on November 7, 2013
“Redeemer,” the 2006 third full-length from Norma Jean, proved that the Georgia-based quintet had a few new tricks up their sleeve, and were about more than just mere Botch worship. Like crafting memorable melodies, for example, and fusing them into the mix so that they would possess a raw and abrasive, yet also mildly tuneful hard/noisecore sound. And on the follow-up to that excellent album, 2008’s “The Anti-Mother,” N.J. continue down that same path, with just enough melody to be memorable, and more than enough inventive songwriting to help ensure the fact that the music is epic and expansive.
The end result is a menacingly heavy effort, and one that is both brutal and simultaneously kind of harmonious. (And the heck of it is, it manages to be both at the same time -- not in the cookie-cutter, “change the channel” kind of way that and not in the same way that, say, All That Remains and/or Gwen Stacy have to be.) And an immaculate, yet not overly slick production job (courtesy of Ross Robinson) helps to ensure this fact, too.
The set kicks off with a piece of full-on, straightforward, NYCH-inspired hardcore in “Vipers, Snakes, And Actors,” which is backed by thickly distorted, churning guitar riffs, angular bass riffs, a crashing drum beat, and throat-tearing hardcore screams. Some later tracks, like “Self Employed Chemist,” “Robots: 3, Humans: 0,” and “Surrender Your Sons” marry dissonant music and hardcore vocals with catchy, memorable melodic hooks and soaring backing clean vocal harmonies. (The latter two songs are also of note for featuring guest vocals, with Chino Moreno Cove Reber chipping in with guest vocals and songwriting.) Plenty of chunky, heavy guitar hooks and headbangable breakdowns are included all throughout these tunes, as well.
And there are a handful of more tuneful tunes to be had, here, as well. Take, for example, “Death Of The Anti-Mother,” which begins with a cool and somber-sounding acoustic intro before morphing into a sludgy, surging, lurching groove that is iced with angular riffing and visceral vocals. Then there is “Murphy Was An Optimist,” a piece of Helmet-inspired post-hardcore with stop-start hooks, a memorably soaring and melodic vocal refrain, and some thoroughly decent bass work. (This includes a steady bass intro and a solid, humming bass groove that flows throughout.)
But these melodic and subdued moments, while establishing some excellent texture and friction, are more often than not overrun by more brutal and noisy tracks, with “Birth Of The Anti-Mother” being but one example. It is an extremely dissonant and math-y gem that could rival anything on The Dillinger Escape Plan’s “Calculating Infinity.” And elsewhere, we are also treated to the thundering guitar and bass riffs (and guest vocals from Helmet’s Page Hamilton) that occupy much of “Opposite Of Left And Wrong,” and the outright puzzling math/noisecore blast that is “…Discipline Your Daughters.”
With all of that having been said, though, it is actually “And There Will Be A Swarm Of Hornets” that takes the cake for being the record’s epic. It opts for opening on an unnervingly restrained note with a few seconds of ominous feedback. But then the lumbering, downtuned (and distinctly Converge-esque) guitar riffs and thundering bass come storming in and take over the rest of the number, as do surging, jerking, mathematically-calculated rhythms. And this song, an epic closing piece, also features some almost orchestral-sounding female backing vocals, pounding drums, and a cool synth-abetted outro.
Ingeniously written, superbly crafted, and exceedingly well played, “The Anti-Mother” does not trump the same level of excellence achieved on that already mentioned 2006 release, but it is still a fine effort all around from Norma Jean.