“The Noise Ain’t Noise Anymore” (thoughts on Norma Jean)

NJ_01Norma Jean is a metalcore band that has been around since 1997.  They are pioneers in their genre and definitely a respected name.  Kevin White, one of our contributors, decided to write a piece about what the band means to him.  You can see what he has to say below.

Imagine, for a second, if feedback were to enter your life as a form of canvas. A constant low trill, at first, then as time continues, it builds ceremoniously, latching onto you, not caring if it was what you wanted or even needed. But, even though it is blaring, you accept it. Eventually, the more it digs into your mind, the more it takes post in your thoughts, it’s as graceful as it is peaceful. But it’s not easy. You hear screaming and yelling, you hear the beat of several drums that bare teeth and draw blood. You can’t quite make out the words. But you know it is helping you breathe easier. You know it is helping you decipher the lost, dark things that you inhabit. You know, that even though another band might make you feel happier, that this band makes you feel okay to give way to the negative. This is what Norma Jean can do, if you let it.

The Georgia-based metalcore duo went through several lineup changes in their lifespan, but Wrongdoers, their latest album, is a display of a band at the top of their game. Released in 2013, they create an image that not totally abandons their beginnings, but at times pay homage to it. Shedding the death growling that previous vocalist Josh Scogin supplied to the music, new vocalist Cory Brandan Putnam can bellow with the best of them, but lends a slight subduedness to the lyrics, going easily from whispering to full blown howling. When you can hear it right, that is – over tornados of seamless guitarwork, over pounding layers of drums. The actual music behind the walls of noise is not one to be taken lightly. We are given, as mentioned previously, a canvas – and the men behind such a body of work certainly utilize every inch of it, with no moments of letting up.

This isn’t to say that the songwriting is average – several lines throughout Wrongdoers invoke hard, testy feelings about the subjects you would expect from metalcore groups – love, anger, disappointment, hate, but also bouts of paranoia and swirls of sadness. In Hive Minds, the opener, Putnam exclaims through the thunderous end: “They always do/they come for me too/gravity may not be a law/but all things will find ground.” In Sword In Mouth, Fire Eyes, at one point Putnam croons “I was only waiting before the calm before the storm” – a simple line, maybe, but with the emotion attached, you can see that he believes it. In maybe his finest moment on the album, in Funeral Singer, we receive a bruised, heartfelt confession about Putnam’s possible inspiration for the song, a plea to either one he loves or once loved: “The only people that exist are you and I.” Unfortunately for him, we are here, listening to it, and we are glad we exist.

Some might decry metalcore and its subdivisions – sludge metal, noise metal, whatever the nomenclature of the week is these days – but those who do miss out on more than just music and emotion. They miss a noise that eclipses above most outside intrusions. They miss out on what it might do. Certainly, there are times that you may not be in the mood to hear such clamor, or that you can’t get past the detached, uneasy vocals – but ask yourself for a second: what harm would embracing it really be? What any harm would it be if you were turn this up as roaring as possible and getting totally immersed in someone who might actually understand you and what you’re fighting with? Wrongdoers is fortunately an album that is a tame enough intro to the genre, but turbulent enough to appease hardcore fans. If you still have doubts, take a chance. Maybe riding with the wave is better than denying it.

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