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Satisfying, but continuing the disappointing trend...
on August 8, 2010
Most readers are likely aware of the legacy that Norma Jean has established.
Bless the Martyr does not need to be discussed, but the band continued on with great records even after the spark left (Scogin - he carries a unique energy that is very special to this music. Check out THE CHARIOT).
Redeemer was good, despite a few clunkers. Unfortunately, the band seems to continue in this tradition. The songwriting has gotten progressively weaker. I found myself hoping after each Norma Jean release that they would find the right thing within themselves to weed out some of the weaker material, or the stuff that sounds like it was made to just fill space. There is not THAT much of that kind of sound on Meridional, but there is much more of it than I would care to hear.
I must say that the first three tracks on Meridional are EXCELLENT. These tunes contain the classic Norma Jean feel while adding flares of a new, more exploratory, slightly mathier feel. AND...the breakdowns in Deathbed Athiest just absolutely kill.
- A brief aside: We all know that the breakdown has been done a million times. However, that does not matter
if it fits in a musical context. There is no reason to look down on a band just for writing breakdowns -
Unfortunately, there a fair number of tracks that leave me feeling unaffected. I felt this way about O'God the Aftermath at first, so I listened to Meridional for a solid week before writing this, but nothing has really changed in the way that I am hearing it. The whole album is almost in the same key, which contributes to a sound a sameness all-around (this is a curse that has fallen upon many metalcore bands; I really don't understand how it isn't incredibly obvious to them). Sadly, most of the heavier numbers are the ones lacking in distinguishing qualities. On the contrary, the band's melodic side is developing quite nicely. Granted that I still prefer the face smashing, balls to the pavement heavy side of this band, their "pop sensibility" is rather satisfying. Falling from the sky, People that surround you, and Innocent Bystanders are great examples of this. However, Media Friendly Turn sounds like watered down garbage. The bonus track "Kill more Presidents" is a great mix of the classic heavier Norma Jean with the newer, soaring melodic choruses.
After looking at the career of Norma Jean thus far, I think this band still might by trying to figure out what they want to do, versus what they think they should do. Sometimes they seem very honest, other times contrived. I respect that they continue to explore until they find something that clicks. When it does, the results are always great and a lot of fun. This is a solid release, just not up to par with their first three efforts. Keep at it, guys.