Fitting that today’s album is Norma Jean’s seminal 2002 debut, Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child. Were I back in Florida, I would have caught last night’s Chariot show at The Orpheum in Tampa. Josh Scogin is The Chariot’s frontman (for the last week, at least), and also a founding member of Norma Jean, though he left after this record to form his spastic new group.
I’d venture to say that Bless The Martyr is one of the most important albums for “Christcore” bands dating back to the early 2000s. It created an avenue for Scogin to form The Chariot, an equally vital and influential group. It spawned countless shitty hardcore bands, and maybe even a couple good ones, too. And it helped rocket Tooth & Nail/Solid State to the forefront of faith-based heavy music, establishing and subsequently cementing their legacy as the premiere label for the genre.
That said, Bless is a record I can barely even stomach anymore – save for “Memphis Will Be Laid to Waste,” a cut that features a guest spot from Aaron Weiss of mewithoutYou, a band that was rising to similar prominence during that same era.
This year’s project has again and again revealed to me what I already knew about myself: my musical tastes, likes and dislikes, and general aural fatigue have all shifted and morphed so much since I first began actively seeking out music during my formative early teenage years. I have this album because I hoard. I haven’t listened to it in its entirety in years. It takes a certain mood to even seek out a song like “Memphis,” and I’d nearly forgotten about the band entirely until earlier this year, when they released their new record Wrongdoers. I was hyped on that album for a minute, and then it got lost in the shuffle again.
Bless was produced by Adam Dutzkiewicz of Killswitch Engage, a band I’ll never understand (and don’t anticipate trying to attempt understanding, either). Either because it’s their cheaply debut after changing their name from Luti-Kriss (after Ludacris, the Atlanta rapper, put up a fuss) to Norma Jean, or the fact that Dutzkiewicz was still a new-ish producer by that point, production-wise, this record is super murky and sludgy. It’s like wading through some type of metalcore bog. Some people are into that, and perhaps this actually adds to the allure of the record rather than acting as a con.
What I’ll take away from today’s play through Bless The Martyr is my memories of listening to this album in a small town, for the first time exposed to music as heavy as this. It aided in the creation of an institution. Bands like The Chariot, Impending Doom, Showbread, and even to some extent groups like mewithoutYou and Anberlin wouldn’t be where they are without Bless.
From their cornerstone release, this is the O.G. Norma Jean’s “Memphis Will Be Laid to Waste” –
Standout tracks: “The Entire World is Counting on Me, And They Don’t Even Know It” and “Memphis Will Be Laid to Waste”
Weakest track: “Pretty Soon, I Don’t Know When, But Something is Going to Happen” – if only for the reason that 15 minute long songs aren’t necessary in this type of music.
RIYL: Sludge. Nathan from HORSE the Band calling this group “Normal Jeans.”