In late 1985, the legendary German Melodic Power Metal band Helloween came out of Berlin’s Music Lab studios and released their debut full-length studio album, Walls Of Jericho. In so doing, the band arguably changed heavy music forever.
Lead by the very talented Kai Hansen, who would later go on to become the frontman of Gamma Ray and help form Iron Saviour, the band combined powerful US style Thrash Metal (despite being fellow countrymen with the likes of Sodom, Destruction and Holy Moses) with British NWOBHM and their own unique sense of melody and whimsy that would ultimately prove vastly influential over the whole European Power Metal movement.
Compared to later albums, Walls Of Jericho is faster, harder, heavier and more rooted in the Thrash tradition than anything else. If you only knew them from singles like “Mrs God,” “If I Could Fly” and “Live Now” it might come as a shock to hear how raw and ferocious the material here can be.
That being said, everything that would come later in both Helloween and Gamma Ray’s signature sound can be picked up on here. ‘Metal Invaders’ for example tones down the Thrash and adds some of that Power Metal magic, as does the middle of ‘Ride The Sky.’
The record does a pretty good split between the styles of Kai Hansen and Mikael Weikath, in a real spot who wrote what kind of way. The real hero here however is drummer Ingo Schwitchenberg, who’s one of a kind fills and absolute mastery of the double-kick gave such a personality filled performance. Highlights include the furious ‘Metal Invaders,’ the damn catchy ‘Heavy Metal (Is The Law)’ and the memorable duo of ‘Gorgar’ and the aforementioned ‘Ride The Sky.’
Negative things? There aren’t that many. Maybe the vocals could’ve been recorded better and placed higher in the mix, and some of the transitions are jarring so structure isn’t as spot on as in the later albums, but arguably both points only add to the charm of the album, which vastly outweighs the technical complaints anyway.
Overall; Walls Of Jericho is a rawer, grittier, dirtier and more aggressive Helloween album than usual, but undeniably a Helloween album. It isn’t just interesting as historical context either, its fully entertaining in its own right musically. There are some brilliant riffs, some amazing solos and some damn catchy choruses to be found.
If you can, try and get the version which also contains the equally strong Helloween EP and assorted other compilation tracks from this era. It features extensive liner notes, photos, press clippings and the like in the booklet, and the extra music is more or less just as good as the main album.