Norma Jean – O God, The Aftermath review

Norma Jean
“O God, The Aftermath”
Solid State Records

Norma Jean creates music that isn’t immediately accessible to the average listener. The band specializes in a sub-genre of hardcore some have dubbed noisecore — a type of music that relies on breakneck tempo changes and minimal song structure. Let’s put it this way: what a band like Dream Theater might be to progressive rock, Norma Jean is to hardcore.

The band offered up an intense, bombastic release in 2002 (“Bless the Martyr & Kiss the Child”) that left fans salivating for more. Little did they realize the sophomore release would take almost three years.

And what a tumultuous two and a half years it would be.

Shortly after the release of “Bless the Martyr,” Norma Jean lost its front man Josh Scogin. For “O God…” the band picked up Cory Putman, who had previously worked with notable metal bands Living Sacrifice and Eso-Charis.

The band doesn’t seem to have missed a beat. The entirety of “O God…” unfolds like a musical assault on the senses. Odd tempos fall over one another and give way to repetitive riffs and aggressive backbeats. While at times the sound will stop long enough to indicate a track change, for the most part the entire album is like one solid wall of sound. Song structures are scatterbrained at best; there’s hardly a verse, chorus, verse foundation, much less noticeable verses or choruses on any of the tracks. Putman does a good job filling Scogin’s shoes, though it seemed hardly a difficult task as a majority of the vocals are throaty yelps (though, it should be noted, Putman is far less guttural in his delivery).

But as much as Norma Jean’s sound is built around the concept of a cacophony of sound, there are some impressive moments squeezed in too: there’s a great melodic bridge towards the end of the album’s second track, “Vertebraille”; the band almost channels the spirit of Fudge Tunnel’s popular song “Grey” during the “chorus” of “Bayonetwork”; there’s some fantastic “singing” during parts of “Liarsenic,” probably the best and most easily accessibly song on the album.

Overall, Norma Jean is able to craft a pretty intricate, hard-hitting album. The songs easily bleed into each other and the vocals are pretty low in the mix, giving way to the music which is the real focus (or at least should be) of what Norma Jean is putting forth.

While it’s not the most accessible album, “O God…” is exactly the type of album Norma Jean wanted to release. It’s abrasive, it’s in your face, it’s unrelenting. And, for fans of the genre, it’s a solid release for fans that have been waiting for a long time.

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