Home > Music > Helloween – Walls of Jericho (1985)

Helloween – Walls of Jericho (1985)

foldersmallOften packaged with the “Helloween” EP (and I’ll be covering that too), this is considered a foundational work of power metal. It actually fits in well with a lot of early speed/thrash metal, although it tends towards the melodic, poppy end of that continuum of genres. Compared to its successor, though (the Keeper of the Seven Keys duology), this seems like a fairly small step in that direction at most times.

Obviously, the newer, symphonic variants of power metal popularized by bands like Rhapsody of Fire and Blind Guardian hadn’t been invented yet, but even then, Walls of Jericho is always more raucous and sometimes quite basic in its approach. Kai Hansen (the band’s founding vocalist and guitarist) was almost certainly an ambitious musician; then again many of them are in their youth. Here, this often manifests as him trying to sing high notes he can’t quite reach; while this often renders his tone frailer than the Bruce Dickinsons and Rob Halfords he seeks to imitate, you can’t really fault him for trying, as the songs here are written for the type of soaring vocals Hansen’s attempting.

The rest of the band (including Kai’s guitar parts) are more musically skilled, and arguably do more justice to the material on Walls of Jericho. The arrangements they play, for instance, throw in plenty of variety despite generally relying on pop song structures. This often takes the form of extended bridges with lots of soloing, such as in “Murderer” or “Phantoms of Death” (which, as I keep writing these articles, shows itself to be a very common way to lengthen a song in the metal world), or an atmospheric section – most notably in “Victim of Fate”. The way Helloween writes their riffs and solos at this point actually reminds me of my own approach, as they favor simple rhythms with more complicated/subdivided melodies full of scales, arpeggios, tremelos, and so forth. Despite this approach (which was still relatively novel in the mid-80s), references to the traditional heavy metal and punk rock that supposedly inspired ‘speed metal’ constantly shine through, particularly in the rhythm section; there’s even a few d-beats on this album! That is almost certainly the difference between power metal and the rest of the underground metal scene at the time – more references to older substyles that are more obvious to the average listener.

In retrospect, this album is probably not that complicated from an analysis stance – a point that paradoxically makes it harder for me to write about it in this context. On the other hand, its lack of technical perfection (not significant, since the band knows their chops to a various degree) lends it a certain energy and spirit that makes it worth my time. In contrast, what little I’ve listened to of Michael Kiske’s recordings with Helloween come off as too processed in comparison. It doesn’t take long to do so, really.

Highlights: “Starlight”, “Murderer”, “Ride The Sky”, “Gorgar”

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