For a heretofore non-Norma Jean fan, I am very excited. Why, you ask? I'll tell you, say I: Redeemer. The third album by Norma Jean, Redeemer sports new lead vocals and a new sound from a band that previously earned a so-so opinion. First with their debut Bless The Martyr and Kiss The Child, and especially after their fairly weak sophomore effort, O God, The Aftermath.
Redeemer hits mach 1 with "A Grand Scene For A Color Film" and the record's momentum carries it nearly to the end, where it kind of just lets go of you at the edge of oblivion, leaving a long, slow, Thelma-and-Louise-plummet, instead of the sudden vicious halt that you are expecting (hoping for), after the ten tracks that precede it. No ballads, no instrumentals, hardly anything soft or slow for the duration, Redeemer's layered sounds, kerplunk rhythms and grr-eat vocals finally establish the band known for reinventing the wheel. This includes previous albums, for example, the initial Luti-Kriss effort, and the ex-lead singer's grind core band, to name a few. My fear for a great band with a huge fan base like Norma Jean is that they will go the route of many rock numbers: put out a great album, gain a huge following, and then change sounds and lineup for the next album, leaving fans cold. Classic examples of this are Zao, a band with numerous albums and just as many sounds, Mortal Treason, and Living Sacrifice. Great bands with followings that just can't seem to get it together. (Living Sacrifice is probably the most successful of these. But back to Norma Jean…)
Redeemer sports the kind of music we all love: hard, heavy, chaotic, the kind of sounds that make your mum worry about you. Tracks like "Blueprints For Future Homes" and "The End of All Things Will Be Televised" with their non sequitur titles and great rhythms make this record a headbanger's dream. Knock your heads and scream along, is all I can say. It reminded me of great roar-along songs of yore like Pantera's "Walk." Refrains like "Break out the shotguns, we're going to town," "The south is on fire…," "What are you trying to say?" really make you not care if you exceed the speed limit while you're screaming and banging your head.
"The Longest Lasting Statement," a real ripsnorter as they go, is an awesome track with great lyrics, "Improvement is no redemption, and unbelief is no diversion. Drenched in blood, soaked in Grace/ take this body," and is exemplary of Norma Jean's way with words. I highlight tracks one through ten as fabulously hard, layered, and chaotic and the meat of the album. Ergo, one big ham hock of fun. Allow me to clarify, the closer, "No Passenger: No Parasite" is not a disappointment. Being the only slow song on the album, it is good that it is last because it doesn't hinder Redeemer's stride by being in the middle. However, it is so melodic and slow that it takes away all the momentum of the previous ten songs. It's interesting enough, though reminiscent of something AFI may have done on Sing The Sorrow than anything you just heard on Redeemer. Chalk it up to my strong desire to hear nothing but blood curdling shrieks and war drums for 48 minutes if you don't agree. Assessment: Redeemer = good, Waffles = good, Michael Jackson = bad.- Review date: 10/2/06, written by Sean Lex
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