Norma Jean really needs no introduction. Anyone familiar with heavy music has seen Norma Jean dominating and expanding the world of chaotic metalcore for the better part of a decade and a half.
Polar Similar is the band’s seventh album, returning to Solid State Records after releasing Meridional and Wrongdoers with Razor & Tie.
With each release, the almighty Norma Jean has managed to push the envelope, continually honing their sound. That crushing tone, signature style, and distinctive vocals make Polar Similar instantly recognizable as NJ. This record has some of the band’s most technical playing, and they continue to hurtle in the same direction that 2013’s Wrongdoers was headed in. I didn’t think it would be possible to top Wrongdoers – but these masters of the game have found a way.
If you thought Wrongdoers blew minds – Polar Similar will leave grey matter on the wallpaper.
Throughout the record there is a four part concept:
“I. The Planet” is a blistering opening to the album, and we’re reassured of all the intensity that we expect from NJ – and then some. It also intros some of the themes prevalent on the record: “I hope you burn/ I’ll be the king of the ashes/ What you’re feeling is the loneliness of God.”
“II. The People” is a spacey ambient interlude with a series of tones and a woman’s voice on a recording.
“III: The Nebula” is a fuzzed out Southern rock instrumental that could almost be a B-side from Neil Young’s Le Noise.
“IV: The Nexus” is an almost eleven minute epic and a killer way to close out the album.
The lyrics, almost wholly written by vocalist Corey Brandan, involve living life, death, and relationships, mixed with space themes, instrumental, tornado alerts and other samples. Along with the progressive nature of the fierce instrumentation, Polar Similar is one of the most engaging albums of the year.
The songwriting is dynamic: molding various styles and influences into one combustible rock n’ roll package. Listening to “An Ocean of War” just makes me want to go destroy a drum kit right now. “1,000,000 Watts” is a standout track, and it’s hard not to love the serious nod to Nine Inch Nails in its closing seconds. In the same way, the onslaught of “Reaction” winds down with acoustic picking. Norma Jean powers ahead in full fury in tracks like “Synthetic Sun” and “Death is a Living Partner,” but stretches their wings into stoner rock territory in “The Close and Discontent.”
The band puts forth what we may expect from a seasoned Norma Jean – but then bulldozes those walls to bring a cheer from even the most rigid metal fan.
Polar Similar is a must-have for not only Norma Jean fans, but any heavy music listener. Norma Jean proves once again their position as one of the heavyweights of the genre.
Norma Jean obliterates expectations with this in-your-face and explosive record. Polar Similar is highly-charged, unpredictable and easily one of the best heavy albums of 2016.
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