Thursday, December 13, 2012

Helloween - Victim of Fate

Do you hear the thunder crack, readers?

Destiny is split asunder. The hero's tale can be rewritten, destiny shall die, willpower cradles the hilt, hope is the blade!

This is it. This is where Helloween become something more than a Teutonic speed metal band, this is where the formalist vantage will stop proving fruitful for us and we shall have instead to get in touch with the Eternal Return, teenager pathos. We shall have to... feel. I know it is difficult, lonely men, women and cyborgs out there, but we must and we shall!

Every time I listen to this song, I get so pumped, I'm not going to cut and paste these lyrics from some website, I am going to type them out while headbanging to the song. There shall be no spell checking!



I was born in the rotten part of the town
The biggest trap I've seen
Wherever you go wherever you get to
Evil's all around

My mother's a bitch my fathere's a killer
Getting paid for murder
Fight in the front in the ???
The only way to survive

Wanted for murder they'll never catch me
I'd much rather die in this bloody war

Fly high, touch the sky
Never know the reason why it ends

Fly high, touch the sky
Never know the

I had to kill people to save my own life
I don't wnat to go to hell
I started at the bottom
I'm headed for the top

I'll never return I'll never go back
to that god-damn part of the town
Headhunters won't get me 'cuz I'm not stupid
But this ain't the life that I dreamt of

Wanted for murder they'll never get me
I'd much rather die in this bloody war

Fly high, touch the sky
NEver known the reason why it ends

Fly high, touch the sky,
Never know the reason why it ends

What now lonely man,
Who is standing in the shadows of the streets
YOu're left alone with no helping hand beside you

You hide from the daylight
Living in darkness
You've got no friends
You can trust nobody except from yourself

The only shape stands beside you
It's the shape of Lucifer
Laughing with a satanic smile

And his friend death
Sharpens his shickle

You don't want to die, do you?
But you will!

You will burn in hell.


Fly high, touch the sky
NEver known the reason why it ends

Fly high, touch the sky,
Never know the reason why it ends



The second 'wild' solo is full of power. My soul doth elevate.

And finally:


And yet,
I feel about ten years younger after listening to this.

I am not dead. Though I will die, eventually, I have now for a moment completely forgotten. The lyric of this song is at odds with its musical presentation because Helloween are on a trajectory, perhaps unbeknownst to them as well. They are not a cynical speed band with morbid tales for us. They are a power metal band, and their music gives hope, it points to the light.

The thema of this song is close to that of those that followed it on the first part of this record. Imagined - probably extrapolated from teenager experiences - difficult life, having to do sinful acts to survive. Pursued by carriers of nemesis (hilariously, headhunters. I am imagining Charles Bronson in Deathwish), there seems to be no way out, death is certain.

And then, out of the blue, this chorus. What does it say? "Fly high, touch the sky. Never know the reason why it ends". This is not the sound of tragedy, it is, instead that of triumph. Focus especially on "never know the reason why it ends". This is such a human, naive look at the face of death. This music takes that simple line, which in other contexts could exist in some morose existentialist poem and makes of it in a totality-of-the-real inversion, a deposition of faith, a decree: It will not end, it doesn't end. It never ends.

The tension between this chorus and the lyrics and the musical motifs of the verses (which are again, speed-thrash of that era) was not lost on the band. The middle slow atmosphere building section deepens the disparity of emotion. This song is a wild ride. It was for twelve year old Helm and it still is. A masterpiece. There are rough edges, sure, but they also helped to break a specific mold (That of the Judas Priest / Iron Maiden multi-part quasi-mythological epic, to be exact). Helloween needed those edges to push them towards hyperbole, and through that to the palace of wisdom, the road to awe.

The second solo section, it's just the final statement of what I am describing. At first ordered and lamenting, then wild chaos breaks loose. Fly high. Touch the sky. You will not die.

Fuck it, we're not stopping. Let's talk about 'Cry for Freedom' as well because this is a trajectory nearing its end and I don't want to wait four months to reach my own metaphorical ejaculation either (and I wonder at what position does that put you, dear readers).


This is a beautiful, ferocious power metal song. It is the perfect ending to a record that starts from solipsism and the terror of the I and ends with a social critique of injustice in its most blatant form. There is no exact political regime named in this song and therefore all are targeted. The structure of  totalitarianism is targeted.

The intro to this song seems like something Judas Priest would do, only and blatantly without the pipes of one mr. Halford to grace it, it becomes a different thing. Halford knew well of the theatric capacity of metal music and his stories, many of them centering on the 'we're not going to take it anymore' theme, were as much performance as say, that slice of Victorian melodrama, "The Ripper". This isn't to say that Halford didn't get into it but as any performing artist will tell you, their training is not to immitate, it is to inhabit. But it is still a performance. That the young audience of Judas Priest elevated their songs to true anthems of the oppressed (or imaginably oppressed, as it were) stands as a monument more to them than Judas Priest. Other bands, with their rugged edges and more meager talents would cut much closer to bone, the theater would become much more secondary to the message. Other bands, simply, did it better than Judas Priest.

Helloween, for example. Kai Hansen is, at this point, a very rough voice. Nasal and without great control of his vibrato, very accented and sometimes tonally shaky. This stops a lot of listeners from getting into this era of Helloween which is a shame because with the arrival of their full time singer, Michael Kiske, the said theatricality came with full force. There's a punkish vitality with Hansen on the vocals that is sacrificed. As I've said before, Kai Hansen is inviting to sing with (not over, his voice is still much more powerful than most). He knows he's no Pavarotti but he's going to hit that high note anyway. Sing with him.

This is the lyric of the calm before the storm. It's truly touching if you destroy the distance.

"Freedom, the cry of all slaves will be heard.
And the tyrants will feel the steel of our sword

The chains will be broken by all slaves on the earth
Forever to be free from their load"

This flows dramatically into a lead section that winds down with such grace that puts the violence that follows in even starker relief. This is truly savage. Death metal can eat it, The contrast between beauty and force shakes me in such a fundamental way that tales of gore and guts never have and never will.

"Time has run out for all you tyrants on earth
The slaves are heeding the call
Making an end to all this terror and pain
An end to your lies and your law

Taking away all your gold and your money
'Cause dead men don't need it anymore
Much too long we've felt the slash of your whips
So now you will feel our swords

Freedom, the eternal cry will echo high in the sky

The day will come when all power has been broken
Your blood will flow down to the gates of Hell
Satan will wait for your souls
Pray to your god, he won't help you, he's dead
He won't fool our minds and our souls

(I'll overlook the lamentable choice of allegory what with loads and being free of them, I didn't get that as a child and I'm sure Helloween didn't either.)

This is a fast song, but with such compositional nuance. First of all, the reverbated chorus of oohs after the first verse. This is OUR voice, we are meant to join in. This is a song for all of us, we are included, in such a vital way. Helloween can't do it alone, we can't overthrow tyranny unless we understand ourselves as part of a 'we'. This is a core characteristic of Heavy Metal that turns to the light. Those given to solipsistic pursuits will forever understand themselves in isolation. The light will only serve to blind them. It is in the shade that their objects of desire can best be understood, their subtle nuances in texture and form. Simpler forms, closer to black and white, in light and darkness, those inherent to the language any collective understands, as common currency to communicate and consecutively carry on as a cohesive core. The dangers of such maneuvers are recorded in history as a startling remembrance of atrocity and horror. Yet Helloween, closer to such horror than you and I are now, in 2012, still rally to the call of 'Freedom', for all slaves on this earth. Do you join in on the song?

Here's an interesting experiment. There's a very specific part of this song where you might feel compelled to sing back to mr. Hansen (aside from the 'ooh' vocal chorus section). It's when he goes "The day will come when all power has been broken" and we reply "Your blood will flow down to the gates of Hell". Do you feel it? The cadence of the lyrics there give a huge opening for a second voice to say that line (it sounds like it is two different takes in studio as well). Listen to this song and if you feel it inside you to resonate any truth, do kindly sing along to that line there. Give it your best growly angry shouty voice if you don't have a proper range. What do you feel? Did your hand curl up as if tracing the contours of some invisible orange? Did your eyes open wide, did you scare your cat? That little tiny bit of dark power, the essence of all magic, it truly exists and can be summoned with such remarkably low-brow art that sometimes it scares me that society has worked out at all. We can be so easily swayed into a malignant, total fantasy that I am not even directly concerned with when that fantasy becomes action. That the fantasy exists inside us and can be brought to the surface by such a compositionally simple trick astounds me. Here's Helloween and then, think about a Richard Wagner.

This is powerful music, hence, power metal. It is not a formalist definition. Double bass and palm muted riffs do not make power metal. Achieving that sense of fantastical power and assigning that strength to the service of listener agency makes it power metal. The birth of this genre has little to do with how many major keys or singalongs there are in the piece and everything to do with coming up from the darkness into light, acknowledging a sense of belonging (even if the group one chooses to belong to is entirely fabricated, as in "metal brothers") and achieving a sense of positive motion by harnessing beauty.

Helloween would go on to become more beautiful, more inclusive and more refined in their approach, gaining a large following. Even the months between this EP and the "Walls of Jericho" record proper mark a difference, though not such a sizable one as with the records that followed with their new Bruce Dickinson-esque singer. The themes they will expand upon in the next few songs are those of the last few of the EP, as if they understood there's something more to what they only glimpsed at. The opener of "Walls of Jericho" is a monumental creation and it serves as an inspiration to anyone who has ever composed anything to see a band go from grasping at the vague structure of a concept in point A to mastering the perfect sculpture of it six months later in point B. But let's discuss that next time.



  1. I have no idea why I missed this at the time of posting. But it's great! :)

  2. I feel the same things, and I'm really (REALLY) glad I find another Helloween listener on the Earth, and that I read this post.

    Hail from Italy, hope in Greece things will go better.

  3. Hi! Thanks for reading. I gave this a read to today and felt better in sofar that I have really described what Walls of Jericho is about even though I cut this song-by-song examination short.

  4. Yes, you did a great job, but your entire blog is worth reading from what I've seen so far.
    Keep on writing!