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Norma Jean, Hibakusha @ Q Factory, Amsterdam (Netherlands)

NORMA JEAN / Hibakusha
in Monday, 27 June 2016 at Q Factory
by Anton Sanatov

Those who have had the opportunity to make my acquaintance would surely consider the idea of me paying a visit to Amsterdam a rather malevolent endeavour; this is especially true for those who had known me in my early 20s. Allow me to illustrate…

In 1987, following Nikki Sixx’s penultimate overdose on heroin, MOTLEY CRUE were scheduled to go on a European tour in support of their then new “Girls Girls Girls” record. This did not happen. Their manager – along with pretty much every single executive shard at the record label – sweatily urged the group to check into a rehabilitation facility, in fear that if they were to indeed venture across the Atlantic and taste the spoils of European soil, one of them would most certainly be returned to their home address in a body bag. Of course my behaviour had never warranted such drastic associations, but it nevertheless became the basis for a few ‘toxic twins’ relationships; which would’ve set off alarm bells were I to board a train to Holland and pick some tulips.

One picks up a certain zeal for debauchery upon embracing the “alternative” lifestyle…and the reputation follows. Yet as I would soon discover, you need not always aim for the virulent jugulars of clichéd pursuits to experience true surrealist enlightenment…sometimes you just have to find a band – or two – that will take you there through pure passion and magical creativity. So there I was…in a bar in Amsterdam, sipping gin that smelled of perfume and bloomed like florets…waiting to for Norma Jean to take me to new highs.

When the long-awaited night arrived, the first to take the stage were the Dutch quintet HIBAKUSHA. Feeling right at home, the band broke into a confident set with their Djenty, pulsating riffs and haunting chordal backdrops. Switching between electrical palpitations and broad heavy breakdowns the members were seen either basking in jagged grooves or standing still and twitching to the syncopated mutations. Whilst their set exhumed pure attitude, there was also an almost tangible connection – a mutual respect - between the band and their music, as they seemed to be attached to every quiver of their tracks; an impressively tight band.

Not long after HIBASHUSHA finished their roaring performance, NORMA JEAN took the stage to the applause of a thickened crowd of eager fans. I must admit, even though I met the band the night prior through a chance encounter in a bar in the pit of the Red Light District, I was not prepared for the rush. The Georgia-bred Metalcore savants opened their exquisite set with “Blueprints for Future Homes” (a personal favourite) and immediately set crowd off into a frenzy – myself included.  The grand opening was only the tip of the spectacular collection of some of their finest songs that have defined the band as true genre revolutionaries; the impressionist modernists of Metalcore.

The heads in the front row swayed and a maelstrom of moshing opened up behind them. Vocalist Cory Brandan delivered an impassioned performance of brutal intimacy; reaching to the fans and coming into face-to-face proximity in order to share the microphone so that they can sing their favourite words along with him. Bassist John Finnegan leaped around the stage like berserker, bellowing along with the songs and swinging his instrument around as if in tribute to the likes of Krist Novoselic; a man intent on sacrificing himself to his craft. The entire band seemed determined to paint the world with their vivid blend of perfect noise and melodic chaos, delivering a showcase of artistic mastery and energy that was beyond amplification.

Both of the bands were on top of their game. And as I have previously mentioned, I had the privilege of meeting the latter - an occurrence that was simply another precious gem in the lavish scape of this experience - and briefly conversing with them regarding their upcoming record. Drummer Clayton “Goose” Holyoak said that their new effort is singlehandedly “the most incredible thing” they’ve ever done. The album will be a diverse offering that shall combine multiple elements from their previous works and their next single is going to be something completely different from the recently debuted “1,000,000 Watts”. Bassist John Finnegan also added that the album will be A “moody” piece, and one that is heavy as fuck; a guaranteed treat for many I am sure. So with that in mind, be sure to grab a copy of their upcoming record “Polar Similar” when it comes out on the 9th of September and be sure not to miss any of these two bands if you have the chance to see them…for their substance will expand your mind and heart like few others can.

1. Blueprints For Future Homes
2. The Anthem of the Angry Brides
3. The Potter Has No Hands
4. Robots: 3, Humans: 0
5. Bastardizer
6. If You Got It at Five, You Got It at Fifty
7. 1,000,000 Watts
8. Wrongdoers
9. Coffinspire: Multitudes, Multitudes in the Valley of Decision!
10. Bayonetwork: Vultures in Vivid Color/Geoff
11. The End of All Things Will Be Televised/I Used to Hate Cell Phones, But Now I hate Car Accidents
12. Memphis Will Be Laid to Waste

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