Norma Jean Talk Going South with Meridional

Norma Jean Talk Going South with <i>Meridional</i>
Atlanta heavy stalwarts Norma Jean are set to drop their fifth album, Meridional, on July 13, and it's yet another killer chapter in what's turning out to be quite the metalcore legacy.

With a title that means "going south," the album represents more progression in the band's arsenal. And, as we previously told you, they will be doing it with a new record label (Razor & Tie) and a new producer (Jeremy Griffith) in tow.


 "We love music and we want to progress and do cool things that we like, as simple as that sounds," singer Cory Brandan recently told Exclaim! "That's really what excites us; we're really lucky to be doing this still, and when it really comes down to it, we really enjoy it - a lot."

One of the challenges for Norma Jean since they began in the late '90s has been to come out of their metalcore shells and do something different with each album. Their last outing, 2008's The Anti Mother, was their first real foray into changing up their sound, and Meridional is another step towards carving a true identity for themselves.

"I don't think fans understand how much more bummed out they would be if we did repeat ourselves over and over. And it's really easy to do that," explains Brandan. "I think working with Ross Robinson for [2006's] Redeemer and The Anti Mother really pushed us hard emotionally and put some kind of intention behind the music, and not just a cool riff or something. And learning that has bled over into this new record."

The band were careful in choosing a producer for their new album, and they knew right off the bat that they wanted someone who could contribute to Meridional in many different ways. When they stumbled upon Griffith via their manager, it didn't take the members of Norma Jean long to realize they had found their man.

"We were pretty specific on what we wanted. We wanted someone that was around our age who was not only a good producer, but someone who knew how to play a lot of different instruments, and who knew how to sing well. Someone that knows how to play paino, who knows how to sing... And he's that guy," says Brandan.

Griffith, who has produced the likes of Saosin, City of Ships and All the Bright Lights, had never worked with a band as high profile as Norma Jean, but that didn't stop him from jumping right into the recording process, as well as contributing to the songs himself.

"He played a ton on the record, all the piano that you hear, there's his background vocals on a bunch of songs," says Brandan. "He did the background vocals on 'The People That Surround You on a Regular Basis,' and 'A Media Friendly Turn for the Worse' and a few others. He was all over the place. Anytime he had an idea, he'd say, 'I'm going to go put this down and if you don' like it, we just won't keep it.' He's a super, super talented dude."

Followers of the band may be surprised to find out that a track called "Kill More Presidents" didn't end up on the new record. This song was one that the band played live on tour last year and had encouraged fans to film for a potential music video. It was also the first song they demoed with Griffith.

"I think it was just a case of demo-itis, us being tired of it, so that's why it's not on there," says Brandan. "We did change it though; there's a different version of that song with a new ending on it, completely different, and we'll release it eventually. But it didn't make it on the actual record. And if fans want to find the song now, the old version is out there somewhere."

Fear not, though, the album still has its share of riff-heavy melody-seepers and crazy, technical metalcore. In fact, one song, "The Anthem of the Angry Brides," even ventures upon a whole new level of guitar noodling.

"That song came out of nowhere," says Brandan. "That was one of the first things we had for the record, that little 'diddle-diddle-diddle,' that little fast guitar lick there, and we wondered, 'What are we going to do with that,' and we thought it would be cool to just have it going through the whole song. We wanted to make this album heavy, but not just do the same heavy we've been doing for years. We decided to take it somewhere else completely, that at least we haven't done before."

The band are currently on tour through May with Every Time I Die, and are heading out in July and August on the travelling freak show known as the Mayhem Festival, featuring Korn, Rob Zombie and Lamb of God, among others. All of their summer tour dates can be found on Norma Jean's MySpace page. Brandan says fans can expect to hear at least some new material from Meridional live this summer.

Meridional:

1. "Leaderless and Self Enlisted"
2. "The Anthem of the Angry Brides"
3. "Deathbed Atheist"
4. "Bastardizer"
5. "A Media Friendly Turn for the Worse"
6. "Septentrional"
7. "Blood Burner"
8. "High Noise Low Output"
9. "Falling from the Sky: Day Seven"
10. "Everlasting Tapeworm"
11. "Occidental"
12. "The People That Surround You on a Regular Basis"
13. "Innocent Bystanders United" [includes secret track "Oriental"]