Thursday, July 15, 2010

Norma Jean: Meridional (2010) Review

Norma Jean is perhaps the best-known Christian metal band in today's scene (if you don't count As I Lay Dying, since they don't want to be counted as a Christian band). They've released two albums peaking at number 1 on the Christian music charts and a third peaking at number 2. Their fifth album (and the first for new label Razor & Tie) Meridional came out this week.

Despite the fact the group has a very dedicated following, especially among Christians, I only had their debut before getting this one. It was good, but I wasn't so crazy about it to get their next two albums. So, you can be sure this review is neutral.

Norma Jean's sound is a progressive kind of metalcore, but usually not chaotic enough to be true mathcore. They seem to blend about two parts The Dillinger Escape Plan with one part Tool to create something uniquely their own. Tracks like "Blood Burner" really show off the Dillinger side of things, while "Deathbed Atheist" will show a little more of the Tool.

Vocally, Cory Brandan has a very compelling off-key voice, sort of like Chino Moreno in his heyday, and he can shift from pissed-off to vulnerable in a heartbeat. He gets to show his voice off a great deal: See obvious single pick "A Media Friendly Turn for the Worse" or the mellow "Falling from the Sky: Day Seven" to get a taste of that.

The formula works very well, and the band shows some very mature songwriting. This material manages to be catchy, complex, angry, and accessible all at once. The album flows extremely well and hangs together as a whole, helped along by two strange interludes (the church hymn-inflected "Septentrional" and the odd "Occidental").

The production is excellent as well. Many bands with this kind of broad appeal will crank up the vocals in the mix, but Norma Jean has shown restraint--a clear indication of their Trve Metal nature.

It does have a couple of slightly weaker moments, like "The People That Surround You on a Daily Basis" and "Bastardizer", but it's never off so far to derail the album for a moment.

The Verdict: I was pleasantly surprised by Norma Jean--this is really great stuff, and they've grown by leaps and bounds in eight years. This is quite likely the Christian metal album of the year, and I give it 4 out of 5 stars.


  1. Never been a Norma Jean fan. I did some posts on Christian metal earlier. Believer is my personal favorite.

  2. I read that post. Believer is great stuff. I should do a post specifically on the topic some time.

  3. really liking this new album, great article!