Two decades into their existence, it’s safe to say that Norma Jean‘s influence is still very much looming large.
The band have gone through a number of stylistic changes, and many more line-up changes, but there’s always a healthy appetite for any new material, and this brings us to the fan-named ‘All Hail’, their eighth studio album. Fans of their last album, 2016’s multi-faceted and thrilling ‘Polar Similar’, will be delighted to find that they’ve by-and-large picked up where they left off.
And with the opening salvo ‘Orphan Twin’, any anticipation for a more mellowed-out affair will be laid to waste, as there’s palpable anger in Cory Brandan‘s vocal delivery. The band’s sound is arguably closer to contemporary metalcore than on previous offerings, and it’s done a million times better than the majority of bands that do it. Just imagine if they traded Monster Energy endorsements for this kind of substance.
‘[Mind Over Mind]’‘s savage breakdown more than keeps up the ante, and the fury is such that you may wonder if everything’s okay in camp Norma Jean. ‘Safety Last’ provides more of a swinging feel than the last two tracks, but the energy isn’t letting up at all, and we’re off to a strong start. Brandan‘s vocal performance is as dynamic as ever, and the band can also provide bone-crushing riffing as per usual, such as in ‘Full Circle In Under A Minute’.
You may think with the stylisation of the title of ‘/with_errors’ and its intro may feel like an obvious Code Orange inspiration, but this is another stellar addition which is closer to post-hardcore territory, showing that they can change dynamics adeptly without providing the feeling of whiplash. The interludes on this album also give the album a real sense of continuity.
And the intense finale of ‘Trace Levels Of Dystopia’ shows that they’re not done with their signature assault. They also continue to shine with ‘If (Loss) Then (Leader)’, and this track in particular may be one of the best songs that Architects never wrote. ‘Careen’‘s more atmospheric beginning also leads very nicely and fluidly into the slightly heavier section, with its greatly executed build-up.
Penultimate number ‘Anna’ perhaps isn’t up to the standard of the previous tracks, but at least there’s the savage slowed-down ending which really ends things on a flyer. While this album is a bit on the lengthy side, there’s not really a bad song on here.
After all this time, Norma Jean still have plenty of fire in their bellies, and ‘All Hail’ is another punishing and enthralling affair from the metalcore veterans.