Many probably blame Norma Jean for any band with a haircut and too many mosh part but despite its infamous cult status in this particular scene the band outgrew this stereotypical sound pretty fast. Starting with O’God the Aftermath, singer Cory Brandan Putman included a style of sung vocals that retained the raw emotion of the riffs while pushing Norma Jean‘s sound outside of the acrobatic moshing square they had drawn around themselves with Bless the martyr, kiss the child.
More than a decade later, Norma Jean is still pushing their sound in different direction and Polar similar is no exception while being a much stronger record than both it’s predecessor, Meridional and Wrongdoers. After taking a more rock direction, Polar similar sees the band endorsing a more Metal sound and a very polished production to add more post metal elements to their sound.
Although Polar similar does not feature any post-rock interlude, some of the most intricate melodies developed by Rosetta or Isis in their later years can be heard throughout the album such as the intro to Reaction which could have been heard on Wavering radiants, as are the clean guitar parts in the same song. Reaction also features a very Chino Moreno vocal line but the influence of the godfather of emocore has been well digested since The Anti-mother where the singer made an appearance. Like Stephen Carpenter, Norma Jean have also embraced some of Meshuggah‘s teaching by choosing a cleaner and heavier guitar tone. This choice reinforces the heaviness of the whole album, as does the heavier presence of the drums throughout the songs.
Another characteristic on Polar similar is the inclusion of tracks numbered with roman numerals. II. The People and III. The Nebula are instrumental interludes but I. The Planet and IV. The Nexus are songs in their own right, IV. being a 10-minute long song featuring vocals. It’s unclear what was Norma Jean‘s objective with the inclusion of these songs as both groups do not break an extra layer of cohesion to the album, specifically II. The People with its corny use of a creepy ice cream truck music. Nonetheless, all songs are quite good and the inclusion of surprising influences, like the Tool bass line during An ocean of war, bring a fresh sound to the mix of Deadguy riffs and emo vocals the band has made their own since their change of singer on O’God the Aftermath.
With Polar similar, Norma Jean are pushing themselves in a fresh direction with new influences. Although not revolutionary, Polar similar like Cult of Luna‘s Vertikal is an excellent album filled with memorable songs to place them ahead of the pack. Chaotic metalcore might be a thing of the past but Polar Similar proves that Norma Jean are very much part of the present.