Norma Jean - Wrongdoers (2013)

When I say Norma Jean, I'm not referring to Marilyn Monroe by her birth name, but the five-piece Christian hardcore/metalcore band from Atlanta, GA. However, like Monroe in 1950s pop culture, most everyone who has listened to this style of music has listened to Norma Jean at least once. With five successful albums, it's difficult to have not stumbled on to at least one of Norma Jean's many songs. Despite various lineup changes during the band's lengthy 16-year lifespan, Norma Jean is back to release its sixth studio album, Wrongdoers, under Razor & Tie Records on August 6.

To begin, the first track, "Hive Minds," is a bit unimpressive. For the most part, it is bland and failed to hold my attention. The vocals and the tempo of this track clash and it results in an ugly mess. Aside from a few entertaining instrumental pieces in "Hive Mind," which included a groovy bass riff, the vast majority of the song is not what I would call a good introduction to Wrongdoers. Luckily, the second track, "If You Got it at Five, You Got it at Fifty," really picks it up with a drastic change in tempo and sound. This track is a huge step up and also a huge relief from the disaster that I had heard before it. This track leans more toward a chaotic hardcore sound that reminds me of bands like The Chariot or Converge. The production and tone of this album is phenomenal, but by the sixth album, I should expect the band to know what it's doing. The drumming is fast paced, superb and fits with the music nicely. The guitars have solid-sounding crunch to them that can get a person's adrenaline racing with just a few strums.

Something new that is introduced to Wrongdoers in the third track, which is titled "Wrongdoers," is clean vocals. Whether this is a merit or demerit is up to discretion of the listener, but the clean vocals sound similar to something that you would hear on any standard rock radio station (ex: Three Days Grace, Theory of a Dead Man). Personally, I think that the clean vocals should be eradicated, but fortunately for anyone that doesn't enjoy them, they are not used on every track. With that being said, I can say that they do add a lot more variety to Wrongdoers. In smaller doses, the clean vocals would have been more tolerable, but in the instances that they are used, they are heavily abused. That brings us to the fifth track, "Sword in Mouth, Fire Eyes." This track is comprised entirely of clean vocals and sounds more like a song on the radio than a song that would come from a hardcore band's album. Luckily, there is only one of these "only clean" tracks on the album.

The tracks following this one return to Norma Jean's original heavy roots and don't utilize the clean vocals. This raw style is Norma Jean's strength and is what the band should really stick with. By the ninth and tenth tracks, titled "Triffids" and "Funeral Singer" respectively, the clean vocals have returned and brought both of these otherwise fantastic songs down a peg. "Funeral Singer" does feature one of the best portions of the album, though, with a melodic guitar riff accompanied by thrashing vocals at the end. The last song, "Sun Dies, Blood Moon," is very much like the introduction song in its format. The slow tempo with a mix of heavy and clean vocals doesn't do it for me. The six-minute looping guitar and drum outro is incredibly annoying as well and it's something that I tend to skip on every listen.

While most of Wrongdoers is a decent album, there are a lot of things that didn't sit well with me. The overuse of clean "radio" vocals, the abrupt endings to many of the songs and the horrors that were the first and last songs were just a few of these things. The songs to listen to are "Potter Has No Hands," "The Lash Whistled Like a Singing Wind" and "Neck in the Hemp." I don't know if Norma Jean has lost its touch, or whether the members are just trying new things, but I hope things can get sorted out before the band's seventh album.

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By Austin Richburg ~ Me Gusta Reviews



  1. I find it a little disturbing that you have a problem whenever Norma Jean uses clean vocals, yet you cite the band as having "five successful albums" - the last of which, Meridional - was its most successful release to date as a result OF the clean vocals on the album. I'd love to see your review of Meridional - a critically acclaimed album. Did you bash the clean vocals on "A Media Friendly Turn for the Worse" or "Falling From The Sky..." ?

    Seriously, go do your homework or go listen to shitty math-metal bands if clean vocals bother you, especially with a band that has used them ever since O God The Aftermath.

  2. I wasn't aware that my opinion regarding the clean vocals determined whether an album was successful or not.

    Also, it sounds like you're assuming that I've liked the clean vocals in their past work (I don't, which is why I never listen to it). I don't think it's a coincidence that the only album I've liked by them was their first one, Bless The Martyr and Kiss The Child. Clean vocals in general don't bother me, just Norma Jean's. I thought that was clear from the review.

  3. If you think BTMKTC is their best album this review is invalid haha

  4. meh, while i disagree with the majority of your review, its all a matter of opinion (personally i love the record, and this is the first slightly-negative review i've come across).. the clean vocals have become an integral part of Norma Jean in recent years (songs like deathbed atheist, robots 3 humans 0). if just their cleans have always bothered you, and your favorite album by them was released over 10 years ago (with one member currently remaining from that record), its easy to deduce the lowish score. now if you were a fan of previous NJ work (aside from Bless the Martyr) it'd be far more interesting to delve into this album and compare its shortcomings to previous releases. if you haven't bothered with their last 4 records, i mean, what were you really expecting here?

  5. To be honest, I wasn't sure what I was expecting with the album. I was hoping for something I would enjoy. I went into the review completely unbiased and wrote what I thought about it. Like you said, it's completely an opinion. You can't expect everyone to like an album and I just gave my criticism.

  6. I'm a huge fan of the band. This album is mediocre at best. With the loss of 75% of the band members (75%!!!) there has also been a loss of quality. Even the album cover is terrible! It looks like a bad rip off of "Collection II" by Misfits ( Also, that pointless fifty second interlude is a sign of them grasping, trying to buffer the record and pad the running time. "Redeemer" already had them at the peak of their Thrice/Deftones esque sound and it worked well. Long Live Josh Scogin, and O' God (although heavily influenced by "We Are The Romans" by Botch) was also a great record. The rank remains:

    #1. Bless The Martyr
    2. O' God
    3. Redeemer
    4. Meridional
    5. Anti-Mother + Wrongdoers in a tie