It’s not been easy at times for Douglasville, Georgia residents Norma Jean. Since their 1997 inception they’ve gone through more line-up changes than most, yet despite this, they’ve also released some of the highest quality metalcore albums around. Ninth album Deathrattle Sing For Me keeps that standard going. As made clear with the sprawling and Deftones-influenced lead single Call For The Blood, however, this effort sees Norma Jean enter personally uncharted waters, stepping out of their musical comfort zone in pursuit of progression.
With so much spare time to write a follow-up to 2019’s All Hail for the obvious reasons, Deathrattle… sees the band incorporate over 200 different recording tracks to make up the 13 songs here. These range from the jarring samples that appear at the climax of the crushing break in Spearmint Revolt to the calmer, more serene elements like the sparking electricity and peaceful synth in Memorial Hoard. It’s all via the chunky riffs Norma Jean are so well-known for and the agonised, full-octane screams by vocalist Cory Brandan that make you wonder how he didn’t blow his voice out after every song.
Tellingly though, the band have balanced the album out so as not to alienate what is a rabid and fiercely loyal fanbase; the chaos of their off-kilter time signatures and borderline noise rock movements still reign supreme, but the inclusion of numbers like Parallella does well to avoid a listener burnout from an all-out assault. The vocal hooks are also at their best, from opener 1994’s ‘I think I’m witnessing the end of the world and I like it’ to the closing, eight-minute Heartache, with Cory screaming ‘This world was never meant for me / Or I was never meant for it’. Much like the album itself, it’s pure, anguished poetry.