I’ll never forget being impressed after seeing Norma Jean for the first time at Ozzfest ’06. They’re a substantially heavy band with an easily recognized sound; unique, emotional vocals with plenty of heat, and in-your-face guitar tones, panic chords and riffing that do more than hold their own. Norma Jean is a band many have come to love and have followed throughout tours and member changes, and as both a positive and a negative, their newest release, Meridional, brings fans the same Norma Jean they have known from The Anti Mother. Quite unfortunately for me, as I’m sure many will agree, I was anticipating something more from the band.
My favorite track from the album is the first track, “Leaderless and Self Enlisted”. It reminds me greatly of The Anti Mother, as many tracks do, but shows the things that the band does best. Starting out with feedback, the song has a feel of a live performance even being listened to through headphones. The listener is then taken through several tempo changes that bring an interesting feel and help to keep things moving. I really enjoy the cleanly shouted parts of the song, which are followed by screams that leave me picturing someone in severe pain; there is so much enthusiasm. Dissonant riffs find themselves repeating throughout the song, and the false ending is sure to blow minds.
After a few times of listening to the album, my least favorite song is the following track, “The Anthem of the Angry Brides”. This is mostly due to the fact that I am somewhat perturbed by the guitar riffing. It sounds somewhat out of place, although it is accompanied by an attention-grabbing drum beat. I was even more disappointed when it returned after the first chorus. With this said, I do like the breakdown that finishes out the track, to the mantra “you’re not getting under my skin.” It starts out with a slow fret board slide, and is continued with shrieking panic chords. I’d be content with the rest of the song left behind.
All in all, this was an album with very few surprises. Meridional may have an awesome album cover, but its contents are somewhat lacking. Quality has not necessarily been lost, but some advancement is definitely due, and I’d like to see the band switch things up a little. Perhaps the most surprising part of the album comes from the track, Innocent Bystanders United, a 25-minute track with about 17 minutes of silence. First time listening to the album, when the song came back in after assuming the album had finished, I jumped, convinced that someone was breaking into my apartment. Keep faith, Norma Jean fans; hopefully by bearing with them this album, we will be rewarded with great things in the future.