In many ways, Normandy best describes themselves. A short traipse through their Facebook page (linked above) and it’s easy to see where the heart of this passionate band lies. “Normandy is a group of people declaring war on the enemy. It is a group of people passionate about seeing God worshiped, it’s about standing firm on the Cross of Christ knowing what he has done and also knowing there is a battle out there. A Battle we are willing to fight. We will not stop until every chain has been snapped, every bond has been broken & every person has worshiped the Lord.”
Normandy lists their genre as “Raw Worship” and lists influences that include Sleeping Giant, The Great Commission, and The Glorious Unseen. It shows. New Foundation is a musical exploration of the spiritual war we all find ourselves in set to raw and passionate vocals and underscored by some pretty solid musicianship. Its the type of musical atmosphere one could expect at a habitation or experiential worship service. If you close your eyes while listening, you can almost see candles burning around the room as people fall on their faces before God, writing their sins on poster board hanging on the walls of a dimly lit room, while the band is singing from their knees with their hands lifted up to the Throne Room above.
In terms of spiritual fire, Normandy has it in spades. But the purpose of these reviews is not to assess the spiritual fire of any given band, but to examine the musicianship that is brought to the table. Luckily for Normandy, the musicianship is there and it is pretty strong. As you turn on New Foundation, you find the blending of male clean vocals, female clean vocals and the obligatory hardcore guttural vocals. Though I felt there were some balancing issues here and there on the album, this format works pretty well. In terms of the instrumentation, the band balances atmospheric tones with chugging guitars. The sound this all produces could best be described as Sleeping Giant and Children 18:3 getting together for an impromptu jam session.
Because of the “raw” nature of the overall sound, however, a few choices were made in the mixing of the album that I feel allowed for a few missed moments. First of all, the vocal tracks are clearly out front. Whether it is the screaming, the male cleans or the female cleans, you’ll never hear the instruments getting anywhere close to overtaking the vocals. This helps to create that atmospheric worship service sound, but it also puts the vocals under scrutiny. Unfortunately, I felt there were a few places on the album where these simply weren’t as strong as they could be, especially with the male cleans. This isn’t to say that Josh Connell is a poor singer. Far from it. In fact, his voice is the lead on the album for good reason. However, his vocals did became a little strained and warbly in places. Though typical in this genre of music, these imperfections are usually a little more difficult to spot when the vocals are blended into the instrumentation to a higher degree.
That being said, the band can easily explain these “imperfections” behind the purpose of being “raw.” Were these imperfections not present, the album may come across as a little too polished for what it is trying to accomplish and lose the exact feel the band was going for. If you are the type that lives and dies by the numerical score given to an album, these were some considerations that led to the final score. I wrestled between a “3” and a “4” for this album. In the end, I felt that IVM’s definition of a “3” best fit. This album is solid and pretty well in line with what its surrounding genre produces.
New Foundation handily earns the title of “Raw worship.” It easily fits in the genre of “spirit filled hardcore,” though the balance is a tipped slightly more towards worship than hardcore. It is also undeniable that this album represents spiritual warfare. So, as I said at the top. Normandy really best describes themselves. The band brings a message that is much needed in our world. So often we forget that there is an enemy, and the Bible is clear that we exist in a world at war. Even when we cannot see the warfare around us, we are being oppressed by spiritual forces and principalities. Normandy not only reminds us of this fact, they pray against the enemy through music. For all that, the band should be commended.
In order to keep the overall review manageable, I’ll highlight just a few key tracks. Let’s start with “All We Need.” This song begins with some nice finger picking on the guitar and a great example of how the male cleans, female cleans, and screaming can be used effectively together. Though the three flirt with becoming cacophonous briefly at points, the blending of the three is sublime and used in a way that worship becomes the central message for all three elements. The message of the track is that all we need is truly the faith of a mustard seed.
“Uncharted Seas” is another excellent example of what “raw worship” should truly be. The track opens with a sonnet of guitars and drums. It is peaceful with just a hint of the heaviness required to keep it “hardcore.” It’s almost like being adrift on a peaceful ocean with the occasional waves rocking the small makeshift boat separating you from the waters below. And this is the exact atmosphere I get from the vocalization, as well. As with “All I Need,” this track stands out as one of the best examples of the three vocal styles coming together in a powerful way. Also as before, the message of the track is impactful and deep. Aside from the imagery of Jesus being our anchor and source of strength, the band gives this jewel; “Until you lose sight of the shore. You will not see new oceans.” Very deep. Very inspiring.
Another powerful track is “All I know.” From the atmospheric soundscapes to the hauntingly beautiful female vocals, this track vaguely reminded me of some of Evanescence’s early work. “All I know” is a great example of the power the band has in skilled guitar work, drums, and female lead vocals. This track certainly made me wish Alyssa Bostick was given the chance to front a few more songs on the album.
The album ends with “Breaking of a Heart.” In terms of a perfect fit, this song seems the perfect altar call inducing end to a half hour (or so) of leading the listener before the throne of the crucified King. The message of the song is that Jesus’ heart breaks for the outsider. The message is meant to draw you into that moment of reflection where you admit that you are that outsider, and bring you before the cross. It is very effective in this. As I mentioned above, it would be impossible to miss the evangelistic spirit-filled fire Normandy unleashes across the entirety of New Foundation.
Overall: Normandy hits the scene with raw and passionate worship set to a unique blend of spirit-filled hardcore. Where most bands in the genre settle for male cleans and a male screamer, Normandy ups the ante by adding female clean vocals to the mix. Each track on the album is Christ focused and worshipful in nature. Though there seem to be a few issues in terms of mixing and the overall “rawness” of the male clean vocals, tampering with these very areas may run against the sound the band is shooting for in the first place.
At the end of it all, fans of Sleeping Giant, Showbread, and The Great Commission will find a new home in Normandy’s open arms. Fans of Children 18:3 who always wished the band amped the heaviness up a little will also embrace the band. However, those who feel that the terms “raw” or “spirit-filled” come with a little too much baggage will likely not embrace this new take on what “heavy worship” can look like.