Ask most serious bands about the recording process, and if they don't compare it to giving birth, they'll likely tell you that making an album is akin to psychotherapy. But let's be real here: How...
Ask most serious bands about the recording process, and if they don't compare it to giving birth, they'll likely tell you that making an album is akin to psychotherapy. But let's be real here: How many of those bands actually take the album-as-therapy idea literally? For Atlanta quintet Norma Jean, who for all intents and purposes should be some of the most content dudes in underground music right now, the recording sessions for their third album, Redeemer, packed group therapy, boot camp and endurance test into one gnarly package.
Just one listen to Redeemer confirms the ferocity of the band's performances. From the discordant breakdowns and jarring time changes of "The End Of All Things Will Be Televised" to the newfound melodic intensity of "Blueprints For Future Homes," the album packs some of Norma Jean's most unhinged, soul-baring playing into the span of 11 songs. And though the weird angles and difficult guitar figures that comprised Aftermath are still prevalent, that album's refined, very-much-studio feel has given way to raw atmospheres in which you can practically see the sweat running onto the instruments. Brandan, who's already proved himself a formidable vocalist, fully comes into his own on Redeemer with a style that veers between unhinged screaming and down-on-his-knees melodic belting.
As has been the case with Norma Jean's previous albums, fans will interpret Redeemer's title in a number of ways: There's the obvious (it's their shortest album title ever); the semi-obvious (the band members are Christian; the album's called Redeemer-you follow?); and the not-so-obvious (look up "Redeemer" in Webster's Dictionary for even more possibilities). All of these, says Davison, are valid readings, but as before, it's better just to listen to the whole album before settling on an opinion about what it all means.
"We just wanted a title that was short and simple, but also really powerful," Davison explains. "'Redeemer' was the most powerful word we could think of, and obviously, for us, being a spiritual band, it takes on special meaning." Brandan agrees. "We didn't call it Redeemer and then try to make the lyrics work around that [idea]," he says. "There's some really personal stuff on this record, and even though I'm seeing in hindsight that the title ties into some of that, I've always thought it's best just to let people come up with their own ideas about the songs, rather than say, 'This is our concept; this is what the record's about."
No matter how you interpret it, one thing's for sure: Slide it into your player, and you will feel Redeemer more than any other Norma Jean album. Emotional, spiritual, visceral, physical-this isn't just the third album Norma Jean wanted to make; it's the career-defining statement they had to.