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Norma Jean: Wrongdoers

Metalcore also-rans race to the front of the pack

It may be harsh to pin Norma Jean as metalcore also-rans, but they always did fall between movements: not as inventive as Botch or Converge, and lacking KSE’s huge choruses. Although 2010’s Meridional raised a few eyebrows by dipping its toe into post-rock Isis/ Pelican waters, only their most committed fans will be giddy at news of a new album.

So, especially considering 60 per cent of the band are new members appearing on a studio recording for the first time, who’d have predicted such a triumphant return? Wrongdoers is a stunning record. Hive Minds opens with six minutes of slow-building, feedback-drenched sludge, and rather than pulling from the usual Gothenburg influences they bring to mind a more brutal version of Helmet’s tar-thick, groove-based riffing.

Though it’s crammed with huge guitars like a poker-faced ETID, best exhibited on the pummelling Triffids, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. From the minute-long pure punk burst of The Lash That Whistled Like A Singing Wind to the 15-minute experimental noise drone of closer Sun Dies, Blood Moon, Norma Jean have made an album of rare depth and dynamism. Frankly Wrongdoers is doing plenty right.

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.