The very first time I ever saw the Swedish rock quartet Jerusalem live was at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa during one of their famous Saturday Night concerts. I remember being able to see from where I sat the Pastor for the evening steaming and freaking out back stage as the Ulf Christianson, lead singer and guitarist, walked up and down the aisles of the main sanctuary yelling “You are Sodom. America is Sodom. The Church is Sodom!”
I went to hundreds of Calvary concerts during my musical formative years and that remains one of the very few that I can remember nearly in its entirety, along with David Edwards, Resurrection Band, the debut of the Lifesavors and the 77’s concert that got the group banned from playing at the Saturday Night concerts. Jerusalem was touring to support their newest rock collection at that time, Warrior. Like the album itself, the night rocked!
The first two releases from Jerusalem, creatively titled Volume 1 and Volume 2, showed sparks of musical brilliance and powerful, heavy blues influenced rock, but nothing that could have prepared me for the onslaught that is Warrior. The first two releases were originally written in Swedish and then translated into English. This made for some odd, and nearly unforgivable lyrical expressions, where some things just didn’t translate well. It is said that Warrior was penned in English and it shows. the lyrics, though not overtly creative and original had a much better flow and rhyming scheme. But Warrior was more about package and message than creative content.
The albums kicks off with “Constantly Changing,” one the best rock anthems for its era. The riffs were more akin to something from AC/DC and with a monster hook filled guitar groove. Then comes some of the best drumming for the time. It is a non-stop lesson in how to write a memorable rock anthem. All hook, no dead spots and a great duel lead guitar solo.
One of the things I remember most from this album are the drums. Loud. Pounding. Relentless. Nearly every song seemed to have the drums up front and center in the mix. Again, for those unfamiliar with the history of Christian Music, drums were an inconvenience and best left to way back in the mix. Especially in 1981!
The other notable factor ofWarrior is that there a lot of guitar solos and instrumentals. Most Christian music got right to the message and the musicianship and instrumentation was an afterthought. Not with Warrior. In fact, the title track has an over 3 minute instrumental introduction. And it, like the rest of the instrumentation on this album, is quite good. Loud guitars played with originality and passion.
Now it should be noted that Ulf’s voice can be an acquired taste. The thick accent trying to emphasize English words makes the voice sound strained at times, but never off key. But as for those who have seen Jerusalem live can attest, Ulf’s dialect struggles were made up for with the pure passion of a screaming evangelist with an electric guitar slung over his shoulder.
The only misstep on the album is the quirky “It’s Mad.” What must have seemed like a good idea in the studio and was enjoyable the first few listens becomes childish and annoying with repeated listens. The retelling of the Biblical story of Jericho would have fit better on a children’s Bible story record. The introductory keyboards are out of place and the arrangement is just silly at times. But that one misstep does not deter from the rest of the album.
The centerpiece of the entire project is the epic (over 12 minute) Sodom. It is more like a mini-rock opera than a long song. It tells the story of a world that has rejected its creator and the results. Synthesizer and acoustic piano instrumentation starts the opus in something closer to Kansas than AC/DC. But that moves smoothly into a Blind Faith like bluesy rock. This then builds into straight ahead Robin Trower-like rock grooves with more intense and passionate vocals. Finally, after a blistering and pounding guitar work that compares favorably to Eric Clapton (circa the 1970’s) for several minutes, the song slows down as Ulf’s vocals take over to proclaim like a prophet, “Sodom in the world today/Sweden is Sodom,/Europe is Sodom/America is Sodom.” This continues and builds with emotive ferocity until a hymn-like arrangement overtakes the entire scene and brings the epic to a close.
Despite only having 8 songs the full album clocks in at over 50 minutes! The length of the songs is precisely what makes the album so incredible. When a band can actually play their instruments at the level at which Jerusalem does, there is no reason to edit the songs…let ’em play!