Sound — 9
After Norma Jean stated it had intentions to expand upon its sound with something totally new, the Georgia-based band has returned with Meridional. The CD, Norma Jean's first release on its new label Razor & Tie, features more layered/complex arrangements and maintains the aggressive quality heard on releases like Redeemer. The guitar tones from Chris Day and Scottie Henry do seem to be more varied, while vocalist Cory Brandan Putman rarely relents from bloodcurling screams/yells throughout the course of the 13-track disk.
The moments that truly stand out on Meridional are the ones when a whirlwind of guitars seem to come from every direction. A prime example arrives in the opening intro of The Anthem of the Angry Brides, where there is mechanical/cyclical approach to the lead riff. Another intriguing aspect to Day and Henry's collective styles is the intermittent Tool-like vibe that pops up at times, with Deathbed Atheist having a similar quality to Forty Six & 2 only a bit more intense rhythmically.
Elsewhere A Media Friendly Turn Toward The Worse delivers satisfying, straightforward rock riffage, while Fallen From The Sky: Day Seven presents a much more subdued, scream-free side to Norma Jean. In terms of experimentation, the band does give us two interludes of sorts Septentrional and Occidental that features a bevy of odd noises like birds chirping and what seems like a pool ball clanging. Meridional closes with what you might call the epic number, complete with a piano outro (and hidden track at the end).
Lyrics — 8
Lyrically speaking, Norma Jean's tracks usually come down to the closing moments of each song. The band often tends to emphasize one or two lines that will be repeated several times at the end of the song for effect. Thanks to vocalist Cory Brandan Putman's uncanny knack to sound pretty pissed off, it works quite well for the Norma Jean. Whether Putman yells, You're not getting under my skin or Lie to me, the gist of each song comes across loud and clear.
Overall Impression — 8
While the album isn't a monstrously huge leap in another musical direction, Meridional is still a well-crafted one that emphasizes the strengths of the band. From the unique guitar tones to the compositions' cohesive quality, Norma Jean doesn't disappoint. It's up for debate whether the two experimental interludes added anything at all to Meridional, but every artist is allowed to be a bit indulgent.