Album Review :
Norma Jean - Meridional

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Band: Norma Jean
Title: Meridional
Label: Razor & Tie
Release Date: July 13, 2010
Reviewer: BMer


  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”

Meridional is the 5th studio album by the “almighty” Norma Jean, it will be released through Razor & Tie Records on July 12, 2010.  This is Norma Jean’s first album with Razor & Tie after leaving Solid State Records in 2009 after the release of The Anti Mother.  This is the fourth record that features vocalist Cory Brandan as the main singer and song-writer.

From the moment you fire up Meridonal you are blasted with the brutal onslaught that Norma Jean is known for.  The first track, “Leaderless and Self Enlisted” is a great opener, heavy and intense, no time to waste on some intro track; let’s just get to the point.  For those wondering if the move to Razor & Tie would somehow soften Norma Jean, considering their label-mates are now Brian McKnight and Dave Barnes, you’ll be rest assured very quickly.  According to the band switching to Razor & Tie was the fresh start they needed, and the album really shows a renewed spirit for chaotic hardcore.

The album is roughly split into 3 parts, the first 4 tracks representing the most brutal sounds.  The tracks are heavy on chaos and light on melody, something longtime fans of Norma Jean can get excited about.  The 2nd track, “The Anthem of the Angry Brides” (great title by the way) is the most disjointed, featuring a quirky little guitar riff that basically noodles all over the place, on top of a shuffling drum beat during the verse.  Once the chorus comes in you’ll find a driving, thumping feel that supports the vocals “You’re not getting under my skin!”

After track 5, an instrumental break, you get a few melodic tracks including my two favorites on the album; “Septentrional” and “High Noise Low Output”.  Both tracks feature more singing than most, and some melody which is a side of Norma Jean that some fans don’t embrace.  “High Noise Low Output” is the most “radio-friendly” track, a slower pace and plenty of singing and occasional screams.  This doesn’t sound like your typical Norma Jean track, but the power and passion behind these tracks is unmistakable.  The track following these, “Falling From the Sky: Day Seven” is a relatively subdued song.  The feel is somber; “Your death will bring you all of the answers you’ve been looking for” and Norma Jean really start building the emotional feel for the album (even though we’re halfway with done with the songs).

Tracks 1-8 are straight-forward songs, except the interlude track 5, you get everything from chaotic brutality reminiscent of early Norma Jean to the more accessible sounds we found on The Anti Mother.  After track 8 though you get a lot of experimentation, ambient moody sounds, probably representing what the band was referring to when they stated the music writing for Meridional was “something totally new”.  There are a few memorable moments at the end of the album but overall I think the bulk of valuable work is in the first-half of Meridional.  Songs like “The People Who Surround You on a Regular Basis” are just too predictable and formulaic, following the simple format of Verse – Chorus – Breakdown – Chorus.  It’s not all bad, just not what you would typically expect from Norma Jean, something new.

The overall dark feel of the record is evident throughout, if not for lyrics like “I’d scratch away to the center. I’d bite it down to the blood” which is repeated frequently in the opening track, then maybe the sinister-sounding guitars will surely remind you that this album is not for the feint of heart.  The drums also have a very live sound; the bass drum is so honest sounding, unlike the clean, over-produced sound on most metalcore records these days.  Although the overall feel is dark, Meridional is not without it’s lighter moments which if you listen carefully enough you’ll hear quite an arsenal of random sounds/instruments throughout.  Some clever lyrics can be found as well including “You’re like a never-ending soap opera, and we’re ready to find out who kills J.R.”

OVERALL When they say they’re going back to their old mentality of writing music, I can see that with Meridional.  Riffs that have an old school hardcore feel to them, a few cool metal licks that I haven’t really heard from them before.  This album does resemble The Anti Mother in a lot of ways, but feels like a lot more effort was put into this one than their last one.  Each song is really well crafted from top to bottom.  This is probably their most creative work to date, although it is a bit tamer than most of their other albums.