If you were at all cognizant of the music that was being created in the early 2000’s, then you may be aware that it was a cataclysmic time. For music and for culture alike.
In all the best ways.
Post Refused punk and heavy metal or hardcore bands now had the opportunity to do whatever they wanted in an all new way. The gates were open even wider, and labels and pigeonholes were virtually becoming non-existent. Heavy, energetic music could take any shape it wanted, could express any emotion, and could break any barrier.
Now, thanks to a young, energetic and passionate dude named Josh Scogin, a little metal band was formed and they went by the name Luti-Kriss. In 2001 they released one album, Throwing Myself.
Then, a whole bunch of stuff happened, and Luti-Kriss became Norma Jean!
Norma Jean wrote and released one of the most brutal and jolting metal albums of that era; Bless The Martyr and Kiss The Child. It was 2002. The first time I heard it, I literally thought it was the best thing I’d ever heard!
It was jaw dropping. Ferocious and heavy, light, and compelling and oh so addicting. It was maybe even better or as good than what was coming from similar legends such as Converge or Botch.
Then, shortly after that stint, Josh Scogin left Norma Jean to form his new animal of insanity, The Chariot.
So, this new intensity that Bless The Martyr and Kiss The Child started couldn’t just die, right?
Well, thank God for Cory Brandan! After a couple other fill-ins, he took over the frontman role for Norma Jean and has ruled it ever since!
He may have been a new name in the game when Norma Jean dropped the metal bomb on the world known as O God, the Aftermath in the year 2005, but that rather quickly faded as his fresh style of raw and dirty gut screams and low end range (totally different and unique voice) singing morphed Norma Jean into a new force to be reckoned with!
The metal world was starting to pay attention to these southern boys who were obviously writing and performing some of the most original and compelling hard music of the times.
Through 2006 to 2013, Norma Jean gave us four other records that rattled our bones and challenged our thoughts.
Redeemer – 2006
The Anti Mother – 2008
Meridional – 2010
Wrongdoers – 2013
These albums absolutely kill and give life, all in the same breath. They are each excellent works of art, and are full of amazing moments of memorable and important songs.
Now, Norma Jean has released a barn burner in the truest sense of the phrase. Brace yourself and your emotions for Polar Similar, their 7th full length album that will literally kill you with how frenetically awesome it is!
Norma Jean have always been masters at creating songs that challenge your senses, but captivate you and capture your rage and your love all at the same time.
Polar Similar is absolutely no exception to that, and I think that it may even be their finest work.
The nail biting opener “I. The Planet” crawls into your skin and sets the traps for more ferocious parasites to be unleashed as this beast grows inside your guts! The riffage is so intense and when Brandan screams “I HOPE YOU BUUURRNNN!!!” … um, you kinda get the idea that you are in for a ride. This song rips! His drowning vocals only add to the sorrowful emotion of the song, and the sheer power of it just makes you even more dedicated to this band.
“Everyone Talking Over Everyone Else” is very stylish and cohesive. It has dark and sharp riffs and the drumming from Clayton “Goose” Holyoak is loud and superb! It is a great choice for a single, and the music video for it is pretty sick!
“Forever Hurtling Towards Andromeda” is fast and mean, and there is a sharp crunch riff that Norma Jean pull off so well. You will get killed if you’re caught in the pit with this one being blasted at their live show! Holy crap!
“1,000,000 Watts” starts off with a nice head bopping groove. Brandan’s vocals are smooth and turn fierce as the verse picks up; time signature changes aplenty, but they are again masters at seamlessly grooving in between the changes! Guitarists Jeff Hickey and Phillip Farris duel out the riffage on this one in beautiful tandem, and the result is mind blowing! Such a ripper, especially in the last two minutes of this fist pumper!
“II. The People” is an interlude that is so cool and haunting, same as “III. The Nebula.”
I gotta say it: even at 40 years of age, frontman Cory Brandan is killing it!
On “Synthetic Sun” we are given a very clean production, and an almost uncharacteristic tone for Norma Jean, but the song definitely stays true to the title and the theme of Polar Similar. Maybe it is just an ode to the fact they recorded in the same place In Utero was birthed…? The song itself is so good and thick with parts you can sink your teeth into. The bridge has a spoken part which gets the point across, and adds so much depth.
The beginning to “Reaction” will make all the hair on your body rise up! It has a new school hardcore vibe that just pulses, and the vocals being mostly sung are honestly so dang good! Brandan has hit a stride here that is so impressive and unique, and this performance sets them apart from so many other bands and records of similar style.
“The Close And Discontent” has this growing opener riff that just exudes raw dirty goodness, and as it speeds up and gets angrier it gets even better! More great screamed vocals and electric instrumentation that will keep you coming back for lots more.
When you get to “An Ocean Of War” you will be exhausted from all the heaviness that you just waded through. Don’t get discouraged though!
Despite the over arching metal and hardcore on Polar Similar, it is cleverly diverse enough to please your ears! Not like a pop album (this record kills and buries pop!), but kind of like a 13 course meal that is centered around red meat, potatoes and grandma’s dry grits, chased down by a few shots of backwoods moonshine!
“A Thousand Years A Minute” sets the forest ablaze all over again! The heavy continues and the emotion gets even deeper. You can’t get a better closer to a hardcore or metalcore record than a song that just rips the chunky riffs and delivers a mouthful of melody that still leaves a raw but sweet taste on the tongue.
“IV. The Nexus” will kill you if you are not prepared.
The lyrics on Polar Similar are obviously full of raw emotion and deep thoughts.
I encourage you to become familiar with them because there is a lot to digest. Cory Brandan has a lot to say and he is worth listening to. As for the music that brings his lyrics to life: WOW! Norma Jean has gone above and beyond any of their previous records by far; and that is really saying something because they are all exceptional works of art!
Polar Similar is truly a great experience to give yourself. It has lows and highs and speed and depth, and all the parts that put together a very cohesive and epic record. Honestly, very well done Norma Jean! I am left speechless and in awe of the power of these songs and the raw honesty in the music and lyrics is very well received. I hope that many catch on; the haters will hate but will be wrong. Those who love will now love even more!
Rating: 5/5 – For this raging beast of love and anger!
This Canadian grew up in the great state of Montana, so naturally punk and hardcore music served as a proper soundtrack to his early life. Now living in the arctic tundra he enjoys vinyl collecting, bearding, Canadian brew and long walks on the beach he makes up in his mind.