Norma Jean O' God, the Aftermath

Norma Jean’s last album, 2002’s Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child, was a landmark album for me as far as metalcore goes. Far from trend-hopping, it was a brutally heavy disc with a perfect amount of technical chops, hardcore emotion and creepy Christian vibes. Now, a few line-up changes later, the band returns with what they claim isn’t Martyr Part Two. But, really, it sounds pretty damn similar as this interestingly titled disc keeps what I loved about the last one and adds a few new tricks. New singer Cory Brandan has just as much of a great bellow as the last guy, and he also throws in some melodic singing on a couple tracks, which helps break up the pummelling a bit. Same goes with the totally crushing ten-minute epic "Disconnecktie” (love these song titles), which is placed, difficulty enough, right in the middle of the album. And again, just like last time, things get a bit too much by disc’s end, the last couple songs finding me beaten and bruised, anxious for it to end so I can once again extol this band’s virtues. Pound for pound, not quite as shockingly good as the last disc, but chalk that up to high expectations versus a surprise punch; Norma Jean are still leading the metalcore movement, even if you haven’t heard them. (Solid State)