Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Walls of Jericho - An Introduction

Helloween's "Walls of Jericho" is a very important Heavy Metal record for many reasons. For one, it arguably is the starting point of the modern definition of power metal. There have been many 'power metals' since the early eighties and there has been even more confusion as to what the genre stands for, especially in contrast to what is now called the 'traditional heavy metal' genre. Helloween, though I'm sure they didn't expect to, helped clear the waters with the release of their debut but even more so with their follow up albums "Keeper of the Seven Keys", part one and two. 

But we'll get to all of that. "Walls of Jericho" is important for metal, but it's really important to me, personally. What I'm going to do in covering this very important item, then, is going to be different. Well, it's not like Poetry of Subculture has so far had a stable approach to discussing records, but in my head I'm deviating even further from my usual deviance here.

You see, this was in a strange way my first real Heavy Metal record. Before it I had only listened to Metallica. When I mean only, I am being very literal. I got into Heavy Metal at age 11 or so by having my father buy me "Master of Puppets". We were in a record shop, shopping for him and my older brother and he urged me to pick something up for myself as well, and I was drawn to the inexplicable malice of the combo of band & record name and that cover.

I didn't even own a CD deck, I just had this little tape player. My brother dubbed the cd on tape and kept the original (like the pack rat he was and still is) and man, I lived on that tape. I learned English to understand that tape (also, for adventure games). The allure of it is difficult to define because it is difficult to access; I no longer feel as I did for "Master of Puppets". You can see that in that it's not even in my Master List of personal HM favorites. But "Walls of Jericho" is.

For the next year and a half or so I managed to accumulate the full Metallica discography, all on tape, through my brother's English teacher. She had been very kind to give me these tapes, which I got in no particular order and rather slowly. I do not know if it was wisdom or just boredom that made her tickle out the dosage on Metallica, but it took close to a full year to get all the stuff from her. If I close my eyes I can still remember her handwritten song lists on the back of the tape. It's due to her that I still can't immediately recognize "Metal Militia" readily, as it didn't fit on the "Kill 'Em All" tape. It's her fault Dyer's Eve ends just after the first verse for similar reasons. Even today the rest of that song sounds so off to me.  Inno – cence! Torn from me with – out a shelteeerr! So off-key and annoying.

"Load" had just come out if you'd like to date this process. It should tell you a lot that I couldn't understand any difference, stylistically, between "Load" and "Master of Puppets". I remember very clearly that I didn't like it as much, but I couldn't tell you why. Boy, I can tell you now, but let's not.

For almost my first two years into metal, I wasn't really listening to metal (and certainly I had no concept of the full range of Heavy Metal out there), I was listening to Metallica. But I did have a taste of adventure and lots of alone time, so I decided to investigate further. I wanted to be a metalhead. I started reading Metal Hammer GR - a magazine of some repute then, mandatory reading for nascent metalheads. Not so much now, I started imagining myself with long hair, you know. I think this is a very common metalhead experience. It's been sixteen years. I turned 28 a few days ago. My hair is real fuckin' long.

My older brother had a friend who was selling "Walls of Jericho" for whatever reason. I think he was getting out of metal, or at least perhaps he didn't like the record. Man, I remember at least two older dudes getting out of metal at around that time. The second guy's story was hilarious. He claimed to have met the devil in his bedroom one night, hovering over his Venom and Obituary cds, which he threw out immediately the next morning. The kicker is that he went and picked them out of the trash later one because he figured, hey, might as well make some drachmas reselling them. God won't mind. I remember feeling equally scared and jealous at this nocturnal meeting with the Daystar. The fear has dissipated over the years, but the allure burns like a black flame.
I must have read something on Metal Hammer about how Helloween were a great band and you know, that's all it took at that point. To help you understand, I bought the Metal Hammer magazines out of a very meager allowance and I always felt guilty bringing it home, what with this King Diamond devilface on the cover and all these photographs inside of clearly villainous personalities. "Master of Puppets", with its rather diversionary cover was one thing, the magazines were another. Later on I would get my dad to buy me new CDs at the record store every few weeks, but early on I felt the type of guilt associated with Heavy Metal that I think is imperative to be acquainted with to understand why this music has such a hold on those that it enthralls. So I read about much, much more than I listened to new Heavy Metal records. Do you see how from there there is a line leading us directly here, me with a blog about Heavy Metal and you reading about it?

I bought the record used, for very little money. The person that sold it later on died of cancer. Unfortunate. I always remember this guy because I always remember "Walls of Jericho" and how I fell in love with it, how I learned what Heavy Metal was and furthermore imagined what it could be through it.

What I'm going to try to do is discuss every single song on the record from two vantages. One is the one of the modern Helm, with all his encyclopedic knowledge of metal music, the one you know from Poetry of Subculture. The other vantage I will try to summon is of the 12 year old Helm, the one who doesn't even know there's a difference between bass guitar and electric, the one who has no idea what 'double bass' is. It's not the only way to service how I feel about "Walls of Jericho", but it's really one of the most interesting ones.
I will start soon and carry on as time allows. Let's grow up together, strong and proud and very lonely, let's become metalheads all over again.  


  1. Fascinating. Looking forward to this!

  2. Fascinating indeed. I'm eager to read the follow-up!

  3. Gooorgaar! Will be an interesting read about my favourite Helloween album along with Keepers. You seem to be somewhat exactly my age (turned 28 a few weeks ago).

  4. Fuck, I missed your birthday again!

    Another year closer to 30, right? And then, you'll be the angry old balding metal guy walking around telling people who don't care what "real" music is. Anyways, looking forward to this series of posts.