Wrongdoers review by Norma Jean

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  • Released: Aug 6, 2013
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.1 (29 votes)
Norma Jean: Wrongdoers
5

Sound — 9
They've had a hard and turbulent career playing hard and turbulent metal, but after 16 years Norma Jean may be about to hit their finest form. 2010's "Meridional" was a pleasingly solid effort for a band who have proven themselves capable of both exquisite innovation and remarkable flatness. Fast forward three years and, with changes on guitar, bass and drums, things don't quite look the same. We don't know if new album "Wrongdoers" will be of the same quality. Don't worry though; you'll be pretty certain once you've listened to it. "Wrongdoers" is very, very heavy. And it's exciting. Their semi-chaotic, riff based and vocally adventurous metalcore possesses the crucial mean streak absent from so much post-Killswitch metalcore. Dirty and discordant, the new lineup is brimming with ideas and ready to float a new one at any moment. How it separates itself from its contemporaries and predecessors, however, is with its pace. The album is in perpetual motion, but guitarists Jeff Hickey and Cory Putman navigate potholes and avoid burnout by knowing exactly when to cut an idea loose. Take "Sword in Mouth, Fire Eyes," which eschews its initial sludginess for a melodic, vocal-driven tack which exploits the slower grooves with more nuance. The belief and conviction of frontmen like Cory Brandan does wonders for authenticity in metalcore, and he puts in a great shift here. Without the inimitable grit of a performance from the heart, the constant left turns of "Funeral Singer" and harsh protrusions of "The Potter Has No Hands" would leave little impression. It's a snag that the band have been caught on in the past, but "Wrongdoers" has no such issues.

Lyrics — 8
One thing to match the band's sharp, lucid riffing (most of the time) is their lyrical ability. Received wisdom lands them in the metalcore bargain bin for some - that misconception is almost entirely based on their Christian lyrics. The words may be uncool, depending on where you place the yardstick, but they are impassioned. The drip-drip of haughty language and smartly twisted syntax adds an air of unpredictability on the page and reinforces it on record.

Overall Impression — 8
"Meridional" was a typical return to form type of record, complete with new sense of purpose and a change of label. Returns to form are none too impressive when they're not sustained, however. "Wrongdoers" doesn't just sustain Norma Jean's form from three years ago, though - it improves it. This is the best album of their career, and deserves comparison to the likes of Every Time I Die and Converge, trailblazers who have lit up an aging scene in the last few years. A surprise entry on the shortlist for heavy album of the year.

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21 comments sorted by best / new / date

    N-D
    I always prefer old Norma Jean ("Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child" (2002) is my favourite) - but they are still really cool band - and this album is no exception. By the way, here is very interesting videoclip by Norma Jean
    And here's official lyric video for this song
    Abacus11
    "Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child" was the last time I heard Norma Jean. To be honest, I kind of forgot about them. I'm definitely interested in checking this album out though. I always thought Norma Jean were one of the more innovative and original-sounding metalcore bands, even back then.
    crazysam23_Atax
    They're heavily influenced by Botch, who are one of the original Metalcore bands of the '90s. (Some people even go so far as to call them "Botch ripoffs", despite the fact that Botch influenced tons of bands.) However, I always like Norma Jean and will probably buy this album.
    Sam Rulez D00d
    You should check out their other albums! Meridional might be my favorite. I have to say that with Underoath broken up, Norma Jean is probably my favorite active band.
    BwareDWare94
    That music video...LOL. Such a wonderful commentary on the ridiculous "I'm getting wasted tonight!" lifestyle that has taken hold in the US.
    ccblackmon
    A lot of people love BTMKTC, but truly these guys have changed their sound every album they put out. BTMKTC's lyrics were unforgettable, sure, O'GOD sounded similar to Botch, but was a new step for the band with Cory Brandan joining in. REDEEMER was very different with using "one takes" during the recording session. And then there was "THE ANTI-MOTHER", the experimental album. Norma Jean tried something different with this album. Some liked it and some hated it. But still a decent effort. Meridional was branded as a masterpiece by AltPress. It was a combination of all of their previous album. After 3 members leaving, it was time for Norma Jean to step back and think about what's next. WRONGDOERS was the answer. An album that includes Cory Brandan's ever improving vocals, Chris Day's classic Norma Jean guitar riffs, New members, John Finnegan adds more bass melody than ever before, Jeff Hickey's got something new to the table and Goose's pounding drums, are all part of an album that i feel could be Norma Jeans's best to date. I feel that the people that have given up after BTMKTC, need to go back and reintroduce themselves to the other NJ albums, because each album truly is completely different from the other.
    KidZero
    I'm still pissed at myself because I was at summer slaughter and Norma Jean was one of the few bands I was looking forward to there, but I missed em. Chatted with them after the show though, nice bunch of dudes, definitely a big step above the normal metalcorish groups.
    CurlOfTheBurl
    Never heard of these dudes before, and usually stray from a lot of metalcore (despite being a huge KSE fan lol), but listened to the videos, absolutely killer sounding. Batsh*t crazy, and yet somehow like a civilized version of Dillinger Escape Plan, haha!
    Labelkills98
    This album is sick. Anyone capable of tab-ing anything fromt his album? I'd love to try and learn wrongdoers or sword in mouth, fire eyes.
    millarso
    I'm planning on tabbing most of this album starting today. Lucky for you, that was actually the first song I was planning on covering. I did most of Meridional too, so I kind of understand their playing habits.
    The Spoon
    I loved Redeemer to death and it was really the only NJ album I would ever listen to. Their next two albums were alright, but nothing ever grabbed me like Redeemer until this album which I am loving so far.