WALLS OF JERICHO AIM FOR THE BOTTOM BY WAY OF THE MIDDLE WITH THE AMERICAN DREAM
It’s arguably true that being unoriginal or sickeningly mediocre is a greater sin than being terrible. To be terrible means trying something and failing spectacularly; mediocrity involves just enough effort not to fail but lacks the vision to contribute anything of worth or merit. Nowhere is this more true than in the narrow but populous world of hardcore. It’s (once again) arguably easier to respect a hardcore band that’s simply terrible than to praise one for being just another bunch of dudes playing your local VFW with the same assembly line mosh parts that have been kicked around (pardon the pun) for the better part of the last two decades. In a realm where the same album is being made under the name of hundreds of different bands, facelessness is an unforgivable offense. For The American Dream, Walls of Jericho’s latest full length, to be touted as anything more than just another metal/hardcore album is a gross, gross overstatement. Instead of reinventing the wheel, the band simply keep rolling along with it, no matter how bald the tires are.
Perhaps the fact that the album isn’t an out-and-out failure is its biggest disappointment. The issue is not the vocals (for the most part), the production, the breakdowns, or the band’s overall routine. The American Dream is chock full of adequate performances and functional metalcore songs that are sure to get a rise out of someone that hasn’t heard much of it. But if you’ve listened to even a sliver more hardcore and metalcore than your average fourteen year old Slipknot enthusiast, there is nothing new for you here. And I mean nothing: if you dig the gang-chant vocals and D-beats, try Indecision, Most Precious Blood, or almost any youth crew hardcore; if you dig the breakdowns, try Killswitch Engage or Hatebreed; if you dig the splashes of abstract melody, try Poison the Well or Shai Halud; if you dig the thrash riffs, try thrash metal. Once you’ve been there, try coming back to Walls of Jericho and see if they’re interesting. Even the least discerning of ears can probably tell that the band is about as delectable as dry toast.
This isn’t to say that the album doesn’t have moments that fall the fuck flat. “The Slaughter Begins” features exceptionally bland clean singing that make Lacuna Coil and Evanescence sound like exciting, experimental shit. And the title track of the album is trying so hard to be an anthem, but can’t pull anything good out of the burlap sack of clichés that they used to write it. The song’s call to arms – “Fuck the American Dream!” and “Fuck this place! Burn it down! Everything I love is gone!” – is an egregiously banal slap to the face of the American ideal. In a time where we have a borderline retarded and emotionally devoid CEO running the country, a handful of mega-corporations gouging the lower and what’s left of the middle class out of what little money they have, a media and popular culture that glamorize and deify material wealth over intelligence or actual achievement, a generation of soldiers endlessly mired in a bloody war that threatens to send anyone brave enough to volunteer for our Armed Services to a grisly and dehumanizing end, and the best Walls of Jericho can come up with is, “Fuck the American Dream!”? Sorry guys, but you’re going to have to try much harder than that to pull off an anthem. And after more than 25 years of the genre‘s existence, you’re going to have to try much harder than the middling dreck on The American Dream to make a good hardcore album.
(2 out of 5 horns)