If you know your old sayings, it is considered something akin to poor taste to judge a book by its cover. Yet, if you apply twisted logic and judge the new Norma Jean album by its song titles… well, you might just be onto something and assume the Atlantan metalcore mainstays took the Timewave Zero route Blood Incantation trekked through, while remaining heavy and fierce.
Sticking with their regular cycle of an album every three years, ninth full-length offering Deathrattle Sing For Me (Solid State) houses poetic, unique and downright strange lyrics as song titles increasingly strip away its logic or meaning. This album is equal parts furious hardcore and impossible-to-predict mathcore, and powerful noise, and presents as the unexpected sound of a band not necessarily reinventing itself, but adjusting to the modern scene in its own method.
Jumbled vocals, dissonant guitar huffs and spectral atmosphere share a bed with hot-to-the-touch grit, baseball-bat-meets-kneecaps aggression and venomous, acerbic vocals courtesy of Corey Brandan.
Deathrattle… unfolds like the psyche of a person slowly slipping into an unstable headspace. ‘Aria Obscura’ unleashes aggro-mellow elements, the musical equivalent of doing a hundred burpees. The chaotic time signatures, soundcheck-esque musical arrangements and see-sawing from hard-hitting to grainy minimalism tickles the senses for both good and bad reasons.
‘Any%’ is a destroy-a-room anthem candidate that bludgeons everything within a five-mile radius. ‘el-roi’ is the soundtrack to eighth-grade trips to the planetarium in those comfy chairs that recline back to reveal the entire night sky right in front of your eyes.
If Norma Jean is evolving into a style akin to Author & Punisher, Deathrattle… is a magnificent first step, and if the band was worried about its relevance, fret not. They don’t have to rest on their metalcore laurels in order to continue producing noteworthy material. And even when Norma Jean dips into unchartered territory, they do so with a confidence and a seniority that allows them to try something different… and that something different, Deathrattle…, is a categorical success.
8 / 10