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CD review: NORMA JEAN, Meridional

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By Ben Apatoff

Five records into their career, NORMA JEAN aren't losing any energy. Most metalcore vocalists could learn from CORY BRANDAN's ferocious clean screaming, and there are enough good hooks to distinguish them from today's wave of KILLSWITCH ENGAGE imitators. The music is heavier and the lyrics are more thoughtful than kvltists will give them credit for, but there's still not enough here to suggest that Norma Jean deserve more than their current second stage spot at Mayhem fest.

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Meridonial starts strongly. "Leaderless and Self Enlisted" is armed with an instant scream-along chorus, and "Deathbed Atheist" marries the DEFTONES' emotional droning with haunting, melodic verses. Despite its title, "Anthem of the Angry Brides" is probably the album's best moment, and its almost mathy progression and murderous crescendo show what this band is capable of when they explore their talents. For all of Norma Jean's capabilities, there's not enough variation to carry the entire album. The tones, scales and choruses start to sound interchangeable early on, and two half-assed attempts at experimentation ("Septentrional" and "Occidental") have the same sound effects and token acoustic moments that you've been hearing for years. Norma Jean write better metalcore than most bands, but it is metalcore, and any band that plays metalcore in 2010 had better do more than this to turn heads.

Rating: 2 Mrs. Joe DiMaggios out of 5

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