Primitive Origins: Jerusalem’s “Jerusalem”

Primitive Origins is a column where we’ll look back at proto-metal and early metal that deserves a bit of your battered eardrum’s attention. We’re keeping it loose and easy here: there’s no strict guidelines other than it’s gotta be old, it helps if it’s obscure, and it’s gotta rock out surprisingly hard for its context. Pscyh-ed out proto-metal from the late ’60s? Of course. Early attempts at doom metal from the ’70s? Hell yeah. Underground Soviet metal from the early ’80s? Sure. Bring it on. Bring it all on.

They only released one album, and it was way back in 1972, but there’s a reason we’re talking about it today: Brit proto-metallers Jerusalem killed it on that one album. It makes sense that the self-titled record was produced by Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan, as it rocks hard and heavy much like Deep Purple, but there’s more of an unhinged, near-punk vibe and a heavier proto-doom sound at times. Jerusalem are together again these days, so maybe the world will get more material at some point, but it likely won’t have the manic innocence that this album does.

And that feeling of carefree youth starts early, on frantic, excellent, perfect opener “Frustration.” Now that’s an opening riff, man, the band just nailing everything that is good about speedy, ’70s hard rock/proto-metal with that feelgood riff of the year. The song totally rules, Jerusalem starting hard ‘n’ heavy, fast and loud, laying down all the right moves. This song is worthy of not just one spin, but several.

Next song “Hooded Eagle” gets doomy and thrashy, the band retrofitting Metallica influence between the Sabbath sludge and boogie, with some subtle songwriting smarts going on back there in the rhythm section. If that sounds like it adds up to a winning combination, that’s because it totally does. This is another killer tune; turn this up, loud, now:

And it just continues, man, third song “I See the Light” threatening to wimp out with the obligatory ’70s blues-rock song, but it doesn’t, instead it just stomps, stomps, stomps to the finish line, the band building, ebbing, and flowing, making this 3:53 rocker feel like a 7:53 epic. Not bad at all. Love the screw-it drum performance, and the crazed riffing.

“Murderer’s Lament” takes an odd left turn to a sort of quirky storytelling that makes me feel like I’m listening to the grandfathers of Wrathchild America here. Not entirely sure what they were going for, but, shit, it was 1972 and no one really knew what anyone was going for on albums like this. That was the beauty of it. There were few rules, because it was barely even clear what genre this was. So, things like this happened:

“When the Wolf Sits” ends off side A of the LP with a killer, up-tempo rocker, the band laying it down straight and heavy, channelling NWOBHM shades and hues well before that movement existed. Again, love the unhinged guitar work, and the vocals walk a fine line between sane and not, the whole song just moving along with a forward momentum that picks you up and brings you along with it. Side A done, and every song’s a winner. That’s impressive: these proto-metal albums are often checkered with filler cuts, but there’s none to be found here.

“Midnight Steamer” kicks off side B with some great riffs ‘n’ licks, the song pure guitargasm in all the best ways. It’s incredible to get this deep into a proto-metal album without having the band suddenly bow to label suits and toss off a crap cover or a energy-sapping blues tune. Jerusalem are just picking up the tempo with each song here, and we’re definitely along for the ride.

“Primitive Man” sits at track seven of nine, and shit’s just getting heavier. The opening few seconds of this song sound like Primitive Man, and the vocal performance is pure NOLA sludge. This song is one of the heaviest we’ve documented in this column. Almost six minutes of proto-doom (even proto-sludge) masquerading as ’70s hard rock. Not too hard to imagine this basically being a Grief song, although the quirky middle part is perhaps not in the sludge vocabulary, but when the riff comes back, that’s earth-shaking stuff right there. Until something heavier is unearthed, this is the Primitive Origins theme song.

“Beyond the Grave” is the second to last track here, and starts off with a deceptively jaunty intro, the band taking a sharp left turn to frolic through the fields of Zep with the fairies and orcs. It doesn’t make much sense, but neither does what happens next, which is that the band kinda invents the sound that Nomeansno would later expand on to much success. Seriously, this weirdo song is totally weirdo, the band going noise-punk right before the album’s final song, one more middle-finger salute from a band that had a few of them.

Now, on to the greatest song title of 1972. “She Came Like a Bat From Hell” is a pretty incredible thing to call a song, and just an incredible string of words for anyone to put together at any point for any reason. And these dudes knew it, repeating the phrase about 1,000 times in this song, which ends off this album as a perfect, frantic rocker, which is amazing because, damn: no blues songs or crap covers. That’s an incredible feat for a proto-metal album, and this song seems to know and celebrate that, Jerusalem partying to the finish line here with yet another great riff to chew on, the pounding and crashing drums emphasizing just how raucous this whole affair has been, the vocal performance like those from raw demo versions of Keenan-era COC tunes, the band going loudly into the good, good night. Hails, Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s Jerusalem The Decibel breakdown:

Do I need to be stoned to listen to this?: Nah, the tunes stand on their own.

Heaviness factor: Close to Sabbatherian, heavier than most other releases of 1972. Some songs, like “Primitive Man” are absolutely as heavy as the era got.

Obscura Triviuma: In a huge middle finger to the industry standard at the time, the band opted to never learn cover songs, instead just focusing on their own material. On behalf of everyone who hates hearing ’70s bands cover other ’70s bands’ over-covered songs, we salute you, Jerusalem.

Other albums: No albums, just the “Kamikaze Moth”/”Frustration” 45 (which rules).

Related bands: Pussy (yup, Pussy).

Alright, fine, if you must: A couple cold ones will go well with those big proto-metal riffs.