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.