Granted, it gets harder and harder to come up with a sufficiently kick-ass band name as the years go by. Still, we've got to wonder what Atlanta's hardcore heroes Norma Jean were thinking when they originally christened themselves Luti-Kriss in 1997. In 2001, when Atlanta-based rap star Ludacris started throwin' 'bows for real, they realized that the moniker would have to go and reconvened as Norma Jean. The move was probably for the best, as the group's sound changed along with its name.
Luti-Kriss's debut album, Throwing Myself, was little more than a Christian-tinged rehash of the Deftones' nü-metal beginnings. But the group's 2001 follow-up, Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child, merits comparisons to the ferocity of Deadguy's white-knuckled classic Fixation on a Coworker. Both Fixation and Bless the Martyr let loose with an angular metallic hardcore assault, pitting off-kilter rhythms against corrosive, wailing guitars. It's mostly maturity that sets those two works apart. Deadguy patiently polished off Fixation with enough paranoid tension to keep listeners looking over their shoulders for days, while Norma Jean relies on the youthful abandon of moshable breakdowns and overdriven vocal production to round out its sonic arsenal.
Of course, Norma Jean's neophyte status is a double-edged sword. Though the band's youth is probably responsible for the limited ambition of its records, it's also likely the driving force behind the band's over-the-top live shows. Flailing their bodies like marionettes in the hands of an epileptic puppeteer, the band members have reduced many a stage to ruins over the past few years, prompting witnesses to anoint them the best live act in hardcore. We doubt Norma Jean can keep it up forever, so don't miss the band's stop at Peabody's.