Wrongdoers is not only in the same class as their O God, The Aftermath, but it is among the most exciting and confounding metalcore records in ages. Out of the past tense perfect and into the future tense undefined, “Hive Minds,” “Wrongdoers,” “Sword In Mouth, Fire Eyes” and “Sun Dies, Blood Moon” will drop jaws and collapse lungs for years to come.
Norma Jean paste a dozen influences together. From the Converge-style chaos to The Black Dahlia Murder’s disrespect for song structure, the band scribbles out an emotionally potent love letter to, well, love. Wrongdoers works within in the now industry-standard framework of 11 tracks to spread dark tender determination across the album. Cory Brandan Putnam sings his heart out this time around, as if he has finally found the words he needs to say.
“Hive Minds” is a nearly seven minute long swell of unfocused noise that sharpens slowly on the back of crunchy guitar riffage and then into a common metalcore workout before shape-shifting into a relentless fever dream that threatens to cause nosebleeds..
“Hive Minds” is only a warm up for the second track “If You Got It at Five, You Got It at Fifty,” which isn’t an ode to an eternal rash, but a frantic disturbance of the peace. Chris Day and Jeff Hickey aim their guitars at Putnam and let loose with the green Ghostbuster lightning bolts, further energizing his vocals while pounding out their otherworldly riffs. It’s a shocking two minute act of rhythm and fury.
After such a violation, the overwhelming title track takes the album into the stratosphere. As gentle as a hand grenade exploding in a paint can, the message in the madness detonates in one’s ears. Goose Holyoak on drums and bassist John Finnegan hammer away at all the nails in the song as Norma Jean raise the new barn and then try to kick it to pieces. Some of the album’s scant clean vocals show up in mid-storm, welding melody into place and propping up the barn like two by tens.
“Sword in the Mouth, Fire Eyes” may not be the best track on Wrongdoers, but it’s the best song. The difference is not the experience, it’s the melody. The weight in the album is felt here. It also becomes obvious that love and mercy are there to carry the armor.
Norma Jean distill everything into the final as well as the best track of Wrongdoers, “Sun Dies, Blood Moon.” Now the experience is essential in this 14 minute journey. Loud and soft, ragged and righteous, strung out with feedback and hypnotic as a siren in the night, it travels a fast road into the resurrection of a band that helped create the basic genre behind this glorious album.
(released August 6, 2013 on Razor & Tie)