Published Oct 25, 2019Norma Jean have been steadily pumping out near-perfect albums of noisy, sludge-oriented metalcore for nearly 20 years and continued evolving all along the way. Though the differences in their sound have become less noticeable between albums as they age and settle into themselves, they've continued evolving and tightening each aspect of their band without any real fumbles.
Listening to the latest record, All Hail, their sound hasn't changed very much since releasing Polar Similar in 2016 (aside from losing guitarist Jeff Hickey) but there are subtle shifts present. Where the last album pushed further into the sludge metal side, compared to the more chaotic sense of Wrongdoers, this album leans a little more into the straight-forward metalcore aspects of the band.
Right from the opening boom of "Orphan Twin" you can tell that Norma Jean are right back in their comfort zone, with airy melodies and cavernous breakdowns. They keep the pace going with "[Mind Over Matter]" and "Safety Last," which are both solid tracks to add to their catalogue, even if they are by-the-numbers noisy metalcore songs.
The band pull together some cool technical riffing on "Landslide Defeater," but nothing quite as frantic as they did a few records ago. Norma Jean succeed much more in melody this time around, with tracks such as "Translational" and "Anna" showing their strength in blending sludge metal with atmospheric clean metalcore riffs.
All Hail is a fantastic record for Norma Jean fans, but it's just too similar (no pun intended) to their last album to really stand out. They manage to bring in a little bit of everything in their repertoire, but the record doesn't make a statement as well as previous releases did, and feels like a release for dedicated fans, as opposed to drawing in new listeners. (Solid State)