Drowned in scorching guitars and excruciating vocals, Christian post-hardcore/metalcore/whatevercore quintet Norma Jean’s The Anti Mother courses through ten songs of pain and torture with the sort of reckless abandon rarely seen in modern music.
Fraught with personal challenges, domestic discord, and line-up changes, the back-story to The Anti Mother reads like a grainy soap opera for the MySpace generation. The original drummer left the band, familial strife peppered band members’ personal lives, and a new producer pushed some oft-forgotten buttons to drive the psychosis to the surface.
With Ross Robinson at the helm of recording, Norma Jean was able to mine the depths in order to turn out lyrics and songs that reflected an intensely personal reality. When other bands are prone to go through the motions in pursuit of a “sound,” Norma Jean’s latest shows a group obsessed with pushing the boundaries.
Vocalist Cory Brandan stretches and abuses his voice to unpleasant and inhuman levels throughout the album, conveying fragments of delicate ache and anger over the band’s vigorous, persuasive crunch. It doesn’t hurt that the band has dispatched a little help on some tracks, either. With Chino Moreno from Deftones making an appearance and Helmet’s Page Hamilton dropping by, The Anti Mother has an epic feel.
The record finds its spiritual centre within the painful and torturous road through domestic friction and life’s pitfalls, providing an engaging narrative that is at times agonizing and at other times heartening. Brandan’s screaming, coerced somewhat by Robinson’s button-pushing, capitulates to the dreadfulness of the last several years and the vocalist is able to find purity in the flames.
The results are astonishing.
Take “Birth of the Anti Mother” for instance. Over the band’s brutal backdrop, Brandan screams about the extreme depths of his fury. “She’s not breathing/Choke that witch out/Suffocate her,” he yells, referencing the tragic failure of a past relationship ensconced in drugs and repulsion.
Chino Moreno’s writing process integrates effortlessly with Norma Jean on “Surrender Your Sons,” a song tinged with palpable Deftones influences. The band refused to simply dispatch the services of other talent, insisting instead to completely engage the vocalist in the writing process. The resulting siege is one of the best songs on the album, coursing with the calm energy of Chino and the band’s frenetic pacing.
The same goes for Page Hamilton of Helmet, as his appearance on “Opposite of Left and Wrong” gives the album it’s most traditional rock tones. The vocal exchanges between Hamilton and Brandan are marvellous, releasing buckets of bloody energy all over the band’s untidy backdrop.
The Anti Mother is severely delicate and ultimately compelling, as producer Robinson’s insistence on leading the Georgia-based band through the dregs of hell results in a killer record. After giving “birth” to the personality of The Anti Mother, the band needs to “slay” the creature as well. “Death of the Anti Mother” is the obvious zenith.
“…Discipline Your Daughters” is a song peppered with vocal gymnastics and alternating paces, making it one of the most engaging cuts on the record. “I promise I’ll be listening and if you ever come back home I’ll be waiting patiently,” Brandan intones.
The Anti Mother does what it sets out to do, revealing a disordered mass of madness underneath a beautiful exterior. The band’s assertion on producing intensely personal, intensely tender music results in one of the most passionate and profoundly hectic post-hardcore/metalcore/whatevercore records of the year.Powered by Sidelines