Jul 122010

Norma Jean‘s new album, Meridional, will be released tomorrow on the Razor & Tie label. Before listening to my advance copy, I didn’t plan to write about it. For one thing, purely as a matter of personal taste, I’ve only been a moderate fan of the band’s previous releases. For another thing, it was predictable that the album would be the subject of plenty of critical attention from print and web media, and our focus here at NCS tends to be on bands that mostly fly under the radar screen.

Those preconceptions and plans went by the wayside after I listened to Meridional, after I saw the album art, and after I heard and read the lyrics. As a complete artistic creation, Meridional is nothing short of brilliant.

My personal tastes haven’t changed, and Norma Jean hasn’t suddenly vaulted itself into my personal pantheon of extreme metal divinity, but this album is worth the critical attention it has already been getting, and will continue to receive. And whether you’re already a Norma Jean fan or not, it’s music you should hear. It has certainly impressed the shit out of me.

Meridional is a deep, dark, dense listening experience, and it resists any meaningful attempts to summarize or classify. You’ll find experimental, largely instrumental tracks like “Septentrional”, “Occidental”, and “Oriental” that feature moody, borderline-demented collections of electronic noise. And you’ll find barely controlled mathcore freak-outs and injections of hardcore viciousness guaranteed to stir the mosh pits into mayhem. And you’ll hear punishing, sludgy, down-tempo guitar leads along with convulsive thrash riffs and bruising drum fills.

(more after the jump, including a track to hear, and a montage of eye-popping album art . . .) Continue reading »