Once again teaming up with producer Ross Robinson (Slipknot, Korn), Norma Jean continue to mutate beyond their once Botch worshipping ways in denser new directions with their latest effort, "The Anti Mother". As with their past album, "Redeemer", the bands songwriting has become increasingly more raw, allowing them to move beyond the start and stop metalcore conventions and cultivate a veritable overgrowth of sound.
No doubt those unfamiliar with the band will be most interested in the included guest songwriting/appearances from Chino Moreno of the Deftones and Helmet's Page Hamilton ("Surrender Your Sons" and "Opposite Of Left And Wrong" respectively.) These admittedly may just be the most interesting tracks on the album, as rather than mere clocked in guest appearances, the participants helped them craft the songs as well; making for an interesting symbiosis of each bands defining traits.
But guest appearances aside, this album can almost be suffocating in what it attempts. While there are still some comparisons to Every Time I Die, Coalesce and obviously the Deftones and the like; the loose nature and unhinged expressionism of the material can be a bit much at times. Sure the lack of standard structuring is appreciated and flies against the current trends, but it's only so long before the indulgence can become a bit grating.
The root of this seems to lie in the vocals of band frontman Cory Brandan Putman, who continually smothers the tracks with emphatic wails and barks. While essentially steeped more in melodies than anything else, his voice isn't exactly the most refined and this can constrict the effectiveness of the atmospheric aggression going on behind him. Given a touch more discipline the group could easily reign in the numerous moments of passion where they simultaneously feel like they are fumbling around in the dark.
Truly "The Anti Mother" is an album that may just be polarizing to the bands fan base. It takes time to appreciate what they are trying to accomplish. Even more so, it will take some tolerance from the listener as the group repeatedly push themselves in places they just don't seem physically prepared to go yet. Sure there's some catchy choruses and near-toxic swells of aggression. But there's just not enough focus and addictive flow attached to the material here to get the heart as involved as the brain is while listening to it.
(3 / 5)