Courtesy: Solid State Records
Metalcore outfit Norma Jean officially returned in October with its latest album All Hail. The band’s eighth full-length studio recording, it came more than three years after the release of the band’s seventh album, Polar Similar. The band’s latest offering, All Hail is a record whose musical and lyrical content together make for a presentation that will grow on audiences with each listen. That ability to grow on listeners means it has considerable staying power, and in turn proves a successful new offering from the Georgia-based band. One of the most notable entries featured in the record’s 45-minute run time comes late in its run in the form of ‘/with_errors.’ It is just one of the songs that exhibits the album’s strength. ‘Anna,’ which comes even later in the 14-song record’s run is another clear example of the album’s strength. It will be addressed a little later. ‘Safety Last’ is yet another example of how the album’s songs serve to give the record a certain longevity among listeners and will also be addressed later. When this song is considered along with the other two songs noted here and the likes of ‘If [Loss] Then [Leader],’ ‘Landslide Defeater,’ the album’s brief but still blistering opener ‘Orphan Twin,’ and the rest of its works, the end result is a work that is one of Norma Jean’s best albums to date.
Norma Jean’s latest full-length studio recording All Hail is a work that is certain to resonate with metalcore fans and with the band’s longtime fans. That is proven throughout the course of the 14-song record in a variety of ways. ‘/with_errors,’ which comes late in the record, is just one of the works that serves to show that appeal. The song’s musical arrangement immediately presents a clear influence from Tool. Yes, it seems odd, a “dark progressive rock” band influencing a metalcore outfit, but it is there, and it works. This is obvious through front man Corey Brandan’s vocal delivery and through the work of guitarist Grayson Stewart. Brandan’s ability to couple that influence with his own delivery style makes for a hybrid that stands solidly on its own merits here. Drummer Ryan Leger’s choice of cymbals and drums works with his work in general to add even more punch to that very Tool-esque sound. What is most interesting here is that while the song’s musical arrangement very clearly exhibits an influence from Tool, the band still creates an identity all its own for the song, thus ensuring the song’s originality. That unique musical presentation is just one part of what makes the song stand out. Its lyrical content adds to its interest.
Brandan sings in the song’s lead verse, “No need for dirt/I’m already still/I outweigh the orbit/I’ve never been around the sun/Always beside it/The burn is a reaction/Repeat the strokes that will bring the water to my neck/The tears over my head/The conflict is an illusion/Just get as close to the reflection/Eyes into the fractured glass/The bounce back/The cross over/Over.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “Break bread with the ally adversary/Backwards and forwards/Blinded by the shadows below/All of you and everything/And it’s never-ending/It never started anyway.” He adds in the song’s final verse, “Truth will be the first prey amid the raid/And you’ll see the smoke before you feel the flames/You’re an enemy of speech/Your legacy is a furnace spawning generations of hell.” There is a lot of metaphorical language here. What it amounts to is what seems to be a commentary of sorts. That is inferred with the mention of looking into the “fractured glass” and “the bounceback” over.” The statement about breaking bread “with the ally adversary” hints at making friends of enemies. Again this is all the interpretation of this critic and should not be taken as gospel. This interpretation could very easily be completely incorrect. The added mention in the song’s third and final verse that ‘the truth will be the first prey amid the raid/And you’ll see the smoke before you feel the flames” comes across as an addition to the initial statement about what has happened. Once again, this is all this critic’s interpretation, but the whole seems to come across as a statement encouraging people to not let their biases separate them despite everything going on around them. Whether this is correct, the fact that so much metaphor leaves wide open, room for dialogue on the topic adds to the song’s impact on the album’s whole, proving that much more, its importance to the record’s presentation. It is just one of the songs that serves to show why All Hail has such staying power. ‘Anna,’ which comes even in the album, does its own part to put the album’s strength on display.
‘Anna’ presents a unique musical arrangement that holds its own against its counterparts in this record, and proves itself just as strong as those works in the process. That is thanks to Stewart’s heavy, plodding guitar line, Brandan’s powerhouse vocals and John Finnegan’s bass work. While the song is a metalcore composition at its core, one could just as easily argue that there is a certain heavy, doom sound exhibited here, too. The combination of those elements makes the song in whole a powerful melodic hard rock song that stands out on its own positive merits. That heavy composition is just one part of what makes the song so notable. The song’s lyrical theme offers listeners plenty of interest, too.
The song’s lyrical content comes across as a work about a really bad breakup. Of course again, that could be completely out of the proverbial ballpark. The manner in which the lyrics are presented do lead to that interpretation, though. Brandan sings in the song’s lead verse, “Haven’t seen a word in a span of days/Listen for the slow and steady hum/Saying you’re everything to everything you’re saying/It’s not the answer you devoured/Or the quest to find the question/Just the sound that came before the first step and never turned around again/I don’t want to freeze inside/I fell in love with the burn out here/But a little on the lighter side/I’m here alone and you don’t ask why.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “Write it down, Anna/Can you hear me now/Autograph and send it through the air/Say you’re everything because you’re everything I’m not/The knife won’t cut the rope tied to me/It breaks and frays to nothing/Comfort sorrow and you’ll hold that weapon by the jagged blade.” This in itself seems to hint at something having to do with personal relationships. Things take an interesting turn in the song’s third and final verse, as he sings, “Caught between a dream and a dream/I pulled at the seams/We’re always between trading the dawn for dusk/Exchanging rot for rust/I’ll testify with a torch/Burning black from the mouth/Of a night-stained sky/I’ll stand in the sun/I’ll stand in the sun/Cutting shapes into shade/You can hold the hilt/I’ll be the blade/You’re the reason/You’re the sound that lights the way/before the first step that never turned around again.” There is a lot of heavy emotion here and by connection, heavy thought. Regardless of whether this cong centers on the all-too-familiar element of broken relationships or something else, the fact of the matter is that it is certain to generate plenty of its own among listeners, along with the song’s musical arrangement. The discussion generated through the two elements together makes the song that much more important an addition to the album. It still is not the last of the album’s most notable additions. ‘Safety Last,’ which comes early in the album’s run, is another key entry to the album.
‘Safety Last’ presents a musical arrangement that couples the band’s familiar metalcore sound with a distinct djent element. The complimenting of the two elements, with the down-tuned guitars and screaming vocals makes this song’s arrangement a work that stands out if only for its fiery musical content. Of course its musical content is not its only content. It also boasts its own thought (and discussion) provoking lyrical content.
Brandan sings (screams) in the song’s lead verse, “I’ll burn every bridge in the world/I am the wreck that you’ve been waiting for/The dream is real/The nightmare is fictional real/I’m telling you I’ve seen the serpent lose/A rush of poison from the fangs/Snap its tail/Fall into the lake and take a breath/Pull the root from the interlacing vines/Then end swims away to added end/I swear to God/The price to pay/The price you’ll pay/I’ll burn every bridge in the world/’Cause I never want to cross them again.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “I am infinitely bankrupt again/Aid to ruin is even more ruin/Rush in/Be the savior to us all/I’ll believe every damned word/Just take a moment here and introduce yourself/No, no truly/Can you introduce yourself/Loveless/Take a moment/Introduce yourself/Desperate life/Every damned word/So pray for this.” Again, there is much metaphorical speak here that will certainly lead to lots of discussion among audiences. The story’s song comes across here as someone reaching a certain point in his or her life where things are not at their best and that person is just desperate to find some meaning and direction. Once more, this is only this critic’s interpretation and should not be taken as the only interpretation. Keeping that in mind, the possible meaning behind these lyrics, coupled with the song’s fiery musical arrangement makes the song in whole, yet another very powerful addition to the album. When it is considered along with ‘/with-errors,’ ‘Anna’ and the other songs noted here, the end result is another record from Norma Jean that audiences will salute. Yes, that awful pun was intended.
Norma Jean’s eighth full-length studio recording All Hail is a powerful new entry from the veteran metalcore outfit that shows despite numerous label and lineup changes, the band is still as strong today as it was years ago in its inception. That is proven through all three of the songs noted here and the rest of the album’s offerings. All things considered, they make All Hail a work that will appeal easily to metalcore fans and those most devoted fans of Norma Jean. More information on All Hail is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news at:
To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.