When Norma Jean said their new record was going to be a throwback to their roots, I got a little worried. Unlike most Norma Jean fans out there, their 2008 record, The Anti-Mother, was my favorite Norma Jean record. So the idea of the band trying to recreate Bless the Martyr or even O’ God the Aftermath worried me. Luckilu Norma Jean hasn’t thrown out all of what I thought made them such a great band.
Meridional kicks off with the feed back intro of Leaderless and Self Enlisted. Well it doesn’t conjure up memories of the first 2 NJ records, it does sound like a heavier version of something from Redeemer. Anthem of the Angry Brides, Bastardizer, and Blood Burner are all really heavy songs. Bastardizer gives us a little throwback chudd chugg wee guitar as Cory Brandon yells “We’ve Found a Better Way.”
But Norma Jean has become a band that is more then just about being heavy. Norma Jean writes really great songs and gives us a lot of really catchy melodies, nice hooks, a killer guitar riffs. A Media Friendly Turn for the Worse, High Noise Low Output, and The People That Surround You On A Regular Basis are outstanding kick ass songs. Cory Brandon is my second favorite vocalist currently in the hardcore/metal scene. His throat tearing screaming and singing is fantastic.
Falling From The Sky: Day Seven, might be my new favorite Norma Jean song. It’s the slowest and saddest song the band has ever done. It’s also the most touching and moving song the band has ever put out. Brandon sings “Where are we supposed to go? I want you to remember this. Just because I understand, doesn’t really mean I care.”
The album ends with Innocent Bystanders United, which plays similarly to Falling From the Sky. It’s slow moving, long intro seems to go nowhere but then the song kicks in and Cory Brandon rips into some of the most honest lyrics he’s ever written.
“’cause I feel like… like Jesus don’t… don’t come around much more these days.”
“Lies and mistakes all know me by my name, and…
and now they refuse to leave me alone, haunting me with their mutiny.”
“There’s a hell of a past, so pull up a chair and I’ll give you a good story.”
Meridional isn’t going to please Norma Jean fans hoping to hear Bless the Martyr or O’ God part 2 because this album isn’t that. It’s a return to a heavier sound from The Anti-Mother but they don’t abandon the melodies and song writing that has made them such a great band. Meridional plays like a louder version of Redeemer. Lyrically Meridional seems really vague in parts but there are moments where Cory Brandon gives a little depth and personality to his lyrics and we get a picture of what he’s saying. You might say Meridional is the band’s best work to date and you could argue they’ve done better. But from start to finish Meridional is another great Norma Jean record. A best of the year contender for sure.