Norma Jean first exploded on to the scene in 2002 with the seminal ‘Bless The Martyr, Kiss The Child’; an album which has gathered cult-classic status since its release and is held in high regard by hardcore and metalcore fans the world over. It’s one of those albums that people in their early thirties gush about when they talk about ‘the good old days’. However, original vocalist Josh Scogin left shortly after the release and over the years Norma Jean have had so many line-up changes that there are actually no original members left. Somehow, fourteen years later, ‘Polar Similar’ still manages to feel like a natural progression from their chaotic metalcore roots:
Opener ‘I. The Planet’ starts with crumbling feedback and off-kilter drums before launching in to a pummelling riff. Cory Brandan Putman’s aggressive vocal has never sounded better as he roars his way through the track, and his clean vocals throughout the album are excellent and never slip into cheesy like a lot of metalcore bands find themselves doing. The guitars sound absolutely titanic; anyone who has seen Norma Jean live recently knows that they’re all about tone and volume and they’ve definitely managed to translate that on to this record.
Lead single ‘1,000,000 Watts’, which got an airing on their UK tour earlier this year, is an absolute monster number with a lead riff that you’ll be singing out loud for weeks after hearing, and the equally huge ‘Forever Hurtling Toward Andromeda’ features a guest appearance from Sean Ingram from Coalesce; another band that gets aging hardcore kids with mortgages and real jobs frothing at the gash.
Joking aside; there’s a real maturity present on this album that comes with weathering fads for years and being unapologetically Norma Jean throughout the various hype waves we’ve been exposed to in the last decade or so. Yes there have been peaks and troughs in the band’s popularity but with ‘Polar Similar’ they should be preparing themselves for another peak. Sometimes it does feel like the tracks could let loose a little more, as it’s a very measured record for the most part, but rather that than try and re-tread old ground. There may not be anything as messy and discordant as you would find on their debut and anyone looking for another ‘Face:Face’ should look elsewhere for their nostalgia trip but Norma Jean are back and louder than ever and it would be absurd to not give them your time.
Written by Liam Knowles (@wearefixtures)