As both a musician and a fan, it took me a whole album to come to grips with the loss of Norma Jean's frontman Josh Scogin after their debut album. As a result, I didn't hear O God, The Aftermath until after I listened to Redeemer. A major mistake on my part, as I missed a definite transitional phase in the band's sound. Two years since Redeemer, Norma Jean has again lost a founding member. Drummer Daniel Davison, who was a large portion of the band's songwriting force, left the band in 2007, and was later replaced by Chris Raines. Also looming on the horizon is the impending release from their Solid State record contract, which will occur sometime after the release of their fourth, and most diverse album yet, The Anti-Mother.
The record opens with "Vipers, Snakes, and Actors," an appropriately hard, somewhat chaotic tune that you could point at and say, "That's Norma Jean." You might be hard-pressed to do that with many other tracks on this record. The more melodic sections, singing parts and robotic rhythms that appeared on Redeemer as nuances are present on The Anti-Mother, and pull the band musically in a direction that is more rhythmic and melodic than anything they've previously done.
Songs like "Self-Employed Chemist," "Robots 3, Humans 0," and "Murphy Was An Optomist," really showcase a sound that is far more emo and concentrates on the vocals much more so than any riffage or chaotic beats or dissonance like past NJ tunes. Cory's distinctive vocal style really pops on this record, and he takes a lot more liberty with his voice.
It will be interesting to note that the band has a couple of guest writers on The Anti-Mother, notably Deftones frontman Chino Moreno who co-wrote and does vocals for the headknocker "Surrender Your Sons," one of the highlights on the album. Also, they had Page Hamilton of Helmet do the same for another, sadly undisclosed track (My guess is "Opposite Of Left And Wrong," but that's just conjecture).
If you're looking for some serious slam, "Surrender Your Sons," "Vipers et al," and "Death Of The Anti-Mother" definitely provide that "Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste" flavor, which nicely offsets more softly vocalized tunes like "Robots 3, Humans 0," which has great movement throughout, and a very simple and singable chorus. The Anti-Mother is the obvious next step for Norma Jean, and anyone who liked what they heard on Redeemer should dig this record. Stalwart fans of the older "harder" stuff may be a little at a loss at some places, but for the most part, The Anti-Mother packs enough momentum to carry itself through.
At only ten songs, The Anti-Mother is a bit on the short side, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there will probably be some songs released as exclusives on iTunes or something like that (or perhaps a later expanded re-release). One possible exclusive release is the other song the band did with Chino Moreno that didn't make it to the final track listing... so here's to hoping.- Review date: 8/4/08, written by Sean Lex
Record Label: Solid State Records
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