Let's pretend for a minute that heavy metal is more than the simplistic paradigm of head banging and guitar thrashing, and let us explore what metal can be.
Carrying the title of Christian can isolate a rock band, and especially a metalcore band, to the wasteland of music popularity.
There is a history of rock bands that have toed the ambiguous line of Christian rock in an attempt to appeal to everyone with some success (i.e. Creed - but please don't listen to that terrible band), while also attempting to stay true to their beliefs.
In some ways, it is similar to the story of the wolf in sheep's clothing, only the roles are reversed.
Douglasville's Norma Jean has been slugging the stages of America's metal scene since 1997. The group has played huge festivals, including the 2006 Ozzfest, the 2008 Warped Tour and the 2010 Mayhem Festival. In 2006, the band was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package.
Norma Jean, who takes its name from Marilyn Monroe's real name (Norma Jeane Mortenson), like most bands, isn't seeking the labels it is sometimes left with. While the label metalcore is at the forefront of this band's description, with album titles such as "Redeemer," it's hard to ignore that their beliefs are a part of the music.
"We've never claimed any kind of label," frontman Cory Putman said. "Those were given to us. As far as the Christian thing goes, some of us are Christians, but music can't be Christian. I think that's kind of a weird label, Christian metal. That can't be a thing. A sound can't be Christian. That's how we've always felt about it.
"We're a band because we love music," he said.
"Some of those things will get put into the content of the lyrics, because that's what bands do," Putman added. "You write about what you believe in. In that sense, we're no different than anyone else. We're OK with anything. If someone calls us metalcore or whatever, we're OK with that. We don't know what any of that is. We just play music and are down with whatever."
To accent Putman's point, a close listen to Tool's "Anemia," Metallica's "The God That Failed," anything by Rage Against the Machine, as well as a plethora of other songs are prime examples of how metal can be about more than just head banging. Personal beliefs will always bleed into art. As it should.
So, before you pass Norma Jean into the wasteland, be sure there is nothing ambiguous about how they rock. It's heavy, it's hardcore and it's full of talent.
In December, the group released its sixth studio album, "Wrongdoers" on the Razor & Tie label, with almost an entirely new lineup. The only remaining founding member is guitarist Chris Day. Putman is the band's longest tenured vocalist. New members include Jeff Hickey (guitar), Clayton Holyoak (drums) and John Finnegan (bass).
With "Wrongdoers," the follow-up up to 2010's "Meridional," Norma Jean took its time. The band spent more than a year writing between touring, before spending much longer than usual in the studio. The result is a finely tuned metal album, with a daunting repertoire between the five current members.
"It's (the line-up) definitely different," Putman said. "When you're in a band, you build a chemistry through what happens. When someone leaves and someone else comes in, that changes. It could be a weird thing for some bands. But for us, we were all on the same page, instantly. There really wasn't much of a change as far as that went. We kind of clicked together really fast."
Norma Jean will play Savannah with good friends Spoken, as well as Lifecurse, Dying Whale, Badillacs and Savannah's Me and the Trinity on Feb. 27 at Sweet Melissa's.