Norma Jean: Meridional

After four albums of not being able to pick a style, Norma Jean settle for using a little bit of everything, and it works surprisingly well.

Norma Jean


Label: Razor & Tie
US Release Date: 2010-07-13
UK Release Date: 2010-07-12
Label website
Artist website

To say that Norma Jean's career has been inconsistent would be an understatement, at the least. In the space of four albums, the Christian metal quintet from Georgia has played progressive technical metal (Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child), spastic mathcore a-la-Dillinger Escape Plan (O God, the Aftermath), melodic metalcore (Redeemer), and whiny, subpar post-hardcore (The Anti Mother). Fans of the band are firmly divided because of that inconsistency, unable to find common ground between the first pair of albums and the second pair. The only way that the band could hope to bridge the divide would be to release an album that musically walked the line between the two extremes of their sound, because releasing another album with a completely different sound would decimate the fanbase even further. Luckily, the band's newest effort, Meridional, manages to balance the band's technical and melodic sides into an album that has something for everybody.

The most noticeable and welcome change from The Anti Mother is that Cory Brandan Putman has returned to his vocal style from Redeemer, using screams and clean singing in mostly equal measure over the course of the album. This is a relief for most fans, since many critics and fans vilified The Anti Mother for its overuse of his clean singing, limiting the album in many ways. The decrease in clean singing is accompanied by an increase in technicality and overall heaviness on the album. Both "The Anthem of the Angry Brides" and "Blood Burner" recall the intensity of O God, the Aftermath in their structure and style, with buzzsaw guitar riffs and complex drum patterns changing throughout both songs.

However, fans of the melodic side of Norma Jean will find equal enjoyment in the album's softer songs. There are a number of songs that use lots of clean singing and slower, atmospheric guitar riffs that slowly draw listeners in before hitting a big climax seemingly out of nowhere. "High Noise Low Output" and "Falling from the Sky: Day Seven" do this back-to-back through different means, with the latter accomplishing it in almost twice as much time as the former. This is another positive part of this album: the songs vary in length, similar to Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child. Thus, rather than stagnating halfway through with similarly-structured songs like The Anti Mother, Meridional keeps listeners on their toes and engaged from start to finish with its variety.

This album may not turn into an instant fan favorite due to its blend of styles, but it is undoubtedly the best album of their career because of this. After Bless the Martyr, the band seemed to adopt a one-dimensional mentality that changed from one album to the next. It's only here, four albums later, that Norma Jean shows the kind of diversity and experimentation that attracted so many people to them in the first place. Meridional is a return to form, or rather forms, that re-establishes Norma Jean as one of the better Christian metal bands in today's scene.





12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.


Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."


David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.


On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.


Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.


Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.


Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."


How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.