Kevin Richard White is the editor of Viewfinder Literary Magazine, an online writing compilation site, and he leant his literary talent to us this week with his review of legendary Atlanta rock band Norma Jean‘s new album “Polar Similar.” You can check out his review of the album below.
i hope you burn – thoughts on “polar similar” by norma jean
kevin richard white
No grandiose prose, no epic backstory, no twirling and twisting words after words after words to describe what noise and heaven and love and metal and chaos are like. We all know. Norma Jean knows, too, and that’s why they just supplied us with their greatest album yet. High praise, after landmark albums such as Bless The Child And Kiss The Martyr and O God, The Aftermath? You could argue that. But what you can’t argue, starting now, is the mark that Polar Similar just left on both us and the band itself.
Dropping their seventh album on us like a bomb, the Douglasville, Georgia group have done it once more. They hit us with one straight gutshot after another of pure bile, sonic destruction, and of course, beautiful poetry intermingled with unapologetic guitar work. Polar Similar leaves off where its predecessor Wrongdoers did – Cory Brandan Putnam (again, and a point that needs to be shared throughout the world – one of the best vocalists of the genre) slinks and blasts and croons and God knows what else through these thirteen songs, choosing to yowl about whatever the hell he wants to. Backed up by a troupe of musicians who continue to push the envelope musically, we are given another seminal document into this universe that Norma Jean thankfully keeps giving us.
The album, broken up by four interludes (a tradition that started somewhat with Meridional and kept going), have no real connection to one another, except for experimental purposes, and is of course completely fine, since they work well with the album’s mood (the second interlude, titled “II. The People” seems to be someone toying with some kind of device that is creating a creepy song on top of the already droning background noise). But what’s in between the interludes – that’s the real heart and meat of this record. Thrashers like “Everyone Talking Over Everyone Else”, “Death Is A Living Partner” and “Synthetic Sun” arrive like some manic battalion, attacking hard and giving you no option to breathe or slow it down. “Reaction”, probably the best song on the album, showcases Putnam’s talents wonderfully, his range of emotions shaking us completely over its six minute length. This of course doesn’t mean every song on the album is perfect – “A Thousand Years A Minute” is by far the weakest – but it finishes up excellently with the fourth and final interlude, “IV. The Nexus”. Norma Jean have gotten into the habit of finishing their records with some form of sprawling car-crash epic and this one is no different, ending with some static and almost David Lynchian dialogue that this reviewer won’t spoil for you.
Norma Jean continues to fly under the radar, it seems, and that might be okay with them, since it obviously isn’t affecting their musical approach or mission statement. Polar Similar is a lot of things after first and second listen – anger, sure, but something deeper lies through the screams and the blood. There’s truth to it. Somewhere, under the bottom of it all, once the surface is scratched through enough, there’s a band with passion. They’re not out to take a backseat to anyone. They’re making a name for themselves with every passing song. There’s one of two things you can do with that kind of noise – you can either accept it and embrace the fact that this is a band to contend with, or you could deny it and be wrong. You might as well take the former there.