Norma Jean

O’ God, The Aftermath

[4] As ambitiously progressive and noisy as Norma Jean’s last album, 2002’s Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child, was, it sounds like amateur hour next to O’ God, The Aftermath; and though the differences between the two albums have something to do with the darker, more gravelly style of the band’s new vocalist, Cory Brandan, it’s the music that really pushes O’ God ahead of its predecessor. Under the laser-sharp guidance of producer Matt Bayles (Isis, Mastodon), the quintet sound like they’re channeling the ghosts of Botch (a whole lot of Botch, actually) and Coalesce via Pantera through most of the album: Time signatures jerk and convulse; guitar riffs slide off the fretboard and cut against the beat; and Brandan’s vocals-usually fierce, occasionally melodic-beat listeners over the head with lyrics that, while ambiguous and open to interpretation, ultimately lead back to the same God whose presence guides every band on Solid State Records. Fans of Norma Jean’s sloppier early years may bum out over Bayles’ cleaner production style, but whatever: There’s something to be said for progression, especially when it’s this progressive. (SOLID STATE)-Aaron Burgess