October 21, 2019 Norma Jean – All Hail (Album Review)
Critically acclaimed and very much beloved Post-Hardcore/Metalcore act Norma Jean are set to make a brazen return to your eardrums with All Hail. Solid State Records delivers the heavy on Friday, October 25th, 2019.
Obviously named for Marilyn Monroe, the Grammy Award-nominated Norma Jean formed in 1997 in the Atlanta suburbs. Originally calling themselves Luti-Kriss, and with several releases under that name, the band rechristened themselves Norma Jean in 2002 when they signed with Solid State Records and delivered their epic debut, Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child. Establishing an impressive career for themselves, the almighty heavy ones would go on to release six more full-lengths over the next fourteen years, including 2005’s O’God, the Aftermath, 2010’s Meridional, and 2016’s Polar Similar.
For their eighth studio offering, All Hail, Norma Jean go bold. Collaborating with Producer Will Putney (The Amity Affliction, Northlane) of Fit for an Autopsy, the band has crafted a 14-track journey that includes lyrical moments of self-reflection, observations on our chaotic world, psychological quandaries, a plethora of heartfelt emotions, and much, much more. Thick with sonic experimentation, and equally caressing the lightest sides of the group’s sound profile while simultaneously some of its heaviest, All Hail is a daring representation of these almighty titans.
All Hail kicks off to “Orphan Twin,” an under two minute offering with distorted, crunchy guitars and a steady drum beat that anchors Brandan’s frustrated epithets. This lays the groundwork for what is to follow, a collection that is split into two halves that mirror one another—two distinctly separate entities that craft a whole. For the album’s second track, throttling rhythms undulate throughout the slamming “Mind Over Mind,” serving to pave the way into the Hardcore stomp of “Safety Last.” Here, incendiary vocal howls lead a charge that is guaranteed to incite riotous activity in the pit at the band’s live shows.
At just under a minute, “Volunteer Tooth Filing” is composed of undulating atmospherics and distorted sound bites that feel like a post-dental haze that transitions perfectly into the ferocious “Landslide Defeater.” Infectious choruses that invite singing along make this an obvious choice for a fan favorite, a stand-out offering on a killer album. All of this arrives before the thrumming, sludgy core of “Full Circle In Under A Minute,” which leads to the suitably dirgey guitars of “/with_errors,” a more radio-ready rocker.
The frenetic explosion of “Trace Levels Of Dystopia” amps the pace back up as it seeks answers before Norma Jean change things up yet again with “Translational.” With raging melodies embedded in its frustrated observations, atmospherics and fat bass serve to anchor the song’s incendiary journey. At just half a minute, the aptly-titled “Extra Dimensional Palette Cleanser” interlude does in fact clear the senses in preparation for “If [Loss] Then [Leader].” Here, those deliciously thick bass lines continue to weave around the core of a track that, on one level, explores the self-fulfilling prophecy as it decrees, “Love is pain for always.”
This leads to the coup de grâce of the album: it’s final trio of tracks. At over five minutes in length, “Careen” begins in a fog that sets a languid pace. Exploring different soundscapes and meandering into deep emotion in the name of surrender (and redemption), the track serves as an exceptional testament to Norma Jean’s diverse talents. Similar in some aspects, the beautiful mayhem and haunting emotions of “Anna” coalesce within this ode that segues flawlessly into the gorgeously moody acoustic guitar outro “The Mirror And The Second Veil.”
Throughout All Hail there are a myriad of influences that weave around a solid core of exceptional musicianship and intelligent, poetic lyrics. In many ways, the album is a puzzle to be deciphered, a mirror that reflects back the distinctly individual qualities of each of its listeners. In this, what you bring to All Hail tremendously affects what you take away from your journey, but it will always be a ride that is worth taking. Powerfully emotional, dark yet hopeful, All Hail, much like all great albums, will have you changing your favorite song each day of the week. All Hail the Almighty Norma Jean, indeed! Cryptic Rock give All Hail 5 of 5 stars.