Replacing anger with passion in hardcore music is the mission of Atlanta, Georgia's NORMA JEAN. Justin Style spoke to the band.
Hardcore band and Solid State recording artists Norma Jean made a surprise visit to the UK in May. This was the band's second visit to our shores, but the first since their 2002 name change (they were formerly known as Luti-Kriss) and the departure and subsequent replacement of vocalist Josh Scogin and bassist Joshua Dolittle. This time round Norma Jean were supported by an ever growing underground fan base who have come to respect the band's uncompromising take on hardcore. "It's been amazing, definitely better than we hoped for," enthused drummer Daniel Davison.
With the release of their Solid State album, 'Bless The Martyrs And Kiss The Child' Davison feels they have managed to capture the energy of the band's intense live performances. "We recorded it live, the vocals and everything, we all just played at once. It definitely caught our live sound way better. I think it's more technical and we were more focused." The band will be glad to kill off the memories of their Luti-Kriss debut, 'Throwing Myself', which found them trying too hard to capture the nu-metal sound. "On the first CD, the guys that recorded it did it their way. We didn't really have much say in it. On the new one, the guy that recorded it was really cool and into our ideas, he let us do what we wanted."
This freedom to experiment is apparent, as they show a complete lack of respect for the unwritten laws of the genre. I can't help feeling that this album should come with a health warning - "Listening to this band may result in hearing difficulties." Yes, it's loud, and I'm not talking about nagging parents loud either.
Guitarists Scottie Henry and Christopher Day compete devastatingly, with their heavy breakdowns, metal-edged leads and raging riffs. If their previous album was left them looking like Zao wannabe's, 'Bless The Martyrs... ' definitely draws comparisons to secular peers Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge.
Norma Jean like to try and do everything differently whether it be their ridiculously long song titles such as "Pretty Soon I Don't Know When But Something's Going To Happen" or they're overly metaphor-laden lyrics. As Daniel puts it, "It has to be creative and not just generic hardcore music. I prefer it when there's more emotion behind it." The band's new vocalist Brad Norris has been dubbed hardcore's 'Elvis', and it's easy to see why as he swings about on stage. The vocal tones jump from screaming highs, to growling lows, all over the place, but always in your face.
The group started off in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1997 as a high school garage band. "When we started none of us were even Christians," admitted Daniel. Founding band members Scottie and Daniel attended a church youth meeting with some school friends and their lives and the band's direction were forever changed. Said Daniel, "We were introduced to God, we just totally felt that that was what we were supposed to do, like God was drawing us into a relationship with him." The following week the remaining members attended church and had the same experience. As they grew as Christians they discovered Christian music. "We figured that as we were all Christians that we ought to be a Christian band," continued Daniel.
Norma Jean is one of many Christian bands finding success reaching secular audiences. Commented Daniel, "Now we're playing to mainly non-Christian audiences. We don't wanna say stuff that will turn them away, but at the same time we wanna do what God wants us to do, no matter what." Although they play mainly mainstream dates these days, they have still remained firm in their beliefs and agenda. "It's the reason we do this band. We wanna try our best to live for God and let that come out through our music." Although the lyrics are not instantly recognisable, they do make obvious references to their beliefs. Songs such as "Shotgun Message" with the lyrics, "I did this for you, not your religion" are an example of the band's unique delivery of the Gospel.
Believers hardcore is a scene booming at present with a high representation of Christian acts at notorious secular festivals such as Hess and Hell Fest. Cynics have argued that to be a Christian hardcore act is an oxymoron. Songwriter Josh doesn't agree. "The confusion comes with the idea that when you're hardcore you have to be angry and that's not true. We're a very passionate band but we're not the least bit angry, and there's nothing to be angry about. When people say that hardcore bands can't be Christian bands, I think that you just have to open your mind and realise that you can be passionate and not angry."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.