Heavy on literary references but lacking any relative substance, Kingdom of Fear is akin to AM band conspiracy theorists spouting questionable source material with impunity.
I once had a college English professor who likened everything from Hee-Haw, "Toonces the Driving Cat", the band Kansas and the Germanic interpretation of "angst" to the poetry of T.S. Eliot – yes, he did include the musical Cats during his tenured recitations. Perhaps Dr. Robert Kalmey could make sense of the jumbled mess that is East Cameron Folkcore's Kingdom of Fear.
Evoking "What the Thunder Said" from Eliot's The Waste Land as a dystopian preamble to their concept album, the Austin, Texas octet frame Kingdom of Fear around Eliot confidant Ezra Pounds' Cantos. In prescribing further literary titles to each of the album's quartets, East Cameron Folkcore invokes the likes of Jean Renoir and/or Styx ("The Grand Illusion"), Lewis Carroll ("Through the Looking Glass"), Howard Zinn ("The People Speak") and Plato ("Ship of Fools"). Such allusions are nothing new for the band who in the past have inferred to such American literary greats as Faulkner and Hemingway. In spite of such vaunted references, Kingdom of Fear is anything but.
Commingling neo-folk, Celtic punk and ska, East Cameron Folkcore aspire to expose society's ills by speaking truth to power in appropriating the same jackbooted stance as those front man Jesse Moore and his collective rail against: capitalists, politicians, police, etc. Utilizing Law & Order's "ripped from the headlines" approach, the band chronicles the fading American dream via high-level injustices such as fracking ("Fracking Boomtown") and gentrification ("Our City").
Recorded in early 2014, social media and the news cycle already dates Kingdom of Fear. Missing here is the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri; in its stead is "Protest Hero", a rumbling ode to Chelsea Manning (née Bradley Manning), a transgender Iraqi war veteran currently imprisoned for leaking documents to WikiLeaks. Not to belittle the band's topical concerns, but their treatment of environmental impacts caused by corporations treads similar lyrical ground already covered by Drive-By Truckers on their 2004 indictment of greed, "Puttin' People on the Moon" from Southern Rock Opera.
A gapless recording, the 14 songs of Kingdom of Fear are one long run-on sentence, its diatribes fluctuating between first and third person tales. Such a switch is evident on "Our City", a decrying treatise against the gentrification of Austin with Moore switching between "you" and "we", assuming some modicum of responsibility. One can't help but infer from the recorded sirens the tragedy of South By Southwest (SXSW) 2014 weighs heavily on the band. Yet, press notes proudly announced their SXSW dates.
If your wont is militant music, Woody Guthrie, Paris, Rage Against the Machine, Atari Teenage Riot and Drive By Truckers elicit more empathy than East Cameron Folkcore. The mix of Kingdom of Fear fixates on the band's bass-heavy stomp, wisely blurring Moore's lyrics, putting the band's gorgeous harmonies and horn section front and center.
Attempting to call the lemmings to arms without a clear foe, East Cameron Folkcore stands tall on the soapbox they are guaranteed under the Constitution. Citing Hunter S. Thompson in the album's liner notes, one can't but chortle when Moore sings, "When I'm gone go on make me a martyr / License my likeness, collect lost fees / Plaster my words through a long plastic hallway" on the album's title track. Heavy on literary references but lacking any relative substance, Kingdom of Fear is akin to AM band conspiracy theorists spouting questionable source material with impunity. Were Dr. Kalmey to grade Kingdom of Fear, he'd likely say East Cameron Folkcore were not ready to matriculate to his Eliot seminar; rather, they should retake his freshman composition class to retool their narrative.