I’m not ashamed to admit that my first introduction to metalcore was through the more commercially successful acts of the mid-2000s like Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying, Unearth and so on. Eventually, though, those bands fell to the wayside as I developed more dynamic and unorthodox tastes, as well as more appreciation for diverse composition and intricate technicality. But if there’s one band from that era of metalcore, and one record in particular, that still speaks to me as much as it did when it was released, it’s Walls of Jericho‘s All Hail the Dead.
The 2004 second full-length album from the Michigan band came just a few years before their breakthrough 2006 record, With Devils Amongst Us All, yet it captured a rawness and sheer unbridled aggression that their later material sorely lacked. Yes, it’s as straightforward as it gets in terms of songwriting and super heavy on the breakdowns, but All Hail the Dead was more angst-filled than anything I’d heard at the time (having grown up on my brother’s ’80s/’90s thrash and alt-metal records, along with early 2000s nu-metal). Also, the fact that the voice of that rage came from a woman made Walls of Jericho all the more enticing.
As a teenage girl, there weren’t many women in the genre to look up to, and magazines I subscribed to focused more on who the “hottest chicks in metal” were above anything else when discussing “female-fronted” bands. Walls of Jericho‘s Candace Kucsulain stood out and broke the mold of what women in metal, or in any spotlight for that matter, had come to represent at the time. She was tough and unapologetically in-your-face, which becomes clear as she spitefully screams words like “your billboard barbie, it’s time to fight this” on the album’s opening title-track.
Even now, those first few chugging notes of All Hail the Dead‘s title-track and the way Kucsulain’s brash vocals command attention right off the bat still hit me with just as much intensity. Her powerful, coarse vocals spit out every pissed off emotion I had in my youth, particularly throughout the harsh thudding of “There’s No I in Fuck You” and the exceptionally aggressive “A Little Piece of Me.” Both of these hostile tracks are filled with agonized screams, scathing lyrics and vehement punk-meets-Slayer-esque riffs.
It’s not perfect by any means and I cherish that about All Hail the Dead – gang vocals, cheesy lyrics (at times) and all. There are also some clean vocals that are often off-key, but there’s something about the probably unintentional discordance that I love, especially on “Revival Never Goes Out of Style.” And apart from all of the colossal breakdowns, tracks like “1:43 AM,” “Thanks For the Memories” and “Fixing Broken Hearts” get me right in the feelings. The lyrics strike some personal chords and gnaw at some emotional wounds, which is both distressing and gratifying at the same time.
Even the instrumental closer “To be Continued…” hangs on to some leftover emotion, ending the album on a somber, melancholic note. With a short 35-minute runtime, All Hail the Dead doesn’t overstay its welcome. It is unequivocally my favourite Walls of Jericho offering, filled with caustic, vicious aggression and strong, passionate sentiments, which make it one of the releases I adore most from my teen years.
While I question whether there are any other albums from the spin-kicking, breakdown overload era that still mean as much to me today as they did when I was 16, All Hail the Dead is at the very top of the list for sure.