“If you pierce the skin and pull back the layers, you inch closer to your essence. Norma Jean invites this level of intimately incisive immersion. An avalanche of jagged sonic hues, off-kilter samples, grunge-drenched guitars, noise rock exorcisms, hardcore screams, and slashed-throat poetry encode the essence of the Georgia band on their ninth full-length offering, Deathrattle Sing For Me [Solid State].”
It’s almost hard to believe that it has been 3 years since the release of Norma Jean’s last album, All Hail. However, due to the pandemic it cut the touring cycle short for the album and despite it being critically praised upon its release it never got it’s true moment in the spotlight that it rightfully deserved. Yet hear we are after those uncertain times with an album that builds on the structure of All Hail and molds its own place.
Deathrattle Sing For Me is nothing short of a masterpiece. While some would argue that Norma Jean’s best album are in the past (O’ God, the Aftermath & Redeemer), I personally believe that the band truly found their stride with Meridional and continued to build upon things ever since both sonically and lyrically.
The album opens with “1994” which is the perfect opener and is an onslaught on the senses when everything punches in at the 1:23 mark. The track also showcases another phenomenal singular line that has come to be a somewhat staple throughout their lyrical content for several years with the line; “Angry songs make me feel worse. Happy songs make me feel like a liar.” This line combined right with the full punch is classic NJ execution at it’s finest.
“Call For The Blood” follow and was the lead single for the album giving the first glimpse of what was to come. Opening with the phrase “Ones and zeroes incoming” it creates a very haunting feeling for the track that transcends throughout the track. “Spearmint Revolt” follows and carries more of the poetic essence of the album with the line “Vampires with our mouth on our own compliment” which hits right before the track rips in to a spine chilling sludgy breakdown.
“Memorial Hoard” starts kind of soft, but kicks things in to high gear around the 1:15 mark which is only the first peak on this roller coaster of a track with a steady ebb and flow that culminates with a bit of a soundscape sample for the last minute of the track. “Aria Obscura” almost sounds like it could have been a track on one of Project 86’s last couple of albums, but knowing that Cory and Matt have been collaborating with [Andrew] Schwab on the newest/last P86 album it’s no surprise to see some potential crossover influence occur.
“Any%” is a fast paced semi punk fueled barn burner that carries some more of the sludgy breakdown goodness that NJ has become known for. “Parallella” is set up as more of a “filler” track between the first and second half of the album, but it fits well and provides a fluid segway between the album’s two halves.
“WWAVVE” ushers in the second half of the album with a solid dose riffage that stands out right in the middle of the album. “A Killing Word” has some of the most unique and diverse instrumentation when it starts and then kicks the door in and continues to assault the senses sonically. This is the track that is going to find it’s full life and potential in the live setting and is sure to become a crowd favorite. It is also one of, if not the strongest track on the whole album.
“Penny Margs” is a unique “slow” track toward the end of the album that sets a solid ambiance in its first half (it is almost 6 minutes in length) with the second half bringing everything together in a grand fashion that could have made for a solid closer on the album. However, it’s just a teaser for the final act. “el-roi” is another “filler” of sorts, but that doesn’t make it unnecessary as it serves a solid purpose to set up the last two tracks on the album.
“Sleep Explosion” (the current single) delivers a quick punch and continues throughout and then culminates at the 1:40 mark as the sludgy breakdown hits while Cory screams; “24 hours and a new beginning!” The album draws to a close with “Heartache” which is an 8 minute opus that seems almost timeless within its structured composition. It is one of the most beautifully crafted tracks that NJ has ever put out and holds one of the best lines on the album in; “This world was never meant for me or I was never meant for it.”
Deathrattle Sing For Me is a remarkable piece of work from start to finish and is sure to be on several AOTY lists in some capacity if not sitting (rightfully) at the top.
Deathrattle Sing For Me drops August 12 via Solid State Records and will be available on all major streaming platforms. Physical copies can be purchased here.
Norma Jean is currently on tour. Check their dates here.