‘Meridional’, the fifth studio album from Norma Jean, is a musical journey: There isn’t really any other way to put it. It’s also an album that needs to be listened to in it’s entirety as the start and the end of the album do not exactly see eye to eye. But is this necessarily a negative aspect? Well, read on to find out!
The album starts off with ‘Leaderless and Self Enlisted’, a ‘in-your-face’ attack of aggressive guitars and intricate riffage that ends with screaming, intense vocals and a full on musical assault. Subtly mixing in melody that will become more and more apparent as the album progresses with tight songwriting, ‘Leaderless and Self Enlisted’ is perhaps the best way to start off an album that grows and matures with each track.
The production of the album is near impeccable. My only real complaint was that the vocals were just ever so slightly buried in the mix, but minutely so. The vocal harmonies are very neatly mixed. The drums have a sharp attack and the bass drum cuts through the mix at just the right volume. The cymbals could have a slight bit more ‘sparkle’ to them, but otherwise were fine. The guitars are panned to create a thick guitar tone that is articulate yet heavy. The bass is an interesting creature as it shifts subtly from a round, deep tone that holds down the low end to a sharp, almost Motorhead-esque sound that is easily heard at the beginning of ‘The Anthem Of The Angry Brides’. Extra little effects, such as manipulation of the tones of instruments by software methods, add spice and zest to many of the tracks. And yet, the moment where I truly loved the production and engineering of this album was at the end of the penultimate track, ‘Innocent Bystanders United’: The piano is recorded beautifully and the listener can hear the creaks of the pedals and the key lid being closed. These little things add an atmosphere to the album that helps make it stand above other releases.
Two tracks that stood out to me as being especially fun to listen to are ‘A Media Friendly Turn For The Worse’ and ‘Falling From The Sky: Day Seven’. However, the bonus track, ‘Oriental’, seems more like an afterthought that was thrown on for shits and giggles. It doesn’t exactly serve much purpose in connection with the album or as a standalone for that matter. After almost 15 minutes of silence, I don’t feel that it adds anything.
I have to take a second to write about the artwork of the album, as it really is something beautiful to look at. The cover perhaps is a bit too busy but the booklet has some gorgeous art inside. The only thing is that it as a bit too dark for me. If it were brightened up a little, more details would have emerged and I would have been able to appreciate the intricacies all the more.
In conclusion, Norma Jean’s ‘Meridional’ is an amazing album that demonstrates the band’s growth not only over the years, but also in the space of one album. This is an album that will not easily be leaving my car stereo for quite a while and is something that I highly recommend.
4.5 out of 5 skulls