The great lie of civilization is its promise of protection – that there is safety in numbers – but No One Can Save You From Yourself, the latest album from Walls of Jericho is a sharp reprimand and poignant reminder that we are always vulnerable. Factory Worker Media asked WoJ vocalist Candace Kucsulain to walk us through some of the album’s insightful, empowering lyrics and hard-won wisdom.
The immediacy of the conversation, conducted by telephone, is a perceptible byproduct of Kucsulain’s drive and focus (her current athletic passion for powerlifting grew out of an interest in boxing), and her responses demonstrate the goal-oriented concentration of a dedicated power athlete. Speaking with the reassuring confidence of a coach talking strategy in the locker room, her positivity has the authoritative tone of one who lives her truth every day.
Following the album’s anxious riot-act intro, she says opening song, “The Illusion of Safety” is about the myth fed to us by corporate media that lulls people into complacency, denying the harsh realities which so many face every day and perpetuating their fears of disruption. As the vocalist of a band founded in Detroit, Kucsulain has seen the effects of economic hardship firsthand. “We all have them, dark times,” she says, “but these times happen – you have to ask yourself, who are you? and pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” She notes that hardship is in itself a powerful motivator:“People want to see change,” and acknowledging one’s personal accountability is the first step towards growth.
“What I will not apologize for,” she asserts, “is everything that has helped me to get where I am.” She says the thrashy “No One Can Save You From Yourself” is about perceiving obstacles as a source of strength, and “not letting go of (the) fight”. “Some people have to live that way,” she avers with a hint of sadness, but this, too, is part of a process, which is further explored on the menacing “Forever Militant”. Even when one is unable or unwilling to change the circumstances, “We can still make a choice to accept it,” in order to keep going.
There is beauty in this, you just have to find it
Sadly, Kucsulain’s brother Larry was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed a year ago February. “At that point in my life, deep down, I felt let down,” she says, but brightens as she describes his personality. “He lived passionately and showed me that there is always beauty in learning. During that hard time I gained so much knowledge and perspective that is beautiful.” The song “Cutbird”, then, is not only a message of love and gratitude to her brother, but also a promise to honour his memory and the philosophy by which he lived.
“Relentless” delivers on that promise with primal hardcore ferocity: Originally released as a demo related to the fundraising activities of powerlifters committed to provide support “for families who have children fighting life-threatening medical conditions,” Kucsulain says the organization is comprised of hundreds of powerlifters from all walks of life who help kids “that know they’re going to go through this.” She observes that participants are “all drawn to this for the same reason” – to ease the burden of innocents: “It’s about the choice, when you have no control, to accept that these things are going to happen,” and finding the reserve of strength that comes with willful intention.
Without struggle there is no strength,
so god grant me strength
“Whatever your source of power or inspiration,” she says, “you’ve gotta ask for that, no matter what. It comes down to acceptance – we think our own thoughts aren’t acceptable when our hearts feel so heavy, but if we can just accept, it’s easier to get through.”
The pronounced hints of Slayer on “Damage Done” drive home the hard truth that it is always easier to help others than to help oneself. The destructive effects of one person’s distress can ripple outward to affect everyone in their life, Kucsulain says. “What I experienced, through other people, is that sometimes a person has no accountability for their actions and places blame on others.” However she says the same people also provide an example: “We need people like that, to appreciate the ones in our lives who do take responsibility.”
Godlike strength empowers me
“My friend Melissa wrote that line, it’s something she said and her vocals are mixed in (on the track).” Kucsulain says the song “Reign Supreme” is an acknowledgement and an assertion:“We both, over the past year, had a lot going on, it’s a personal song. It’s about betrayal.” Similar to the invocation on “Relentless”, she says that we find the strength we need once we make the decision to take action and make change happen. “It can be life-changing once you realize what you are capable of, you don’t need others to be any different than who they are.”
The album’s catalogue of painful life lessons comes to a head on the four closing tracks, divided between the trio of “Wrapped in Violence”, “Anthem”, and “Beyond All Praise” and the resigned coda of “Probably Will”. Kucsulain says, “You can’t go forward unless you’ve gone through that darkness.” The cycle of life is “a harsh reality, over and over, but each time it can be better, it can be easier.”
No One Can Save You From Yourself rings with so much truth over its dozen songs that the final product is a deafening roar of triumph: despite all of the pain and suffering in life, we endure. Walls of Jericho have crafted a masterful work of aggressive art and a genuinely inspiring record from which the listener can find refuge and strength in their darkest times.