Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Helloween - Warrior


This is a thrash song, see? Yes, the main riff is in a major key but can you really call it happy? Given the subject matter, it instead sounds ironic, like the triumphant martial pattern of the army falling at the battle of Waterloo.

Listen to how the sections are clearly segmented, the riff does this, the bridge that, the chorus is shouty. Just one song before, Helloween were starting to break down these chunks of song into smaller orchestral configurations. But this song is grim and linear. Lots of galloping guitar triplets. Mr. Kai Hansen is getting this sort of song out of his system as it's one of the very last straightforward bangers on record. Markus Grosskopf (bighead? That's the extent of my German) can't resist throwing in more melodic bass licks around the staccato rhythm guitar figures but that's pretty much it as far as flavour for this song. The three-part solo is remarkably uninteresting, mainly due to the weak switch-up in the rhythm pattern between part two and three. Helloween will do so much better at this sort of thing. Very soon.

Had this been the direction this band pursued, Helloween would have been remembered by obscurantist enthusiasts as an interesting second-tier speed metal band that contributed a variation to a form that, by 1987 would be considered charmingly outmoded while the death metal bands and the technothrash bands upped the ante. Like Pyracanda, perhaps.

The lyric is interesting for a few reasons.

Blackened sky a final flash
Death is in the air
Warriors without a face
Destruction everywhere

Silent falls the hammer
Noone hears the cries
No escaping from this hell
Your prayers won't be heard...so die

Brainless cruel commanders
Sending death and pain
Soldiers only robots
Fight for their life in vain

Die, now! die, warrior!

Somewhere in the shelter sit the men
Who hold your fate in hands
Playing chess and you're the loser
You're a small pawn in their game

Somewhere in the shelter sit the men
And they don't realise
A war without survivors is a fight
That's never won
So die!

Barren land desolate waste
Destruction is complete
Survivors creeping thru the ruins
Decaying flesh and meat

Somewhere in a shelter
Some pigs are still alive
And still they play the game
They don't give a damn

This is a very stereotypical view of war by teenagers and that's why the song still is resonant for me. It's not a politically informed thesis, it is instead a sideways look into a common wound. How much do you know about war? Do you understand the geopolitical confluence of events that led to the second World War? Why are some wars called 'humane' while others are considered unjust in the eyes of history? Do you understand the functionality of war? How supply lines work, what trench warfare is? Well, Helloween did not. They had an open heart and open hearts are also open sores. The colour of the lyric is existential, as expressed by someone you had no first-hand experience with the philosophical movement. War is seen as senseless and alienating. The motives of it are misunderstood; Powerful men playing a sadistic game. Mom and Dad are engaging in tactics that little Helm and little Helloween are ill-equipped to understand. Again, the dark beauty of oblivion turns the teenager towards a morbid fascination. "Decaying flesh and meat... they don't give a damn... SO DIE".

It could be said that much of Heavy Metal's fascination can be traced back to these two words. Wielding death as a weapon. Darkness descends.

Understanding why Heavy Metal of darkness is a dead-end requires the understanding of what wielding death entails. The final command is self-destruction. Outward devastation, internal desolation. Letting light in is as much a choice as continuing to exist can be said to be a choice.

Helloween are dabbling with death, it's fascinating. Song by song they're shedding skin. Even by the next song to this, the light will begin shining through the mists of oblivion. Are there better weapons to wield than the cruel scythe of death? Helloween will make their case. But for young Helm, and for young Helloween, up to now this record has had to say this to us: Drugs are bad. Society misunderstands me. My parents quarrel. Nobody gives a damn about me so I'll teach them all by dying tragically!


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  3. Triplets on four legs.

    Man, I love how this Helloween anti-war horse halts, sending its message "...so die"

    The sincerity spook'd me. My ears are younger here. Less exposed than yours. Heard it differently. I surrendered. Obey'd the command to consider it as the only album/song, in existence. Stupid that. Warrior had its way. Melody forced lyric. Melody forced relentlessly.