Norma Jean - The Anti Mother (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Norma Jean

The Anti Mother (2008)

Solid State

Norma Jean's Bless the Matryr, Kiss the Child was about as competent a Botch ripoff that could be conceivably produced. But as vocalist Josh Scogin left the band, so did the genuine intensity and angular bombast the band was succeeding on (where both can now be found in the Chariot, a noisy interpretation of the aforementioned). As the years and recordings went by, it seemed the band would never shake the comparison; worsening matters was the fact that both followup albums seemed founded on a shaky foundation of awkward melody and more rehashed groove despite the continuing underground commercial success.

The Anti Mother finally seems to scrap that practice, favoring pulsing low ends for its heavier tracks and rough-hewn, desperate sing-alongs for its more melodic-driven counterparts. It's almost like they severed the hybrid and let each trait carry a whole song.

Opener "Vipers, Snakes, And Actors" is a good example of the former, even if Cory Brandon's metaphors aren't the most profound ("You wear that cross like a crown / You wear that cross like a dagger"). Up next is a perfect slice of the latter, where Brandon can be found singing in a coarse and raw manner -- "Self Employed Chemist" sounds like what would result if J. Robbins produced Thrice's The Artist in the Ambulance.

Granted, that's a largely formulaic way to go about an album, but it works pretty well. It continues through at least Anti Mother's first six tracks, with each song flip-flopping between one and the other. The seventh, "Murphy Was an Optimist," breaks the cycle by being one of those more sing-song-y tracks, but there's still a bit off rugged aggro there.

The typical ex-girlfriend stuff does bubble up, of course. If the end of "Birth of the Anti Mother" ("She's not breathing. / Choke that witch out. / Suffocate her. / Choke her out.") ccould be described as misogynistic, it's no more so then the bridge from "Face:Face" off Martyr. It's only mildly bothersome, though, because it does seem to geniunely play into some sort of greater spirit here, and Brandon doesn't repeat any possible revenge fantasies elsewhere on the album.

The second half is a little guest-heavy, but they provide a welcome dynamic to the swing of things. Page Hamilton's wailing riffs and raucous cackling border on comical but lean towards uniquely fierce on "Opposite of Left and Wrong," while Deftones' Chino Moreno and Saosin's Cove Reber provide a respective bellow and high-pitched howl for both "Robots 3, Humans 0," "Murphy Was an Optimist" and "Surrender Your Sons," though it's most evident and effective on the last of those. Reber contributes vaguely to some other songs, as does a number of other guests whose names don't seem entirely distinguished.

It'd be silly to call The Anti Mother a perfect album, but this is a noticeable improvement and fine change for Norma Jean, who manage to find some more original territory and deliver their best effort in six years.

Birth of the Anti Mother
Robots 3, Humans 0
And There Will Be a Swarm of Hornets