG the heaviest band I've ever heard!!!!"

At first listen, one may assume that Norma Jean actually made an attempt at changing up their sound a little bit, as vocalist Cory Brandan decided to give the Cookie Monster scream a rest and execute more of a yell, which allows him to use some harmony as well. However, behind him are the same redundant, chunky breakdowns that have been recycled two albums over, damn near stolen from We Are the Romans, the last full-length from metalcore pioneers Botch. This goes on for forty-two minutes. Actually, that may not be entirely fair, as "Blue Prints for Future Homes," "A Small Spark vs. A Great Forest" (nice buildup in this one), and "Cemetery Like a Stage" all incorporate a little more melody and interesting moments than past efforts from the band. The closer, "No Passenger: No Parasite" actually takes things a bit too far, with the line "wake up" repeated for five minutes preceding a wholly underwhelming climax. Still, when sandwiched between irritating and obnoxious rhythms that pound you into submission for all the whole reasons (think "Wow, I would give anything to make it stop" as opposed to "Man, this is so heavy and awesome, it's like I'm being pounded into submission!"), their impact is subdued and minimal. The vocals are definitely improved, but they only take Norma Jean so far.

Let's face it: Norma Jean has never been a very good band. From the very beginning, they've rehashed and abused what once made metalcore great: the brutality. They're still very one-dimensional (even with the updates to their sound, though they are welcome), and the music is so focused on the breakdown that it's sickening. Even the lyrics are pretentious, holier-than-thou, and sometimes try too hard to be badass ("Break out the shotguns / We're going to town!"). The star and a half seems terribly generous considering the review, but this is the first Norma Jean album that has songs that don't make me want to go ballistic. At least they aren't still combining two random words to make one uber-scene word.