Sound: Just like with Arch Enemy, you get a fairly a good shock to the senses when you see what the frontman, um, frontwoman of Walls of Jericho looks like. Of course, many of you are probably well aware that the vocalist behind the metalcore quintet is the lovely Candace Kucsulain. The vocalist proved she is a capable singer in the traditional sense on the band's acoustic EP Redemption (produced by Slipknot/Stone Sour's Corey Taylor), but she can still growl and roar with the best of them. The EP was met with mixed reviews, so many of you will probably be eager to know that there is a return to Walls of Jericho's usual brutal form with the new full-length album The American Dream.
The album does have a more aggressive feel than Walls of Jericho's past releases, and the band delivers surprises in terms of the musical arrangements most of the time. As is usually the case, Kucsulain has an effective delivery, which is enhanced by a relentless rhythm section. The American Dream starts out with the eerie intro The New Ministry, a track that is just shy of 3 minutes. For the first half it's all about creating atmosphere, and the band wisely builds layer upon layer of instrumentation (while the tempo builds as well). It's an incredible opener, and it definitely gets your attention when Kucsulain throws out a dictator-like speech, complete with the roar of an eager crowd.
The tracks that follow definitely deliver a punch in terms rhythmically, with plenty of bass pedal and furious strumming. Walls of Jericho are obviously fans of a good riff, and that comes across as well. There are many Kerry King-like moments on The American Dream, and guitarists Chris Rawson and Mike Hasty deserve credit for delivering the kind of dark riffage that Slayer has become famous for over the years. The title track is one of the highlights in this area, with II The Prey also standing out for it's subtle, cool lead guitar lines under the chorus.
Discovery of Jones shows off the best of both worlds, with the first half delivering some of the most aggressive moments on the record. When one minute remains in the track, Walls of Jericho takes a cue from the Redemption record and goes acoustic. Adding the twist at the end was actually what Discovery Of Jones needed. Yes, it was aggressive, but it also seemed a bit too ordinary and repetitive. The last minute might be restrained and slowed down, but it has a creepy quality with a melody that would befit Black Sabbath. The closing song The Slaughter Begins, which also happens to be a ballad, once again features some gorgeous acoustic work (not to mention Kucsulain's straight singing voice). // 8
Lyrics: Except for the closing track, you'll need to check the liner notes or your favorite online reference to know just what Kucsulain is singing about on The American Dream. The cool thing about Walls Of Jericho's lyrics is that that they tend to be in a free verse style. So basically they aren't tied to any rhyme scheme and just throw out whatever passionate line they feel like singing. Passion is indeed the key to most of the songs, and it definitely sets a mood. In I The Hunter Kucsulain sings, I am a monster inside a man; The outer shell is my better half; Methods of madness have no end when you hunt the dead. There's no shortage of interesting lyrics, which should count for something -- even if you can't understand it all. // 8
Overall Impression: While it's still hard to grasp how Kucsulain is able to make some of the growls/roars that she does, by the end of The American Dream it is the band as a whole that makes an impression. While the record does have a few moments where it does get a bit repetitive, the majority of the album flows well. Between the breakdowns, double-pedal action, and harmonizing guitars, The American Dream is a solid metal record. // 8