Review Summary: Thrashy Ass-Kicking Female Fronted Hardcore
Some genres in music just seem to naturally lend themselves to those of the XY chromosomes and few of these styles are more testosterone dominated than metal and hardcore with their "tuff guy" identities and lyrical messages within the music. One might even draw a parallel between them and say, football or rugby, where girls, simply put, don't play, or at least are not taken seriously. However, with the advent of respectable female fronted groups like Arch Enemy, Lacuna Coil, and, Nightwish, that seems to slowly be changing. But generally there also seems to be a certain expectation that these women will strictly sing and stay out of man's hallowed vitriolic territory. Angela Gassow clearly changed this mentality with her appearance of a drop-dead gorgeous blonde as well as her ability to make noises that would scare full grown men. In her wake many groups have formed balancing the two extremes, albeit with a more mainstream slant, however there really haven't been many of these bands since Arch Enemy to create such an uncompromising "middle finger to the mainstream" sound; Walls of Jericho is one of these unusual groups.
Enter Candace Kucsulain, a cute and innocent looking demon in disguise. From her outward appearance she looks like a heavily tattooed Haley Williams, but couldn't possibly sound less like her. Instead she unleashes positively destructive, vein-bulging wails that will leave even the staunchest metal heads in shock and possibly horror (yep, she's a chick alright). There are also two other things that really make her standout as a metal/hardcore vocalist, one being her relentless ferocity. Many of the better known gals in metal today often tend to mix the hooky radio-ready choruses of metalcore into their arsenals to broaden their appeal; Candace makes virtually no such concessions. With the exception of a brief melodic stint in the bridge of "A Long Walk Home" and her soft, bluesy croons in the surprisingly calm closer "The Slaughter Begins," she roars all the way through the record. When she actually does sing she proves herself to be every bit as effective and sinister, with a tone not so different from that of Fiona Apple. The other attribute that really separates her from her peers is her range. Many female metal vocalists tend to be limited to higher register screams which quickly makes their voices tedious to listen to. Kucsulain isn't restricted in these regards; be it fierce mid range shouts, gang vocals, brutal death-ish growls, and even paint-stripping shreiks; she can do it all. Even despite her unwillingness to sing, her vocals rarely become tiresome.
As good as Candace is she isn't the only thing that makes Walls of Jericho special. Whereas many metalcore bands today follow the typical establishment of using harmonized Gothenburg guitar leads to drive their music, WOJ takes a more old-school approach instead steroid pumping their sound with classic thrash metal riffs that will bring a smile to any Slayer fan's lips. These riffs make for some insanely catchy tunes like "II They Prey," "Feeding Frenzy," and "Discovery of Jones" that in no way compromise on heaviness. Additionally they supplement these with heavily distorted and even discordant melodies that also call Slayer to mind. Unfortunately there are no solos on the album, however it is unclear how well they would have worked in many of the songs, considering their relentless pacing.
People typically aren't too enthused about breakdowns in heavy music anymore given how badly they've been abused and misused by many bands. While Jericho's breakdowns are not excessively technical the group knows how to take something simple and chunky and just make it heavy as shi
t. Hearing the thrashy riffs, and speedy double kicks rush over them as Candace roars lines like "FUC
K THE AMERICAN DREAM" and "WE MUST TAKE BACK OUR LIVES" in her nastiest snarl sure make for some hella brutal bridges.
There are a few nagging flaws that keep The American Dream from being great, one of which is the sense of repetition on the record. The band doesn't necessarily have a dead set formula for all their songs like many metalcore bands do, however the consistent punch of their music can dull a little after multiple listens and some of the songs do tend to blur into each other. There are some neat switch-ups here and there like the atmospheric intro of "The New Ministry" and the acoustic fadeout in "Discovering Jones," however considering the lack of solos, technical parts, or clean vocals, there should really have been more of them. Many of these complaints are fairly minor considering the fact that at just over thirty-five minutes in length, The American Dream hardly gives you any time to get bored; you'll be headbanging so hard you won't have the brain cells left to remind you that some of the band's songs sound a little similar.
The American Dream is a very solid album in every sense that will appeal just as much to thrash afficionados as it will to hxc! tuff guys. Walls of Jericho are not just another band that knows how to play a couple power chords with a pretty face yelling on top, but a group of heavy music lovers who can make one hell of a ruckus and with their most recent release they have crafted one of the most urgent and catchy core' albums to come out in 08'.