The Chicago-based harmony and guitar crunch-driven rockers Madina Lake may just be the only indie band in history to make their mark on TV's Fear Factor before recording their debut album. Brothers Nathan Leone (vocals) and Matthew Leone (bass) took a dare from friends and were accepted on the "twins" episode of the gross-out reality show. They thought the $50,000 prize might help them launch their career, but instead wound up with nasty infections that nearly killed them (before winning!). Their show experiences -- crawling through trenches, munching cow parts, ingesting maggots, et al -- make for great stage fodder on their hectic tour schedule, and fortunately, the Leones' high energy for life translated to the songs they threw down with guitarist Mateo Camargo and drummer Daniel Torelli on their intense debut, with Mark Trombino (Jimmy Eat World, blink-182) at the helm. Their in-your-face intensity on tracks like the opening anthemic rocker "Here I Stand" is balanced by a tight sense of vocal harmony and an infectious melodicism that prevails most of the way through. Unfortunately, the speed and intensity of Camargo's axe -- and Nathan Leone's unnecessary, occasional scream-singing -- render many of the words unintelligible, but they actually cover some interesting thematic territory. The first single, the throbbing "House of Cards," is about people who are hiding, but can't wait to reveal their secrets; the scorching "Adalia," about a fictional socialite from the equally fictional "Madina Lake," juxtaposes harsh background vocals with a heavy grooving drumbeat. While the cathartic vocals and guitar lines continue throughout, more mainstream tracks like "Now or Never" or "One Last Kiss" could fit comfortably on the pop charts -- if pop charts allowed alternative rockers in 2007. If you like your music loud, take a dip in Madina Lake, bang your head and have a blast!
AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran