The Chariot & Norma Jean

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Everything Is Alive (2004), 6/10
The Fiancee (2007), 6/10
Wars And Rumors Of Wars (2009), 6/10
Long Live (2010), 6.5/10
One Wing (2012), 6.5/10
Norma Jean: Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child (2002), 6.5/10
Norma Jean: O'God The Aftermath (2005), 4/10
Norma Jean: Redeemer (2006), 5/10
Norma Jean: The Anti Mother (2008), 6/10
Norma Jean: Meridional (2010), 5/10
Norma Jean: Wrongdoers (2013), 6/10
Norma Jean: Polar Similar (2016), 5/10
Norma Jean: All Hail (2019), 4.5/10

Atlanta's Norma Jean were among the main bands of Christian metalcore. Screaming maniac Josh Scogin sang on the unrelenting and crushing Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child (Solid State, 2002), containing their apocalyptic anthem Memphis Will Be Laid to Waste, and the 16-minute Pretty Soon I Don't Know What But Something Is Going to Happen, one of the most visceral, chaotic and cerebral examples of mathcore. The album is clearly inspired by the classics of mathcore, namely Botch's We Are the Romans (1999), Dillinger Escape Plan's Calculating Infinity (1999) and Converge's Jane Doe (2001), but that manic and tormented excursion stands out. Scogin was replaced by Cory Brandan for the tidier (everything is relative) O'God The Aftermath (Tooth & Nail, 2005), whose ten-minute Disconnecktie - The Faithful Vampire fails to match the derailed grandeur of the debut album. The sound was further normalized on the mediocre Redeemer (Century Media, 2006), full of more or less regular three-minute songs. On the other hand, The Anti Mother (Solid State, 2008), displayed a broader range of styles, from the classic metalcore of Birth of The Anti Mother to the post-rock dynamics of the nine-minute And There Will Be a Swarm of Hornets, and featured sensational vocals by guests (the Deftones' Chino Moreno in Surrender Your Sons, Helmet's Page Hamilton in Opposite of Left and Wrong).

Meanwhile, the Chariot, fronted by Josh Scogin, played explosive hyperkinetic hardcore on Everything Is Alive, Everything Is Breathing, Nothing Is Dead And Nothing Is Bleeding (2004), The Fiancee (2007), and Wars And Rumors Of Wars (2009), later collected on the triple-disc career retrospective Before There Was.

An artistic peak of sorts was reached by Chariot on the feedback-drenched Long Live (2010) among the visceral intermittently breathless The Audience, the pure folly of Calvin Makenize, the machine-gun frenzy of The City (although it ends with a choir worthy of a pub song), the menacing sci-fi overtones of The Earth, the multi-part David De La Hoz, that begins like a deranged sermon and ends like celestial new-age music, the feverish metal riff of Robert Rios, and especially the theatrical Spanish-tinged fanfare of The King.

Chariot then turned to atmospheric experiments on One Wing (2012).

Meanwhile, Norma Jean coined a melodic form of metalcore on Meridional (Razor & Tie, 2010). Then guitarist Chris Day, the last remaining founding member, rebuilt the line-up behind vocalist Cory Brandan with second guitarist Jeff Hickey and the rhythm section of bassist John Finnegan and drummer Clayton Holyoak for Wrongdoers (Razor & Tie, 2013), a polished work that successfully bridged the old and the new Norma Jean: the catchy and almost poppy Sword in Mouth Fire Eyes and Wrongdoers with the blistering and pounding mathcore of If You Got It At Five You Got It At Fifty and The Lash Whistled Like a Singing Wind. The wildly ecletic 14-minute Sun Dies Blood Moon and the metalcore baroque of the seven-minute Hiveminds show how to limit the technical display without sacrificing the prog-metal impulse. Chris Day quit too after this album, replaced by Phillip Farris. At this point Norma Jean were a completely different band from the original one. Polar Similar (2016) tries to copy the same format, but Reaction and 1,000,000 Watts do not match the melodic gems of the predecessor and the eleven-minute The Nexus is far more trivial than Sun Dies Blood Moon, and half of the album is filler. All Hail (2019), produced by Will Putney, sounds like a polished collection of leftovers from the previous album, and even includes a ballad, Anna.

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(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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