Release Date: August 13, 2002
Reviewed by Andy Schwegler
Norma Jean, the name of a 50’s blonde bombshell or a group of nomadic young men? Well both, but only one is slowly but surely staking a larger piece of the metalcore/hardcore genre pie (sorry Marilyn). With their first release under the moniker of Luti-Kriss (no they didn’t release Word of Mauf), a new name not only relieved confusion but also brought out the best in a genre that is quickly becoming over saturated. Right from the 0:01 mark, Bless the Martyr & Kiss the Child, kicks it into full throttle with a relentless attack only equal to that of their own touring regimen which in 2001 alone consisted of over two hundred shows, something unheard of with the smaller support of an independent label.
While many of Norma Jeans’ counterparts produce albums that lack originality or variety, this is where they are able to shine. They are able to combine the wonderfully off-tune chaos of Converge and Botch; the slow, deep textured chug of Neurosis and Isis; and gritty, in your face screams of Hatebreed. From the absolute raw and chaotic tracks like “the entire world is counting on me, and they don’t even know it” and “face:face” to the slow chugging progression of “Pretty soon, I don’t know what, But something is going to happen” and tracks that seemingly combine both like “Memphis will be laid to waste” and “sometimes it’s our mistakes that make for the greatest ideas”. It is extremely rare to find a disc where every single track has its own unique texture and quality, yet still hold a wonderful overall listen. This produces many surprisingly delightful ups and downs while still maintaining a punishing quality. Surprisingly this album was tough to stomach at first, I found myself changing tracks quickly one after the next. Yet with each listen, all eleven tracks slowly built up their charm until they all were able to stand on their own.
Don’t let the Christian label on the band turn you away from this release; it is without a doubt the best metalcore/hardcore album to be pressed in 2002 with or without the help from above.