It must be a daunting task to come up with an album title. Especially after all else you’ve had to do; write meaningful and heartfelt lyrics, create each and every note and drum, then after all that you have to wrack the deepest depths of your brain to come up with a title that either pulls it all together, or at the very least represents what else you have manifested. More than most else though you want it to catch the reader/to be listener’s view and have it mean something to them. What better way to achieve this then letting the fans decide the name?! This is exactly what Norma Jean did with their upcoming album, All Hail. Not exactly a far reach considering the band has always used ‘all hail the almighty Norma Jean’ as a sort of slogan, yet it sums up the band and even the album as a whole perfectly. Norma Jean has been around for some time now and have created some of the most profound and unique music in the core world, so even if the band uses that so-called slogan basically tongue in cheek, it actually is quite fitting. So, when the fans were asked what the title of album number eight should be, this clearly made perfect sense and shows exactly how the fans feel about the group. And I highly doubt the diehards will feel any different after finally hearing All Hail. When asked about the upcoming record ‘…I’ve never heard Norma Jean like this…It’s new territory for sure…’ and this description couldn’t be more apt of the overall sound of the album. With some of the most diverse and unparalleled songs to date this is definitively new ground for the group yet retains that classic Norma Jean-ness that makes them a band all of their own.
One thing’s for sure; Norma Jean have had some of the most consistent albums front to back out of most other bands in the core world. They always seem to find a way to switch up songs stylistically in a way to keep things from becoming too monotonous, yet they all still fit so perfectly together that it all makes sense (in a Norma Jean sort of way). All Hail may have the most fluidity out of any other album from the group yet. The overall sound on All Hail is much more melodic than their past records, which in actuality helps with the progression from each song to the next. It’s flow is so seamless that it makes it an incredibly easy album to listen to over and over.
Although I do in fact believe that it’s impossible (in the best of ways) for Norma Jean to ever do anything that could be even remotely considered cookie cutter or ‘of the norm’, All Hail definitely errs closer to the side of normality (if you will) or straight forward metalcore/rock as a whole, which may make it a bit more accessible than past releases. Songs such as “Careen”, which is perhaps the groups closest encounter to a straight up rock song yet, will both entice the likes of fans of ‘ol and is the newcomers which are sure to jump on board. Brandan Cory shows a whole new side of what he’s capable of with some of the most soft and soothing crooning he’s ever done. “Anna” is another fine example of a song where the heaviness as taken somewhat of a backseat. Theatre sized pummeling, anthemic drumming rule the verses behind Cory’s gravelly cleans. It isn’t until mid-song where a more than welcome feature from Silent Planet frontman, Garret Russel, comes and the song really gets its balls. Culminating a group scream ‘ALL HAIL!’. “If (Loss) Then (Leader)” has an almost highway drivin’ rock’n’roll feel to its intro riff then slows down to a dramatic ooze throughout the verses. Whereas song like “Landslide Defeater”, “[Mind over Mind]”, and “Full Circle in Under a Minute” give us some of that classic, erratic, skull cracking Norma Jean madness we’ve been accustomed to. The point is that the band really went out of their way to ensure that nothing was too samey or replayed. This will only help the point that this album will have a high place on their discography for years to come.
Originality: ‘All Hail the Almighty Norma Jean’. I mean come on; Do I really have to say much more? I mean I kind of summed it up earlier in this review. Norma Jean never repeats themselves, moreover some other band. Sure, the argument can be made that certain elements or fractions of a song could bear the odd resemblance to something else in the metalcore world, but to say they’ve ever taken anything they’ve ever done (aside from the slightest influence…we all have those, and they inspire things we do for sure, but don’t account for the final product) from anyone else would be a bold lie. Regardless of the fact that All Hail is a more various-type-of-person-friendly, doesn’t make it any less original. Norma Jean always has and always will do things their own way.
All Hail / out Oct. 25, 2019 Pre-Order & Listen at http://normajean.lnk.to/mind
VOCALS / INSTRUMENTATION
I DARE you to tell me one person that sounds like Brandan Cory. Go ahead. Ya can’t, can ya? He truly does have one hell of a unique voice. Whether it be his screams or his cleans. It’s fairly rare these days to hear to many vocalists that have (or at least at least attempt to have) the range that Cory puts forth. From jump street this is shown in spades on “Safety Last”. In the opening line ‘I’ll burn every bridge in the world’ he goes from a higher pitch scream, then finishes on the lowest end of his growls. This song as a whole shows exquisitely how all over the map Cory can go with his screams as opposed to having a simple, boring, monotone bellow throughout. I remember the first time I really heard Brandan Cory’s cleans. It was on his third album with Norma Jean, The Anti Mother, and it was on the track “Robots 3 Humans 0”. I was hooked. I had never heard anyone song quite like him. And with each album since (his initial inception into the group) he has only pushed himself to progress in such a magnificent way. For fear of repeating an example of song, this is best shown on “Anna”. The way he’s capable of so fluidly switching between smooth cleans, to a gravely yell is spectacular. His voice adds a particular level of urgency and excitement on the chorus of “Trace Levels of Dystopia” that I truly believe only he could have delivered.
The instrumentation on All Hail is to be as expected. Technical, simple, strange, amazing…the descriptors or endless. The outro, “The Mirror and the Second Veil”, which for the most part is a lone acoustic guitar played over what sounds like a record still spinning after the music is all done is a mashup between classical inspired guitar with what feels like what cousin Bo plays for his niece’s wedding where he is to be the groom…so yea, in others words; it’s friggin awesome! “Translational” has some of the more simplistic sounds emanating from the guitars and bass during the choruses yet uses the same instruments to create an astounding atmosphere during the verses that you wouldn’t expect. Norma Jean have always done an astonishing job and creating sounds and emotions with their instruments that Are far beyond the norm, and All Hail only persists that sentiment.
COMPOSITION / PRODUCTION
The way in which Norma Jean chooses to display their music is a rich and layered one. If you had the program to dissect each instrument, vocal, and any other added devices/elements, I’m sure it would seem as if each aspect could sound incredible all on its own. The undertones in each song are there to provide a deep and tonal background, but the point is they’re meant to be heard and Norma Jean has always done an exquisite job of making that the case without letting them overshadow what’s on the forefront. Each facet of each song is structured in a way that without one part, the others would be lost. The anger, fear, sadness…they all ooze through each note as if it were on purpose. This is perhaps even more apparent on All Hail as in the past this was basically the case as well, but this time around it feels more intentional and planned out. It’s hard to pick out a specific song to give an example, so to be honest I won’t. You’ve heard this in the singles, and I assure you there’s so much more to hear and dissect to your heart’s content throughout the entire album.
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You never quite know what you’re in for with a Norma Jean album. In my humble opinion they happen to be one of the most unpredictable bands out there these days. With each album you’re introduced to something both massively and subtly different depending on the song and its dynamics, yet you can always so without a doubt ‘that’s Norma Jean’. In fact, the only predictable thing about the group is that they’re unpredictable. All Hail continues that one and only persistent trend, and I couldn’t be more excited about that. I assure you the singles have only given you a small taste of all they have in store. Ranging from some of the most experimentally bold songs they’ve ever done, to those that some may refer to as ‘safe’ but truly are anything but. Just primed for a broader audience in their own distinctive way. But the last thing you should ever expect is a lack of the most mind-bending twists and surprises. All Hail the Almighty Norma Jean.