Norma Jean: Redeemer 

I started listening to Norma Jean's Redeemer in a pretty good mood. By the time I was done, I had a massive headache and was ready to take a week-long nap--and that was even with a break in the middle to regroup. This is not an album I'd recommend to anyone, unless you're part of a psychological warfare unit heading to Iraq. Playing this sucker 24/7 for a day or so would weaken anyone's resolve, no matter what the situation.

The funny thing is, somebody spent a lot of money to make this dog hunt. Production values are top-notch, the recording is high-quality and everything about the liner notes bespeaks of loving attention to making a worthy product; hell, even the song titles give the appearance of thought and intelligent consideration. As far as I'm concerned, everything's fine until you actually hit play, and then it's like listening to metal machine music at volume 11, and your speakers out of sync. It actually approaches pain at a couple of points.

That's probably the point. A quick glance over the press kit shows certain adjectives that definitely apply here. Let's see, "Crushing?" Yep, that one fits. "Anguished?" Hell, yes. Ah, a noun. "Bellows?" Yes again. "Intense?" Without a doubt. "Melodic?" Yeah, pull the other one; it's got bells on. The men of Norma Jean seem to view their art as therapy, and that's cool. In this case, however, it seems like they recorded a whole lot of therapy and damn little art.

Anyway, you get the point. If you want something that sounds like the third ring of Hell with guitar accompaniment, buy this disc. Just don't play it around small wildlife; the ecological damage may be costly. If music's more your thing, look elsewhere.

--Brandon Nolta

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