The creepy opening of ‘Orphan twin’ lets you know that this won’t be your average metalcore/hardocore record-it’s clear that Norma Jean want to broaden their horizons on this album. After about 30 seconds, the intro quickly makes way for the band’s trademark brand of brutal hardcore.
Second track ‘[Mind Over Mind]’ keeps the hardcore ticking over nicely. Frontman Cory Brandon’s vocals are as brutal and anguished as ever. Complementing Brandon’s abrasive vocals are pounding guitars which deviate between brutal metalcore breakdowns, and sleazy hard-rock riffs and solos.
Particular highlights include ‘-with_erors’, which successfully combines the brutal 00’s metalcore with introspective alt-rock purveyed by the likes of Balance & Composure. While it’s nothing to drastically removed from Norma Jean’s comfort zone, it adds a different dimension to their brand of rock music.
The bellowed refrain of ‘Burn baby Burn’ from ‘Translational’ is a wonderfully cathartic release, and precedes one of the heaviest, most bass-laden breakdowns on the album.
While it’s certainly an admiral stab at creativity, the ‘joining’ tracks, such as the 30 second ‘Extra Dimensional Palate Cleanser’, don’t add much to the overall impact of the album, and make the record feel longer then it really needs to. Similarly, the long intros to ‘Orphan Twin’ and ‘Career’ distract from the heavy music on offer, rather than enhancing it.
That being said, once it gets going, ‘Career’ is a slightly mellower track, while without being too soft, certainly demonstrates the band’s versatility.
Ultimately, this record is at its best when Norma Jean sticks to what they do best, which is make straightforward, and resonant metalcore. ‘Trace Levels of Dystopia’-aside from being an awesome song title-demonstrates this perfectly. It has an earworm of a chorus, and features brutal blast-beats and some impressive guitar work, without every outstaying its welcome. If the album had featured more of this, rather than being interspersed with shorter tracks, it would have been great, rather than merely good.
Similarly, ‘Landslide Defeater’ features frenetic and urgent shrieks, while the instrumentation plays at 100 mph. This does exactly what it says on the tin, and needs no long-winded intro, or samples to make its point. It’s just excellent hardcore music.
All in all, while the musicianship is never in doubt, a lot of this record is by-the-numbers heavy hardcore/metalcore. It’s certain to go down well with long-time Norma Jean fans, but if you’ve not been converted to the cause by their previous work, there’s little here to change your mind.
‘All Hail’ is out Friday 25 October via Solid State Records