Like its legion of predecessors in the metal/hardcore ranks, Norma Jean combines ominous imagery with an unholy racket. Both frontman Cory Brandan's vocal style and the band's Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child cover model resemble Linda Blair at her most demon-possessed.
Norma Jean loves the Lord, however, and unlike many of its haloed headbanging peers, it doesn't demonstrate its devout faith with jarringly violent lyrics. The band prefers a PG-rated Passion of the Christ. On its divinely inspired recent release, O God the Aftermath, Norma Jean experiments with making two words into one. (The song titles are all Scrabble cheats like "Murderotica" and "Absentimental.") Similarly, it stuffs at least two tracks' worth of signature shifts, scorched-larynx shrieks, and scalpel-sharp riffs into every tune.
The beatifically brutal 10-minute epic "Disconnecktie" uses taut transitions and ambient intervals to connect insanely heavy segments. While most hardcore groups follow a format that's as predictable as an Old Testament lineage passage (. . . and the verse about betrayal begat the shout-along chorus, which begat the breakdown), Norma Jean twists and tangles its inscrutable compositions until they become revelatory.