With each album Norma Jean progresses. I’ve made it no secret that Norma Jean is my favorite band currently making heavy music. Since Cory Brandan took over as vocalist the band has grown and matured and continued to craft some of the most ridiculously heavy songs you’ll hear, while incorporating great melodies and taking creative chances all along the way.
Meridional has a beautifully crafted masterpiece. From some classic Norma Jean metalcore, to some of the best melodies and catchiest choruses the band has ever written. Mixed with what I believe are Brandon’s best lyrics to date, Norma Jean delivered an incredible record and following that up was going to be a tall task.
Wrongdoers not only lives up to Meridional, but in many ways surpasses it.
Musically Wrongdoers is a combination of everything that was great about Redeemer, The Antimother, and Meridional all rolled up into one. But there’s an added layer of punk rock fury and pure madness in the music.
The epic, nearly seven minute long, opening track, Hive Minds, sets the stage for the greatness that is to come. Guitar fuzz and feedback, solid backbeat on the drums, moving slowly toward a crescendo before ripping into a killer riff and exploding. The song has a great groove and showcases something new for Norma Jean while maintain the raw edge we’ve come to expect. If You Got It At Five, You’ve Got It At Fifty is a fast paced punk rock song. You can hear a little of what Brandan’s been doing with his side project, Fear Is the Driving Force. There’s this line between these great groove metal tracks and all out punk rock, circle pit songs. It’s a balance the Norma Jean strikes nicely and there’s space between the songs so there’s never an awkward transition or feeling like the band is forcing a certain sound or style.
Sword In Mouth, Fire Eyes continues in the vein of the melodic songs from Meridional. Solid riff with a a great melody. That goes into an interlude, Afterhour Animals, before Norma Jean bursts into the minute long punk infused The Lash Whistled Like A Singing Wind.
It’s not just musically that Norma Jean excels. Lyrically, Wrongdoers is strong and full of great metaphors and though provoking lines. The title track is about the unity we all have in the mistakes and repetitive sins we commit. The Potter Has No Hands is about declaring your beliefs so loud that the whole earth has to worship. Funeral Song is a great love song.
Wrongdoers ends with Sun Dies, Blood Moon. It is the most amazing piece of music Norma Jean has released to date. A slow moving song, kind of in the same vein as Falling From the Sky. But that vibe doesn’t last long. The bottom drops out and the song sounds like it ends. But a simple piano comes in slowly, followed by strings. One by one the band comes back in, bass, vocals, drums, even an acoustic guitar, as the song builds back up. The lyrically narrative fits the musical build beautifully. Brandan’s ability to tell a story shines on Sun Dies, Blood Moon. The track ends and feedback leads to the band playing a lo-fi sludge metal song to end the record.
Norma Jean is always impressive and Wrongdoers doesn’t disappoint on any level. I’ve listened to the record a couple dozen times and it’s just as good every time. Easily a record of the year candidate. One of the band’s best in an already unbreakable discography.