Norma Jean

Not to be confused with either the late-'70s disco diva (who sang with Chic in 1977 before going solo and having a hit with 1978's "Saturday") or the country singer (who had some hits in the '60s), this Norma Jean is a Christian alternative metal/metalcore band that used to go by the name Luti-Kriss. At first, Norma Jean went with a rap-metal approach -- in reviews, the former Luti-Kriss was often described as the Christian equivalent of Limp Bizkit, Korn, (hed) p.e., Methods of Mayhem, or Rage Against the Machine. But as the band evolved, Norma Jean got away from rap-metal and became even heavier. The bandmembers heard on 2002's Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child don't believe in subtlety any more than they believe in taking prisoners; they do, however, believe in having a very harsh, punishing sound and beating listeners into obedience (musically, not literally -- they're a Christian band, after all). And while those who don't care for metalcore's harshness are unlikely to become Norma Jean converts, the Southern band has enjoyed a small but enthusiastic cult following in the alterna-metal underground (where they have appealed to both Christian and non-Christian headbangers).

Norma Jean was formed in Douglasville, GA (a suburb of Atlanta) in 1997. In the early '00s, the band recorded two CDs as Luti-Kriss. The first was the EP 5 (which came out on the Pluto label), and that disc was followed by the full-length album Throwing Myself, which came out on the Seattle-based Solid State label (a subsidiary of Tooth and Nail Records) in 2001. After that album, Luti-Kriss changed its name to Norma Jean because some people were confusing the band with the controversial rapper Ludacris -- who, coincidentally, is also from the Atlanta area. Ludacris is one of the top rappers in the Dirty South school of hip-hop, and he is known for his explicit lyrics (which have been lambasted by conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly, host of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor). Released by Solid State in 2002, Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child was the former Luti-Kriss' first album as Norma Jean. It was also the band's heaviest, most brutal effort to date. While Norma Jean's first recordings inspired comparisons to Limp Bizkit, Korn, (hed) p.e., and Methods of Mayhem, Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child was often compared to Hatebreed. Norma Jean's members have included lead singer/guitarist Josh, bassist Doolittle, guitarist Derr, guitarist/singer Scottie, and drummer Daniel Davidson.

New England post-hardcore group Vanna have spent the last several years on a personal journey, and it's the experience of living on the road that has helped them to discover who they truly are. After years of relentless touring and musical growth, the band has found balance with A New Hope, both literally and figuratively.

Since the bands formation in 2004 Vanna – Chris Preece (vocals), Nick Lambert (guitar/vocals), Evan Pharmakis (guitar/vocals), Shawn Marquis (bass) and newcomer Chris Campbell (drums) – have built a strong following based on their killer live shows, which helped garner attention from Epitaph Records. The band signed with the label in 2005 and released their debut EP, The Search Party Never Came, the following year. With the EP's release came extensive touring until it was time to release their full length album, Curses, in 2007. Signaling growth sonically from the EP, Curses highlighted the band's metalcore side establishing them as one of the most interesting up-and-coming bands in the post-hardcore scene.

After almost two years of touring in support of Curses, the band returned to their roots and entered the studio with producer Steve Evetts (Every Time I Die, Story of the Year) to record A New Hope. With widening musical vision and hard-won experience under their belts, Vanna tackled the writing and recording of A New Hope with an added perspective and understanding.

"The writing and recording process naturally becomes more dialed and decisive with each record," explains Preece. "This record was approached with more of a group mentality. We talked a lot about what we liked and disliked about our last two releases, and each one of us were able to express ourselves in every step of the process."

"Steve Evetts was honestly just a great fit for us," adds Pharmakis. "For me personally it was great because I feel my relationship with the producer is important. If we mesh well it shows in the recording. The more comfortable you are the better you perform, the better you can concentrate and the better ideas you come up with as a team, as far as harmonies and melody ideas. And Steve was a great mentor. Chris Preece and I really meshed our lyric and vocal ideas together in a different way on this album and it worked out great. We definitely got to show a more melodic side on the record. I'd like to think this new record is like the perfect mix between our last two releases but with the sound we always wanted...and the skill it took time to earn."

The result of their collaborative efforts are twelve smartly written tracks that highlight the band's musical evolution, balancing the perfect fusion of emotive rock and perilous hardcore.

"Into Hell's Mouth We March," the first song released from A New Hope, rips the album open with the group's finest mix of melody and hardcore yet. While fans will appreciate Vanna's signature mix of weighty breakdowns and uplifting choruses, they'll also hear a progression in song-writing, gang vocals and more melodic singing from guitarist/vocalist Evan Pharmakis which makes for a much more accessible sound. Anthemic tracks like the first single "Safe To Say" and "We Are Nameless" bring the goosebumps, pushing with trashing guitars and pulling with captivating melody until you are chanting alongside the dueling vocalists.

"I feel like A New Hope is a fresh start," says Pharmakis. "This is exactly where we want to be, and I couldn't be happier with the direction of our music. This is Vanna, we are finally Vanna."

As Vanna looks forward with A New Hope, they continue down their unpredictable path of self discovery, continually growing and evolving with new purpose and A New Hope.

Here's what a few magazines and publications have said about us:

"Veteran Winnipeg noise-rock trio KEN mode's Kurt Ballou-produced fourth album Venerable is one of the best records of 2011, bar none…From opener "Book Of Muscle" to closer "Make Shark," KEN mode mix AmRep toughness with heavy, doom-y melodies and angular, chiseled hardcore that pummels as well as it sticks easily, comfortably in your head…Think David Yow doing crunches, Unsane with more swing, a dirtier Helmet, a younger/hungrier (and Canadian) Today Is The Day." – Stereogum.com

"As I said in 2008, KEN Mode rules. If Unsane spent less time at Swans shows and more at hardcore matinees, they'd probably rip out noisecore obliteration like 2008′s Mennonite and 2006′s Reprisal" – Brooklynvegan.com

"If tertiary 2008 effort Mennonite revealed noisy metalli-rockers KEN Mode to be growing comfortable blazing their unique swath, Venerable turns that unbeaten path into a four-lane highway. The trio then put the hammer down and barrel forward with a menacing grin." – Exclaim! Magazine

"Earlier this year, on their first US tour in six years, KEN mode wrote a series of tour diaries for Decibel. After the magazine's recent site redesign, I can't find those diaries anymore. But I remember a particular detail from them. The band stopped somewhere for supplies (Wal-Mart, I think), and its shopping list included protein powder. Touring bands' shopping lists usually begin with beer and end at whiskey. Someone in the band is a jock, I thought. Which makes sense – when I listen to KEN mode, I think of a more athletic, yet more bookish Jesus Lizard. Maybe if that band had put down its beers, hit the gym, and boned up on the music it helped spawn – noise rock, hardcore, mathcore, even post-metal – then returned to whip the kids at their own game, it might sound like KEN mode. Venerable is indeed a protein powder-fueled beast." – Invisible Oranges

"This is how I know KEN Mode rule: I saw them play a virtually empty bar about five years ago and still remember that gig like it was yesterday. In this day and age, when half of what hits the stage when I decide to part with my precious time and leave the house doesn't even register, this is a triumph-and-a-half. …Not only do they sound like a raging beast wired on the up-tempo bits 'n' pieces of Unsane's discography, but in the case of much of the new material, KEN mode evoke the brutality of Unsane's Total Destruction and Unsane album covers brought to musical life." – Decibel Magazine

"With their debut 'Mongrel' and the stellar follow-up 'Reprisal', Canada's best kept secret established a reputation for perfection jagged, chest-tightening riffs that not only demanded your attention but commanded it as well. Consequently, they have a lot to live up to. Luckily, they've done it again… They've eased up on the straightforward drive 'er home Keelhaul heaviosity, while maintaining the mid-'90′s Black Cross punk meets Melvins undertone, and zoned in on the dissonant Kittens country quirks and Botch-flavoured guitar antics that had previously played second fiddle to the spirit of crushing riffage." – Terrorizer Magazine

"Winnipeg's KEN Mode have run a tight ship since their inception, resulting in two previous provocative and unforgettable releases. Yet even with the musical muscle showcased on Mongrel and Reprisal, there was still room to grow, to become more comfortable in their warped, artistic anti-rock/metal hybrid, as opposed to being consumed by the youthful tendency to prove themselves. With Mennonite however, we celebrate the power trio's bar mitzvah; they're grown men. Still uncompromising and heavy yet feature a few more laidback — for them — grooves and tracks that grow into the focal point rather than rage from start to finish, Mennonite accomplishes more in one track than even KEN Mode probably thought possible. Incredibly well rounded and gripping, the album rages through thick, drawn-out battles of emotional torment, strikes fast and deadly with two-minute shots of rage, seizes with bastardized pop metal bravado and mesmerizes thanks to the band's relaxed attitude and comfort in their skin." – Exclaim Magazine

"I'm not gonna try to demarcate what the hell these three Canucks are capable of in a song, but I'll say this: (KEN mode) should be ground-zero for you disillusioned souls looking for granite-heavy, solid 'heavy mental' that's as challenging as it is battering." – Metal Maniacs

"The daily grind (pun intended) at a school where geometry, heavy metal history and chaos theory are the only courses offered." – Alternative Press

"Although it shouldn't, it always somewhat surprises me that KEN Mode is able to expand on what they've already done. However, the fact that they are able to speaks volumes as to just how good this band is. This is noise-rock at its finest, if you haven't managed to check out KEN Mode yet then you are really missing out." – Built on a weak spot

"There are drummers and there are drummers. Then, there are drummers. Ken Mode's skin basher Shane Matthewson belongs to the latter kind; the ones that organize and gather the masses. The ones that make the difference and are, through skills and gusto, able to elevate the sound of a band from the above par to the outstanding. And kudos to the band too. Quite frankly I wasn't expecting a three piece to come off as potent as Ken Mode. Guitarist vocalist Jesse Matthewson (is this one musical family or what?) bends his axe in quasi mathematical manners, the riffs are played in Forrest Gump ping-pong speed angularity, shooting off in all directions and…the result is an explosive encounter between post hardcore and noise rock. " – Deaf Sparrow Zine

"Maybe too much noise-rock for the metal crowd and maybe too much metal for the noise-rock fans and definitely too much of everything for the pissy-pants hardcore-kids, but hey, what a great record." – Monochrom

Exotic Animal Petting Zoo

Exotic Animal Petting Zoo is an experimental/prog/rock band from Crown Point, Indiana that was formed in 2004 by brothers Brandon and Stephen Carr. Their initial sound combines the likes of The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Smashing Pumpkins, Deftones, and Sigur Rós.

They recorded a 5 song EP of different musical styles and songs of music in search of a bass player able to play them all. Scott Certa was recruited for bassist in 05' and played local shows around the region. It wasn't until the spring of 06' when the band recorded their first 4 song EP which got them opening up for national acts such as Kaddisfly(SubCity), As Blood Runs Black (Mediaskare) and Brazil (Immortal). With the growing number of online music communites, Exotic Animal Petting Zoo were quickly turning heads all over the country, eventually capturing the attention of Mediaskare Records, which later signed them to their label.

Exotic Animal Petting Zoo recorded their first full length debut record entitled "I Have Made My Bed In Darkness" released in August 2008 and has gained huge attention immediately creating a universal sound appealing to most everyone, but still in genres including mathcore/ambient/progrock because of their technical riffs, downtempo songs and time signature changes. In October 2008 the band was invited by Fear Before the March of Flames (now Fear Before) to do a fall tour entitled Dudestorm Part Deux: featuring Fear Before, I Am The Ocean, and Dameira. New guitar player, Steve Radakovich joined the band on this tour giving the band a new and inventive element to their sound.

$13.00 - $15.00

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Norma Jean with Vanna, Kenmode, Exotic Animal Petting Zoo

Tuesday, November 19 · Doors 6:30 PM / Show 7:00 PM at Chain Reaction