Kingston Wall – Best hidden secrets of Finnish Rock

hqdefaultWhen I was a kid in the middle of the 1990s, the kids who were serious about rock and metal listened bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden, Kingston Wall and Guns n’ Roses. I always thought Kingston Wall was one of those big-selling ass-kicking rock bands. And backwards thinking I should have been more right.

Kingston Wall should have been there, but there are errors in the world. Kingston Wall has all the qualities of the household major rock bands, except the major thing, and that isn’t the quality of music. They were never properly advertised and their music was not spread by a huge corporation. Their albums were first released by their front man Petri Walli’s own company Trinity. Afterwards they’ve been released by multiple different companies, the first rerun being years after the band had broken up, 1998. Also, they were very 60s in the forwards thinking 90s, and hard to copy.

Still they became “the” progressive rock group in Finland after Wigwam. Almost all Finnish persons who are interested in rock and metal have had their Kingston Wall phase. They’ve been a massive influence to Finnish musicians, one of the most notable being Amorphis (and pretty much every progressive rock or progressive metal group since the 2000s).

Kingston Wall was masterminded by a charismatic and extremely talented vocalist and guitarist Petri Walli. The other two core members were Jukka Jylli (bass) and Sami Kuoppamäki (drums). In fact Sami Kuoppamäki was their 3rd drummer who joined the band when they had already played over 60 gigs (with Petteri Ståhl 1987-1989 and Timo “Tinde” Joutsimäki 89-90).

They released three albums from 1992 to 1994. They broke up in 94 and Petri Walli went on to finalize their career by killing himself in 1995. He was a very interesting, almost manic depressive figure. In the spring of 2014 a  book about him and the career of Kingston Wall was released by Like (http://like.fi/kirjat/kingston-wall/). I cannot recommend it enough, though so far it is only in Finnish (Feb 2016).

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I (1992), II (1993) and III Tri-Logy (1994)

II, is generally considered the best album. I is a classic first album in a sense that it has a bunch of tracks from various time periods of the band. III incorporates elements of electronic music being clearly the weirdest and hardest to approach. At the time Walli was heavily influenced by his trips to India and Ior Bock’s Saga which pretty much based Finland as the centre of the world, spoke for the virtue of “save and not spill ones semen or female ejacula”, and based a lot for word alterations which were made to find the basis of the word (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ior_Bock#Outline_of_the_Bock_Saga + see the last song Alt – land – is on the bottom which explains the basics of this belief).

All 3 are solid albums but II is the Master of Puppets, Appetite for Destruction or Number of the beast of Kingston Wall.

Apparently Kingston Wall was a very tight live band. Biggest strength was to have a lot of variety, strong themes and a freedom to improvise combined with a lot of musicianship. They for example hosted their own “FreakOut” clubs were they did everything but stick to previously decided song lists.

Big part on why they are so good in the albums is that they played live for years before their first official recording. The bassist Jukka Jylli said that the tracks in their first album are just one versions of the songs. He did not even listen the album after its creation because he didn’t want to learn to play the tracks some certain way, there had to be freedom to improvise. They played only one gig outside of Finland (Tallinn).

Kingston Wall is not a classy, but ultimately hard to reach progressive rock band. They have a lot of psychedelia but also supremely catchy melodies and songs with easier structures. Their tracks are filled with hooks and catchiness. Never still losing the progressive edge and packing a lot of elements from Asian music. The way a hinterland Finnish band incorporates mysticism from Asia with hooks and instrumental proficiency is ludicrous really. But the tracks stay superbly interesting and the sounds are top notch for its time.

For me, Kingston Wall is easily better than any of the bands mentioned in the first paragraph. Strangely their biggest hits are also among their best. Here are few recommendations.

Jimi Hendrix cover – Fire (I, listen the drummer Sami Kuoppamäki go berserk, Petri Walli once said that “if Sami realized how good he is, his head would explode”).

We cannot move (II), one of their best and catchiest tunes with lots of Middle-Eastern influence.

A ballad Shine On Me (II):

If you want to start from a more difficult bit. Here is the The Real Thing (III), an 18 minute long opus:

Alt – land – is (III) – explains the basics of the odd mythlogy Bock’s Saga, which Walli used as the backbone of their album III Tri-Logy

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