Apparently I missed the memo that said that Christian death metal was now a genre. "Instrumental gospel" was bizarre enough and straight-edge hardcore bands professing their faith was out there, too. But Solid State has hung out a shingle as the "extreme" end of Tooth & Nail's Christian punk mission, and that's just plain weird. After all, Tooth & Nail explores the pop end of the punk spectrum and, more often than not, simply puts out good records by good bands who just happened to love 'em some Jesus. But death metal? Has extreme music become so accepted as a genre that it doesn't really matter what they're screaming about? Isn't the whole point of this stuff to be singing about laying waste to the land while riding a mighty hell-spawned steed? Don't all these guys relish ripping out the guts of virgins, flaying the priest and pissing on the altar? Apparently not, since there's all kinds of "thanks be to Jesus" and "all glory to God" on "Bless the Martyr." Oh, no, not in the lyrics; those are given over to angst-y rantings that are indecipherable for their growled, guttural delivery. (Which I guess means it really doesn't matter what they're singing about.) We find the clues in the liner notes. Which is good, because the artwork, the song titles ("Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste") and the overall delivery is unremittingly hostile and dark. Norma Jean takes a viciously technical approach, applying hardcore tactics to death metal convention. Yet to hear metal this brutal packaged as rebellious, dangerous and angry -- yet inherently Christian -- is pretty far out. Would Jesus be in a death metal band if he were around today? Wait, don't answer that.
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