sounds of the underground w/ lamb of god , clutch , opeth , poison the well , from autumn to ashes , unearth , chimaira , gwar , norma jean , every time i die , strapping young lad , throwdown , high on fire , all that remains , devil driver , a life once lost , the red chord and madball at Arrow Hall (6900 Airport , Mississauga), Monday (July 4), doors 11 am, all ages. $35.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Okay, so your band's debut album is about to come out in a week, you've just finished a two-month tour with Every Time I Die and you're 10 minutes away from playing at a huge hardcore festival when your singer and bass player announce they're both quitting immediately afterwards.
For most bands, that's a sign that it's time to throw in the towel and move on, but for the remaining members of Atlanta-based metal-core darlings Norma Jean, it was actually the start of three years of constant touring culminating in a spot on this summer's metal mega-tour, Sounds Of The Underground.
I get a call from founding member and drummer Daniel Davison while he's outside a Cracker Barrel "somewhere between Nashville and Boston" a day after his band put on a free barbecue for the fans. They're en route to the kickoff of the Underground tour, which hits Toronto Monday.
He's polite and unassuming, but he's also eager to talk about his band and their last few years together.
Obviously, the departure of original singer Josh Scogin was tough, but Davison sees no reason to harbour any resentment.
"He left on good terms and everything. He just felt like he was supposed to be elsewhere."
Only within the last year, after having various friends fill in, has Norma Jean finally found another singer capable of filling Scogin's shoes.
Soon after new singer Cory Brandan joined their ranks, they began work on the follow-up to their highly praised debut, Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child. O God, The Aftermath sold a very respectable 50,000 copies in its first three months.
It's kind of funny talking to Davison, whose gentle voice doesn't jibe with the heavy and frantic metal his band plays, but then again, Norma Jean are one big paradox.
In case their album titles haven't made it clear, I should say that Norma Jean is a Christian band, and when I ask Davison if he's comfortable talking about their spirituality, he's surprisingly open.
"It definitely is a big part of who we are. We try to live our lives consistently by the Bible and what it teaches. That naturally comes over into what we spend our time doing."
Musically, though, their Christian values also have to make room for secular influences, including the aggressive likes of Converge and Botch, which Davison cites as two huge inspirations.
When I ask if being a Christian band has ever provoked animosity from mainstream hardcore crowds, Davison says that as far as he's concerned, it's simply not an issue.
"I'm sure there are kids who won't listen to our band because we're Christian, but that kind of stuff hasn't happened for a couple of years. Kids are kind of over that. If it's good music then it's good music, you know?"
And while at first glance the band's outlook may seem just a little apocalyptic, what with titles like O God, The Aftermath, Davison puts an interesting spin on things.
"I like to look at it in a positive light, which is kind of contrary to the normal view of the word "aftermath," like the aftermath of a war. I think it could be used both ways - the aftermath of something positive, like the aftermath of God's grace or repentance."
As earnest as Davison's words may be, Norma Jean are still just a bunch of nice Southern boys who enjoy stupid shit like shooting off fireworks and blowing up stuff on tour. Not to mention their intense love of barbecue (all five members now have the letters "BBQ" tattooed on their lips), which Davison repeatedly gushes over.
"Pulled pork is what we're obsessed with. Just pulled pork and a good, sweet barbecue sauce."