|Musical Style: Melodic Hard Rock||Produced By: Jerusalem|
|Record Label: Pierced||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2010||Artist Website: Jerusalem|
|Tracks: 13||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 70:07|
Sweden's Jerusalem stands alongside Resurrection Band and Petra as pioneers in the Christian hard music scene that emerged out of the seventies. The group debuted in 1978 with the aptly entitled full length effort Volume 1 only to follow up two years later with an the every bit as originally titled sophomore release, Volume 2. Both albums headed in an unpolished hard rock direction that left somewhat to be desired in terms of songwriting and production. It was not until 1981 that Jerusalem reached its potential with Warrior, a groundbreaking work that ranks with the finest Christian hard rock releases of the pre-Stryper era. Following the erratic pop-wave sounds of Can’t Stop Us Now from 1983, Jerusalem returned to its roots in 1987 with the metal influenced Dancing On The Head Of The Serpent. The group remained on the sidelines until 1994, when it put out the somewhat-U2-influenced-somewhat-modern-tinged leanings of Prophet.
After a sixteen year hiatus, Jerusalem regrouped in 2010 with its six album of all new material in She. The album can best be described as a musical continuation of Prophet in that the group maintains a distinct U2 vibe, although with fewer modern overtones and a greater propensity towards classic melodic hard rock. It all adds up to a musical stellar release in that what we have in She is perhaps the finest collection of songs ever from the group.
Jerusalem literally outdid themselves from a songwriting standpoint, full of inspiration and emotion while giving rise to notable melodies certain to keep She a refreshing listen for time to come. I love the songs here! It all starts with the albums more commercial material, including “Calling On”, “I Want To Leave Her” and “Save My Life” (the three hint at a radio friendly element) but also encompass hard edged tracks “Come On”, “Amos 5”, “The Story Of D” and “The Greatest Party” (a heaviness reminiscent to early Jerusalem can be found in the four). In between we have a customary (and very good) anthem, “Suddenly”, a plodding piece, “Supernatural”, and a couple that stray towards ballad territory in “She” and “Heaven”.
Founding member Ulf Christiansson never sounded better vocally. Doing away with the gruff and guttural feel to his delivery on past Jerusalem releases, Ulf has adopted a smoother and cleaning style trending towards the classic tenor side of things. You can tell a great deal of work went in on his part to polish his delivery, with the end result by far the finest performance of his career.
Ulf continues to handle all guitar duties and has adopted a mode of playing resembling that of The Edge (hence, the previously referenced U2 comparison). Just check out his “wavy” and at times “ethereal” melodies, riffs and harmonies - the artist has really become quite proficient in this capacity - and tell me they do not come from The Edge school of guitar instruction. That being said, when flexing his muscles he can still deliver a harder edged sound that hearkens back to the groups earlier days.
She features the long term rhythm section of drummer Michael Ulvsgard and bassist Peter Carlsohn, Jerusalem mainstays since the early eighties Can’t Stop Us Now era. It is testament to the albums pristine production that the two shine in terms of performance. Ulvsgard maintains an unwavering presence timekeeping wise while Carlsohn’s bass distinctly stands out in the low end.
Complaints are few and far between. Yes, there are a couple of tracks I struggle with in “She” and “Standing At Jericho”, but when taking into consideration there are 13 songs here the album proves remarkably consistent. She is also a bit long at 70 minutes, but when factoring its length and level of songwriting, it presents with an even balance of quantity and quality. You also might point out the length of individual songs, with most coming in within five to six minutes and several approaching seven. Lengthy songwriting, on the other hand, has always been a Jerusalem staple- so this is not something we are not already used to!
Anointed lyrics are another Jerusalem trademark. The following from the groups press material best explains the albums titled and theme:
“SHE is a story of deception, which opened the door to a path leading away from the true and only King. A story about a system created by man called Babylon, which gives the world a false picture of who He really is.
SHE is you and SHE is me, and all the ones not knowing they are lost children of the Most High, thinking He is a religious system confined in a building. Hear the sound of His voice calling her back to where SHE was meant to be. SHE is also a story of her being restored and prepared for the wedding day when SHE meets her King in the sky.”
Track By Track
“Calling On” represents everything that works well with Jerusalem circa 21st century: A prevailing chorus hook and tinges of emotional vocal melodies combine to form a setting bordering on the commercial. Great relentless drum assaults from Ulvsgard. This could be a hit if given the chance on FM radio. Lyric snippet:
Live a life in bitterness
Someone to blame for this mess
Stuck in the mud
Nowhere to run
Crying out from wounds inside
Let the past be gone and over with
Forgiveness is a thing you give
“Come On” hearkens back to Dancing On The Head Of The Serpent with its driving sounds. This one finds the rhythm guitar at the forefront of the mix, backing quite the frenetically paced chorus and a breakdown at the halfway point in which Ulf provides a discourse on victory and freedom:
We are not afraid anymore, I’m not afraid anymore
We are the soldiers of a mighty King
And we will bring a message of freedom
Of real freedom, and we’re here for a purpose
They can’t kill a dead man can they?
So we’re not afraid anymore
We not ashamed of the King
Some of those U2 influences can be found on “I Want To Leave Her”, a haunting piece characterized by its laid back proclivity and moody edge. A stylish instrumental opening carried by ethereal guitar effects and abundant bass lines help invite the U2 comparison.
When considering the best songs about the second coming, “Suddenly” ranks at or near the top. The song proves sublime but decisive at the same time, played with just the right amount of emotion but also delivering the melody to pull you in with repeated listen. The majestic aura here - “And suddenly! The sky cracked wide! In an open sight! In a twinkle of an eye” - is certain to send shivers down your spine. I cannot help but feel the U2 elements brought out the best in this one. Lyric snippet:
All flesh will fear
When He appears
In all His might, a stunning sight
When the King gets back
He comes soon
He comes suddenly
The Son of Man is back again
What we have in “Supernatural” is a slower piece that gradually builds and grows. It kind of plods along from the start to a quietly played guitar, not peaking until it obtains a commanding chorus aligning with the palatial feel to the setting at hand:
Sons of thunder
Signs and wonders
I’m taking about a different culture
It’s time for action
Don’t’ settle with just a fraction
Another expertly composed piece that finds Jerusalem at the top of its game songwriting wise.
An up-tempo, heavier rock direction is taken on “Save My Life”. With the rhythm guitar playing a more prominent role, this one proves attitude laden with its stately propensities and Ulf in fine form in displaying the full range to his voice. Ironically, “Save Me Life” is one of the albums shortest in coming in at “just” 3:51.
I find the albums title track a struggle. Slow and toiling, “She” meanders from front to back in lacking the inspirational milieu of the better material here (at least that’s my opinion). A further distraction can be found in the songs excessive six and a half minute length.
Heavy duty rocker “Amos 5” gets things back on track. This one places emphasis on ominous - do I dare say doom-like? - riffing during its verses while breaking out for a rumbling chorus featuring some every bit as hard edged propensities. This is as dark as it gets for Jerusalem, and not just musically but lyrically as well (the group pulls no punches here):
Don’t believe the lies
God says: “I can’t stand your religious meetings
I’m fed up with your conferences and boring sermons
I’m tired of your image making, pretentious slogans and goals
I’ve had all I can take of your noise ego-music
Sing TO me for a change
I want justice, justice
I, I want, I want fairness
Oceans of it
That’s what I want
That’s ALL I want
“Come To The King” delivers a melodic based sound. The song brings a more placid feel in combining some worshipful elements of plenty of “airy” guitar effects that once more hint at U2. In the end a nice effort that adds to the albums versatility.
“The Story Of D” ranks with the heaviest of the heavies- at least as far as Jerusalem are concerned. This one comes across “just right” at seven minutes, playing up a bottom heavy presence but also highlighting fitting atmospheric touches and tempo changes bordering on the progressive. You cannot help but admire the flair and creativity here. Lyric snippet:
So they threw D in the lion’s den
And they said he’ll never be back again
And in the early morning sun
The king came down after a sleepless night
His conscience kept him awake all night
Asking D are you still around?
He answered, King, I’m safe and sound
You know I’ll worship One
And you must too, to be heaven bound
“Heaven” is a slowly moving piece similar to “She”. The main difference, however, is that “Heaven” proves the more interesting of the two with its pronounced melody emphasis. Yes, a bit lengthy at just under six minutes but holds up all the same.
Things return to a heavier rock direction with “The Greatest Party”. What we have here is an up-tempo focus merged with a driving mentality, bluesy vocal melodies and a pumping bass line bringing out the best in nothing less than a rousing five minutes. Several exquisite guitar runs round things out. Lyric snippet:
Then the Master said
You have made your choice
Now I’ll bring the ones you never really liked
Bring the hungry in, bring the misfits in
The hopeless and rejected in
Fill my house
But the busy ones
They will not come in
I could have done without “Standing At Jericho”, a moody track that is the albums shorted at around three minutes. Not that the song is bad, but with the album approaching seventy minutes I am getting ready for things to wrap themselves up at this point.
I have always liked Jerusalem but must confess to not always being the biggest fan. She, however, won me over, a special album that, again, features perhaps the group’s finest offering of songs ever. I also find the U2 elements refreshing - I wish U2 still wrote songs this good - while the quality production and anointed lyrics add to the albums appeal.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Calling On” (5:00), “Come On” (4:30), “I Want To Leave Her” (6:04), “Suddenly” (5:12), “Supernatural” (6:46), “Save My Life” (3:47), “She” (6:30), “Amos 5” (5:20), “Crown The King” (5:50), “The Story Of D” (7:00), “Heaven” (5:48), “The Greatest Party” (4:48), “Standing At Jericho” (3:07)
Ulf Christiansson – Lead Vocals, Guitars & Keyboards
Peter Carlsohn – Bass
Michael Ulvsgard - Drums