Wrongdoers (Razor & Tie)
By Mike Delano
This was always going to be a comedown album. After their career-defining moment, 2010’s tremendous Meridional, the smart money was that the follow-up would be a pared-down, more insular album from metalcore crew Norma Jean, one that played it safe by doubling down on the band’s strengths. That’s what bands usually do after big, ambitious albums, and that’s pretty much what they’ve done with Wrongdoers. That approach may be a little predictable, but it’s not at all a bad thing. Their world-beating previous album managed to expand their sound immensely, incorporate more hooks and polish and, incredibly, also be their heaviest and most intense material. The meat and potatoes first single from the new album, “If You Got It At Five, You Got It At Fifty,” keeps the intensity, but delivers it in the most blunt manner imaginable, a shotgun blast of aggression that’s all knuckles and no nuance. It makes sense that the video for the song shows the band members goofing off at a backyard party with milk instead of beer: The track leaves you wanting something with a little more flavor, and that goes for a handful of the tracks on Wrongdoers. No worries, though — the guys spread their wings on tracks like “Sword In Mouth, Fire Eyes” and the beast of a title track, two songs that expertly texture the blunt force trauma with melody and atmosphere. And compact bruisers like the 68-second “The Lash Whistled Like A Singing Wind” prove that they can still whip up some of the most effective sonic beatdowns in heavy music.