American Hollow, with their debut album Whisper Campaign, represents a genre and attitude that is underrepresented on Linescratchers as well as in modern music. With a somewhat aggressive and complex musical approach, coupled with soaring vocal passages and dense lyrical topics, American Hollow delivers atmospheric metal for the thinking rocker.
While I must admit that I was initially disappointed after finding out this album was not in fact a concept album about vampirish goth girls playing 2-person telephone (as the cover suggests), the band more than makes up for it by brilliant passages and obvious attention to atmosphere and mood. As much of the lyrical content on this album deals with the modern human condition, the combination of both music and word create a powerful message against, as ‘State of Decay’ suggests, the strong apathy that permeates in our society. Being a Kentuckian, and playing in a few different counties with various bands, I am extremely proud of these young men and the ambition and vision that the project emanates.
The album opens with the instrumental Terranoia. Beautifully layered, yet noticeably sparse, the track conjures up images of war and isolation. I can’t help but think of Dredg as the opener segues into ‘State of Decay’, what could easily be considered the “hit single” on this album. The following song, ‘Operator’, begins with the intense vocal stylings of the talented lead singer Jameson, who begins with a ‘Prophet Song’-ish vocal layers and overall vibe (for those Queen fans that actually own A Night at the Opera), and ends with lush legato vocals. ‘Constant’ is a great example of how American Hollow combines their musical chops with accessible harmonies and hooks- in the last 30 seconds, you wonder if it’s Danny Carrey from Tool on the drums as Chronos, the band’s drummer, is given a moment to shine and plays like Zeus and his bros are after him. The next track, ‘Gravity’, is a tranquil dip in the narrative of the album, with some excellent work from Kyle Mullikin, the bands guitarist, and the ever-impressive vocals of Jimmy Hollman in beautiful layers. ‘Ilumineye’ reminds me a lot of Lateralus-era Tool, especially at the end of the song. As every progressive album must have it’s epic, ‘Prizards’ is a 13 minute composition that is a worthwhile musical journey for those music lovers who refuse to subject themselves to 2-3 minute songs.
‘Blow Wind! Bring Forth Storm!’ is one of the more interesting tracks on the album. Beginning with technical playing from the band, the song spans numerous musical styles. The song shows the Dream Theater influence of the band, but Jameson’s confident vocal work (which includes screams and growls) and the harmonic 5th’s make me think of Serj Tankian in his better moments. The album ends with ‘Terranoyed’, which is musically similar to the album’s opener but contains layers and samples of a military address in a hanger somewhere. The samples add a nice touch to the instrumental background.
The album as a whole is both atmospheric and aggressive, which to me is a musical metaphor for the internal struggles of the voice of the album. There are moments that conjure up war and aggression, and there are some that evoke isolation and alienation. While progressive metal may not be everyone’s thing, I think that American Hollow’s Whisper Campaign is an admirable effort from a uniquely talented group of musicians and lyricists and is worth investigating.