When it comes to the early days of metalcore, few names are more prevalent than Norma Jean. Chaotic, explosive, loud and u, they were a band that easily stood out among the rest. Nearly 20 years later, through 7 full-length releases, each better than its predecessor, they still stand tall within the genre. Managing to stay relevant in a culture that has been desensitized to real music is a tough challenge but the GA quintet refuses to give up. They go beyond merely adapting and changing to camouflage themselves within the genre, they find ways to make their adaptations a concrete part of it, paving the way for any who follow. With their latest release, Polar Similar, they take their talent to new heights and prove that they’re here to stay. For fans, waiting 1 year is a tough feat, as music is always being released quicker. For Norma Jean fans, they had to wait nearly 3 years to hear the follow-up to 2013’s Wrongdoers, which was a hell in, and of, itself. Of course, if you’re a fan of bands like Metallica, Tool, Rage Against the Machine or System of a Down… 3 years is a piece of cake for you at this point, but I digress.
You might think that 20 years of making music will cause a band to get stale or run out of ideas to keep things fresh. For some bands, this may be the case, sadly. However, for Norma Jean, they’re just as fresh as when they stepped on the scene. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Polar Similar, with it’s strong hardcore-rooted sound and slight melodic touches, is their best effort to date. The album is cut into 3 sections: “The Planet”, “The People” and “The Nebula”, culminating in the final chapter “The Nexus.” These sections each contain 3 tracks that each play on their portion of the concept that surrounds the album. “The Planet” starts off pretty aggressive but has a lot of melody to it, as well, giving it that southern metalcore flavor that seems to have disappeared over the years. “The People,” on the other hand takes a more thrashy, punchier approach and is much heavier than the former. While the album seems to come to its climax through “Reaction,” it does a great job to build up to the final moments of the album. Finally, “The Nebula” does a good job of blending the two, doing a great job to balance out melody and aggression but focused a good deal more on melody, both through the music and through the vocals. The album ends with an almost 11-minute epic that pulls everything together. It begins with a slow, subtle intro which builds into an explosive first verse, mellows out into an atmospheric melodic section and ends with a robotic voice speaking to the listener.
I can say, without a doubt, that Polar Similar has quickly become my favorite Norma Jean album, to date. It does its best to bring you everything you’ve ever loved about the band to fruition, while also bringing you a few new elements you may not have expected. This album isn’t for the faint of heart, though. If you’re not a fan of music with an extremely aggressive side, you will do well to stay away from this album. However, if you’re into bands of that nature, or if you’re looking to get into the sound, Polar Similar is right up your alley. Pick up your copy, out on Solid State records now! Check out a taste of the album with “1,000,000 Watts” below!
Norma Jean is:
Cory Brandan – Vocals + Guitar
Jeff Hickey – Guitar
Clayton “Goose” Holyoak – Drums
John Finnegan- Bass
Philip Farris – Guitar