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Judas Priest

I don't care what Halford says...the gayest man in Metal is still that ding-dong from Autograph.

Introduction
Rocka Rolla
Sad Wings of Destiny 
Sin After Sin
Stained Class
Killing Machine/Hell Bent for Leather
Unleashed in the East
British Steel
Point of Entry
Screaming For Vengeance
Defenders of the Faith
Turbo
Priest...live
Ram It Down
Painkiller
Jugulator
'98 Live Meltdown
Demolition
Live in London
Angel of Retribution
 

The Lineup Card (1974-2005)

Rob Halford (Vocals) 1974-1991, after 2004 Also of Fight

K.K. Downing (Guitars)

Glenn Tipton (Guitars)

Ian Hill (Bass)

John Hinch (Drums) 1974

Alan Moore (Drums) 1975-7

Simon Phillips (Drums) 1977

Les Binks (Drums) 1977-1979

Dave Holland (Drums) 1979-1990 also of Trapeze

Scott Travis (Drums) After 1990

Tim "Ripper" Owens (Vocals) 1996-2003

 

Oddly, and not at all long ago would I have been hating myself for saying it, but bad ol' leatherclad logo-rockers Judas Priest are one really, really good rock and roll band. Forget all their crowd-chowder, oversimplistic (but still catchy as frig) singles you hear clogging up your skull arteries all the day long and you have a band that's put out what might possibly be the most consistent string of great metal albums by a major band outside of Motorhead and AC/DC, neither of whom took nearly as many chances as our weathered brethren in the Priest did,. Eight years, no duffer records...Sabbath only got through six (and their first one was shakier than an Italian skyscraper) before the sad end of Technical Ecstasy, Purple had about three between In Rock and Who Do We Think We Are?, and Maiden only had six before slogging off with Somewhere in Time. Metallica, technically had seven good years of releases, but only released five measly albums from 1984-1991. I think Kiss had about three or four decent hours. I mean, when we're talking '76-'84 era Priest, we're talking great song after great song, a serious paucity of filler, some legitimately interesting chance-taking (a Joan Baez cover! tempo shifts! lyrics about boy sex!), and some of the most meaty guitar crunch of the live-balls era. But still, Judas Priest somehow seems to get the shaft when it comes to the Grand History Book of Metal. They're always referred to by metal-friendly critics in a sort of passing 'oh right, there was Judas Priest who were the first New Wave of British Heavy Metal band, but let's get on to talking about Maiden and all that blow I did in 1985' And mainstream writers?...fuggetabootit. This band gets less respect than even the lost-and-gone-forever Deep Purple does, and that's saying something, John Wayne.

The problem has to do with image, and this is where Judas Priest is ever lodged in the Mr. Sulu seat in the mindset of metal fans.  First off, they came out in the nether-region mid-70's hard rock scene, after the Big Three had already begun to smell like old people's furniture cushions and the Big Next had not yet happened. No one quite seemed to know what to do with them for the remainder of the decade - they came out of the gate slowly, releasing two albums on minor labels that nobody bought at the time before finally beginning to gain a little head of commercial steam by 1977-8. The band's heyday, if you can call it that, was from about 1979-1982, when they were heavies on the banger circuit and scored all of those Class-sick Rock Radio standards, some of them even ending up on the early days of MTV (hey, when you don't allow black people on your network, and no one has yet figured out that people will actually watch 23.5 hours per day of chubby sorority girls bitching at each other, it's amazing what you have to dredge up to fill time). By the mid-80's, the Priest name was still big among the black-lit basement rec-room crowd, but it'd lost some luster. Iron Maiden had cooler t-shirts, it was easier to shock your parents with Ozzy, and Priest's youngest progeny were taking its patented straight-ahead speed to the far end of the burst-blood vessel scale. Priest had never exactly been on top of the world commercially, but the late-80's backlash came swift and savage from all sides. First off, the fans cried out in howls of pain and rage at the release of 1986's synth-mongrel Turbo, then they were subjected to a lengthy court trial for contributing to the suicide deaths of two teenagers who listened to too much Stained Class (though Halford admitted to putting on backward messages, the band was finally let off the hook), were raked over the PMRC coals for some of their fag-love lyrics, and finally saw the simultaneous departure and self-outing of lead singer Rob Halford in 1991. Yup, the metal crowd, even with the leather and the 'hell bent' and the 'jawbreaker' and the references to Fire Island and 'I'm your Turbo lover!', were jizz-knockered to hear that one of their very own had raised a flag for the Paisley Nation, and reacted with all the sensitivity and understanding usually reserved for starving junkyard pitbulls. The late 80's were rough on some bands. It was a downright torture chamber for the Priest.

The nineties came and went with Priest relegated to oldies club dates featuring scab Yank singer 'Ripper' something-or-other and Rob Halford actually playing the 150-person-limit basement beer joint Tip's Tavern at OU sometime in 1997. Things looked bleak, but the Priest made up with Rob recently for an album and tour and, well...they still don't suck whatsoever.

The thing is, like I said before just a few gazillion words back, is that the Priest are very, very good. Not great...greatness was just about as far out of reach for this band as it was for just about every other heavy metal band of their ilk (only the Big Three and Metallica could be said to have attained The Next Level during short periods of their career, when what they were doing was blazing ahead of most everyone else so far it actually looked...artistic), but far more reliably rocking, interesting, and thoughtful of a hard-charging rock band than so many others. Neither K.K. Downing or Glenn Tipton is anything other than a serviceable guitar player on their own, but their combined layered riff-tone was a revelation back in the day (and an innovation - most heavier bands I can name prior to 1974 only had one guitarist, and no one used a sort of 'dual rhythm/dual lead' system like the Priest did), but the rhythm section, a totally inaudible MIA bass player and a revolving cast of every skin-pounder west of the Dneiper, wasn't much outside of serviceable. This band, though, owes it's fame and fortune to the charisma (and songwriting) of Rob Halford, a frontman with a fascinatingly enigmatic voice that can screech like Ian Gillan, moan like Ozzy Osbourne, growl like Felix Pappalardi, coo like Jack Bruce, or just scream the ever-loving Wendy O. Williams out of the bad muimmar. I really can't understate how talented this dude is. Isn't it odd that two of the better frontmen in hard rock, Halford and Freddy Mercury, were both queerbaits? I wonder if there are actually more, and like 60's Hollywood, we just don't know about them yet. (I'm looking at you, Bruce Dickinson....you may be married to a female person, but your quaint devotion to 'swordplay' and lyrical reliance on the sturm und drang of medieval sweat-glistened musclebound warriors gives you away faster than a secret stash of Erasure albums and a TiVo packed with Gilmore Girls episodes. Maybe it's not just limited to metal singers and gaydom. Maybe sometime in the future we'll find out all of the great wank-a-rama guitar heroes are all hermaphrodites, and all the drum-gods are diaper fetishists. I already know for a fact that Don Airey likes to repeatedly slam his Alpha Bits in the passenger-side door of his Bentley. Believe me, I heard it on Entertainment Tonight right after I dropped some  acid and fell down a few flights of stairs.

Because most people know Priest by their uncharacteristic hits, few realize that their records are dark. Really storm-showers of cynicism stuff, spiked with a bleak, desperate take on the whole 'loner on the road' business that is probably a lot more realistic than many people realise. See, Halford, being a bit of an 'outlaw' himself (man-love being a crime in most States and all), and not having the luxury of stocking his dressing room with suitable cum receptacles like other rockers had, had to really crawl through the muck and the vomit of the sleazy night life to get his rocks off like he wanted to. And, I hazard to guess, probably was forced to defend himself from attack on more than one occasion (I mean, the times he didn't ask to be beaten and whipped).  Other metal guys act like such hardcases with their long hair and shit, but in reality the majority of them all go back to posh hotel rooms to have polite relations with a member of the local welcoming committee before returning to their wives and sheep farms in Yorkshire to count their winnings. Halford, even for reasons as weird as his were, really knew what he was talking about when he wrote 'Living After Midnight'. Combine this with the genuine menace of his vocals and the steadfast riffing of the guitarists, and I say that you have a pretty convincing metal attack. Okay, so Priest has its share of idiotic lyrics, too, and the  constant barrage of plain-as-day homosexual themes may make you shake your head at the clueless naivety of 80's metal fans, but let's just say 'thank you' to the fact they never, ever wrote a song about a dragon.

 


Rocka Rolla - Castle 1974

The little album that couldn't - couldn't break Judas Priest wide for their tiny Castle label, couldn't keep the band from nearly busting apart, couldn't ever get any respect from the band members themselves (apparently they all hate it), and couldn't quite keep from sucking for lengthy periods. Except, even as far from prime-period Priest as it is stylistically (harmonicas! Deep Purple riffs! Obvious Black Sabbath ripoffs!), even giving the crap-butt 'Winter' suite on side A and some trash on the flipside, even with the not-worth-the-search rarity of the damn thing, I just can't completely dislike this little shitling. Like zits on a 14-year old, the flaws on this album are so obvious and glaring it's almost not even worth pointing them out. But since I have been shown to 'focus on the negative', here goes: there's three extended tracks, all of which fail (two of them miserably), the rockers are Kiss-level simp-stupid grind cheapos, and the best track on the album is a two minute instrumental throwaway.  So, yer sayin' right about here - B minus? The fuck's wrong with yo' head, Cap? You been out in the garage stripping old furniture with gasoline again, or what?

I dunno. Taken on any objective level, I ought to just slam this expensive little reissue to a fine powder and move onto the fan favorites, but taken as a whole, this is a listenable album. They change things up frequently enough that never do I really feel riff fatigue setting in. A good example is 'Winter/Deep Freeze/Winter Retreat', which I should probably hate the living Joey Lawrence out of, with its inaudible first section moving into a brontosaurus burger slo-mo Sabbath ripoff second section, then the laughably incompetent Hendrixoid feedback orgy that begins 'Retreat', (which does, in fact, suck balls) then into a sensitive ballad-shaped object that brings up visions of Eric Carmen at his smarmiest. But each section is kept short enough, and the shifts are always unexpected enough, that listening to it is no chore whatsoever. Listen, these guys weren't dumb, and weren't particularly interested in showing off their instrumental talents outside of a group setting (listen, none of these guys is exactly Jeff Beck or Ginger Baker anyway, dig what I'm sayin'?), so we're spared the heretofore requisite drum solo track or any offensively extended guitar solos. They seem to realize their strength lies in their ability to write songs that either pummel the listener like a booster rocket for a few minutes ('Cheater', 'Never Satisfied') or shift through so many twists and evolutions that we're just left awestruck at the flexibility of this band ('Run of the Mill').  Since this is their first effort, there's no surprise that some of the rockers fizzle ('Rocka Rolla' especially quacks out in an ill-fitting bluesy fog) or that 'Run of the Mill' falls utterly flat in trying to be Deep Purple's 'Child In Time'.

I guess the key here is that if your brain is tuned right, Rocka Rolla isn't bad at all. Don't expect gobs of originality or that classic Priest blazing riff style - the bluesiness is enough to turn some fans off at first sniff, and don't think too hard about how much better In Rock or Master of Reality are than this record, and there's no reason the experience can't be mildly enjoyable. The Priest boys are way too hard on this sad little bastard child of a debut.

Capn's Final Word: So they do some things they'd never try again and try some things they couldn't do anyway...hating this album because they play a few blue notes just seems like misplaced aggression.

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kj     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Yup. But this album is good if you're into Sabbath and Purple more than Priest. And it contains perhaps the greatest lyric to ever start an album. 'Where would you be without music?...You would be nowhere at all.'

 


Sad Wings of Destiny - Koch International 1976

Out of the first three Priest albums, the ones they made before they'd completely settled on what kind of band they'd be and set themselves charging off into the horizon on their jizz-injected leather crotch massagers (would they be bluesy riff-mongers? Pomp 'n' ballad schlock jockeys? Doom-laden horrorsloths? Or hayseed skiffle pushers?) this is the one that probably best appeals to fans of their '79-'82 'classic period', and regular Joe metal fans in general. The opening side Hell, listening to this record is like a preview reel for everything the Big Bad Breath 80's would offer in terms of heavy metal innovations outside of teeth-clenching shred rock, which K.K. and Tipton couldn't play if their scowls depended on it (and thank Christ for that). The second half of this album descends into some irritably stubborn no-frills duh-rock, but that stuff comes and goes inoffensively enough that Sad Wings feels, at the end of it all, like a surprisingly high-quality slab o' metal.

The opening 'Victim of Changes', originally two separate tracks by Rob and Glenn's previous bands, defines Priest itself. This seven-minute mishmash works brilliantly as a single track, featuring everything from glassy chuga-lugging of the highest, most ocean-heaving order to Rob Halford channeling Freddie Mercury ('YOU BEEN...FOOL-IN....WITH Uhhhh....HOT guyyy...') and the guitarists sliding into craftily dynamic, crystalline atmospherics on the 'She Was Fine' section.  Good Christ, this isn't just a great Priest track, or even a great metal track, it's simply a fine composition top to bottom. This is the track that deserves straight-up comparisons with 'Child In Time', though it's really built of completely different stuff. Plus, it has one of the coolest screams in the history of vocal chords about a minute from the end.

But 7:44 through, and Side 1 ain't even close to being finished.  You want charisma? Listen to the tongue-in-cheek dramatics on the knife-murderer fantasy 'Ripper', which I feel is the starting point for Iron Maiden and all their literary 'Rue Morgue'/'Ancient Mariner' fetishism - listen to those unison lead lines and Halford's telling yelps.  Maiden orta sue, I sez. But as the second earth-shaking, original track in a row, I gotta say my level of excitement begins its slow boil right about here. 'Dream Deceiver', a 'Planet Caravan'-type metal ballad that soon turns into a galumphing, operatic metal anthem, also feels mighty familiar due to its many and sundry imitators. The delicate clean electric guitar lines? Think Metallica's Black Album. Halford sounds like a pud, especially at the beginning, but the spectre of 80's hair metal is all over the falsetto section at 3 minutes.  The full-ahead 'Deceiver' section? Iron Maiden crossed with Dio. Sheeit, half of Maiden's catalogue is directly lifted from 'Deceiver', if you wanna stop splitting hairs.  The first side of Sad Wings seems to spin off another genre with every passing minute, though for the most part its better than the best efforts of its progeny.  This album sounds organic, sincere, and real, as if the band uses no production sleight of hand or goofy camera tricks to sound like this, almost as if it was a demo rather than a real record. This 'realness' has a price, being a tad on the sludgy side, and the tempos could be a bit less plodding, but this is some impressive shit, for sure.

If the first side of Honey Wings is almost too influential to believe, the second side feels like the set of experiments that didn't quite work out.  It's still mostly good stuff, though - The sighing synths of 'Prelude' feels ripped off from some lost mid-70's Genesis intro, and the anti-authoritarian 'Tyrant' is good and fast, but isn't nearly as electrifying as 'The Ripper'.  The cock-rocky 'Genocide' recalls Rocka Rolla in its bluesy stroll, but feels overlong and, outside of its laugh-a-second chorus, lacking in ideas. 'Epitaph', yet another ballad sung badly by Robbie (though in a completely different voice than 'Dream Deceiver' was), feels for all the world like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road-era Elton John, except with zero melodicism or charming self-awareness. And to think of all the time they must've put into those background harmonies, just to have Halford pull a Coldplay over the top of it. Bleah. The heavy-core 'Island of Domination', however, rules the school and goes to the head of the class and rounds first with its pants about to burst, seemingly out of nowhere.

So Sad Wings pretty much kicked off everything that came after it outside of shred guitar, rap metal, and Sabbath-revivalism, as far as I can tell. It definitely stumbles here and there, but so does Gerald Ford, and everyone likes his ass so frigging much. This qualifies it as essential listening for historians, heavily recommended for metal fans, and a lukewarm nudge for regular-ol' rock fans, who might just not get it at all. A sludgefest with underfed thrash elements and two ugly ballads? Who the crap needs that when we've got Jackson Browne, anyway?

Capn's Final Word: They're still deciding which Priest to be, but in the process they're spawning whole new genres. Some of 'em suck, but hey!

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Sin After Sin - Columbia 1977

Judas Priest 1977! Defining the future! Perhaps, but somewhat less so here than in their watershed year of 1978. This appears to be the very last time (until Turbo, anyway), that Priest made any overtures to relating to the average non-metalhead listener before leathering up, affixing the glowers to their faces, and becoming darker than Dikembe Motumbo's arsehole. Except, you know, not always - Pop Radio Listener Dude no doubt would've been scared to death to buy an album with a cover as grey-gothic as this one that starts out with a track as psychedelically metallic as the no-novocaine 'Sinner', a savage rocker that doesn't quite have the same weight as 'Victim of Changes', but still represents a fine frigging way to start an album. And though the giddy irony of it all appeals to literary fools like us, disco-metal (listen and tell me it ain't) covers like Joan Baez's arch and overwordy 'Diamonds and Rust' just confuse and anger most primates.  Yes, Priest needs to be given a hand for tackling something like this and showing the 'B' section of their record collection contains more than just Black Sabbath and Budgie records, but this may not have been the best choice for what ended up being a career-long live warhorse. As long as we're picking and choosing hippie-era cover songs, why not something by Ritche Havens? Phil Ochs? Phil Donahue?

The two ballads couldn't be further apart from one another - 'Last Rose of Summer' sounds extremely un-Priest-like, more like some El Lay Spit 'n' Polish outfit's best attempt to make it on the American Bandstand slow dance. Shockingly, it's a great tune, if so far out of character it makes Charlize Theron in Monster look like just another hottie in a fat suit. Seriosuly now - why was this not a hit? Because there's a sickly looking angel sitting on a crypt on the cover? Is that all? If Ballad Number First was shocking in its ability to work despite itself, Ballad Next ('Here Come the Tears') poohs the pool by being exactly what you were afraid it was going to be - an overwrought, pinched-face fist-clenching strain on the toilet masquerading as something heartfelt. It's far more 'metal', if that's what you're concerned about, but if you are, why aren't you just skipping it altogether in the first place. No one listens to metal for the ballads except for girls and high school orchestra directors. And no one listens to them for anything, so let's just put a bullet in this one's head and be thankful that Judas Priest made its next several albums no-ballad zones.

We've had our two-ballad brunch, and now, as it is writ, we get our two-epic dinner.  Oh, there's also the fillerish between-meal snacks (all, it is interesting to note, written by the guitarists)...the roughriding 'Starbreaker', which is a decent standard potboiler, and the closing bit of doomy thrashhashing called 'Dissident Aggressor', which can peel the paint off the roof of your mouth if you're caught off guard. So good, in fact, you might find yourself a bit too full for the six minute 'Let Us Prey' and the seven-minute 'Call The Priest-Raw Deal', neither of which justify their length like 'Victim of Changes' did. Plus, 'Raw Deal' is about getting drunk and picking up guys in gay bars and putting lubricated items in their pooty-holes. Hell, he even name-drops Fire Island, the epicenter of gayity in the universe outside of Crate and Barrel. I dunno what the fuck 'Call the Preist' is all about, other than the fact that it's even less interesting than 'Starbreaker', which just about has 'fillerish straight-ahead rock track' tattooed on its forehead. 'Let Us Prey' is thrash fast, but seems too cutesy and art-rocky in its execution, as if the band hadn't gotten all of 'Diamonds and Rust' out of its system yet. 

Sin After Sin, perhaps because they're trying so hard to be more eclectic/heavier/more widely appealing/more literary all at the same time, feels like they've squandered some of their best talents.  Does 'Let Us Prey' have any need for the snooty prog trappings when they could've made it louder and grittier instead? I dunno, but I feel there's some showing off going on here considering all the different sounds they are able to squeeze out of themselves except it's a sort of hand-me-down diversity borrowed from people (like Joan Baez), who should probably just have been left alone. Mostly, I feel like this is the Judas Priest album for people who don't really like Judas Priest, while Sad Wings of Destiny and the almost brutally uncompromising Stained Class is exactly the opposite approach.

Capn's Final Word: Credit Priest for the intelligence and bravery for giving some of these songs a try, but I gotta think they were denying their true selves a bit on this one.

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Stained Class - Columbia 1978

Is it wrong that I usually reward solid consistency over risk-taking and variety? Do I unfairly punish bands for leaving their comfort zone and give way too much credit for covering the  same ground with minimal variation, at least until I grow bored of it all? Thinking about it, I guess I probably do, but when I listen to Judas Priest, I don't give a flying burrito brother about hearing any flimsy ballads. I want crunch, I want snappy rhythm work, crackling guitar interplay, and the bass player to pop his strings like a four-armed Bootsy Collins and then have it mixed so far down in the mix it may as well be on a Pablo Cruise album.  Yup, I like Priest like I like my breakfast cereal, except if Stained Class would be a breakfast cereal, you'd have to pour inky-black milk over the top of it. As I said, if Sin After Sin was the Judas Priest album for non-Judas Priest fans (at least to a point, maybe), Stained Class is suitable for driving out all the non-believers and leaving only the extremist fundamentalists. This is a diamond-hard album - nine blazing rockers, all frighteningly consistent in style and feel, with a heart of coal pumping unspeakable pessimism through its veins.  I simply cannot understand how a non-metal fan could really enjoy this album, considering the amount of demands it places on its listener - the guitars chug relentlessly with precious few moments of rest, the lyrics are as half-literate as ever, and Halford squeals like a little girl more than he ever  has in the past. Of course, what you're hearing IS the new Priest, possibly in a slightly unpolished state and with a slight lack of hookage, but in terms of Priest the Uncompromising Metal Monsters, Stained Class is Year Zero. Oddly enough, after staving off all of the scoffers and half-believers, this album does nothing but reward repeated listening.  The lyrics might sound like undifferentiated chipmunk chattering on the record, but Priest lyrics always read better on the page than they sound on recordings...'Exciter' is about religious hypocrisy? 'Savage' tells the story of imperialism from the point of view of the conquered indigene? When the fuck did that happen? Isn't this all just rocking harder than anyone else and tales of hot man-fucking? Aren't these guys nothing more than motorcycle morons, capable of few thoughts that extend beyond their crotches? Apparently not, fellas.  Our boys have read a book or three! They may not be exactly ready for publication, but Priest lyrics just ain't really as dumb as you hope they were. It's just that Halford sings them that way an awful large part of the time.

Stained Class isn't much of an album for discussin', other than to say they've never rocked this good, ever. And they do it on every last song. The Spooky Tooth cover 'Better By You, Better Than Me' (aka 'ti oD' or 'Always Choose to Go Second in a Suicide Pact') couldn't fit into this album any better than it does - it has enough chug-a-lug sections and quiet interludes to form a full picture, and the forcefulness of the title in the chorus pulls and interesting contrast to what sounds like utter bewilderment on the part of the protagonist. The other infamous track here is the Lovecraftian 'Beyond the Realms of Death', a 'lost-to-madness' epic which would later be recycled by every band with a pointy guitar to their name. Now, if 'Better By You' was supposed to contain some hidden message encouraging suicide, 'Beyond the Realms' is seductively apocalyptic enough to worry people right out in the open, except a dead Saint of Hell is a useless Saint of Hell. You can't serve the dark arts when rotting in a moist hole somewhere, now can you?

Yup - this was the record that garnered Priest all that attention in the late 80's when two dead-enders offed themselves after listening to it a bazillion times.  It seems that the prosecutor struck on the bright idea that the band had inserted subliminal messages into the record, then played the thing backwards over and over again in front of a jury in a vain attempt to convince them they heard something in all that whizzing and blurping. Some claimed to hear a garbled 'Do it' during 'Better By You', but the witchhunter's bubble was burst by a very intelligent testimony by Rob Halford. Halford, see, stated that encouraging his fans to kill themselves would be counterproductive - how do you sell out arenas when all your listeners are rotting corpses? He stated, with more tongue in cheek than usual (though that tongue is often some truck driver's), that if he were to have put backward messages on an album, he'd have them tell the kids to 'buy more Judas Priest albums'. A perfectly reasonable logic, and the jury agreed. The band was off the hook, but Stained Class, unfortunately (or fortunately), got the ever-so-sticky tag of Album That Makes You Kill Yourself.  Yeah, it's a bit dark, and the second half has more end-of-days babble than a three-color bible tract, but where's the justice? Just looking at Pink makes me want to stick a rifle barrel down my throat, and yet that chunky dyke gets to roam the streets freely...no shock collar, ankle homing device, or anything. Where's the justice? Attica! Attica!

I love this album for the same reason I love all the late-70's AC/DC albums so much. The band's found their strength, and they've decided to ratchet it up a couple of notches.  No album sounded as heavy and gloomy as this album did in 1978, and it's still retained quite a bit of that magic. Plus, the guitars are ruthless throughout...remember that irritating Hendrixoid feedback fest on 'Winter's Return' on Rocka Rolla? Hear the boys redeem themselves on the gutwrenching solo of Heroes' End'. That's just one of probably two dozen moments on this record that hit in exactly the same way.  So it lacks an obvious hit...I think that's part of its charm.

Capn's Final Word: The Priest decide to quit fucking around and just sit down to sharpen their knives. An unmerciful metal classic.

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VB     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Fuck it, this album rules so much.  Everything good about early Priest is personified right here.  'Beyond The Realms Of Death' by itself spawned all of those Metallica songs like 'Fade To Black' and 'Sanitarium' and 'One' and so forth.  The only album they ever did that was better is "Painkiller".

 


Killing Machine/Hell Bent for Leather - Columbia 1978/1979

Okay, so Stained Class, as an experiment in heaviness and darkness, isn't exactly the kind of thing a band of half-intelligent blokes wants to end up making for the rest of their career. Wes Craven only had one Last House on the Left in him before he started making cartoony teen makeout screamers, right? No one except Germans like being nihilistic, you dig? It must be remembered that Priest was, in 1978, in uncharted territory. No one had made music quite this evil sounding before (well, Throbbing Gristle, maybe, but they were still recording albums that sold in the dozens at this point), and it was a bit off-putting for everyone involved. Since most of the audience was used to songs about Rockin' Hard, Screwing Bitches, and Leaving With the Dawn as presented by such acts as Kiss, Wishbone Ash, and Angel, Priest took a step back from the void with Killing Machine.  On one hand, this is an even further refinement of the band's image - there's Rob the Tattooed Leatherboy on the cover, and there's even the band's first universal hit, the snickeringly homoerotic motorcycle song 'Hell Bent For Leather'.  Yup, the development arc that began way back on Sad Wings has reached its pinnacle around this time, and starting with this record the band would spend the next several years in a rut solidifying their fan base and scoring unprecedented (for true heavy metal, anyway) chart successes.

So this record's a funny one.  The mood is lightened to a 'let's rock and ride motorcycles and guzzle whiskey until we have drunken gay sex' message that's repeated on damn near every song (well, maybe not all of 'em. Not all of 'em mention drinking and motorcycles.), though the music is left at a mighty high torsion of grinding, fleet heaviness. It's damned difficult to justify calling something that starts off with a song as brilliantly heaving as 'Delivering the Goods' 'poppy', but there ya are. Out of the 'classic period' albums, this one feels the most campy and unserious, but considering that they seem to attempt to compensate by making the rockin' numbers that much more ruthlessly hard.  'Hell Bent For Leather' thrashes madly, and you either buy into the 'dark rider' mythos or you don't, just like you either buy into Halford's guttural bark or you don't.  I call it half and half - half proto-thrash masterpiece (musically its bulletproof), and half a complete, goony joke. And, yeah, besides 'Goods', it's one of the highlights of this record for sure. The rockers 'Killing Machine' and the slicing 'Running Wild' are every bit as gritty as those two, especially 'Machine', which rides a bluesy riff that sounds like a perfection of everything Rocka Rolla tried for.

The rest of the songs are take 'em or leave 'em, and contain some awfully embarrassing moments.  If you are looking for the 'gayest' Priest release, this one and Point of Entry run shaft and shaft to the finish, with this one probably pulling ahead at the wire by, well...a head. There's good ol' terrible balladry on 'Before the Dawn', about how Rob can't get anyone to stay through the night with him (as I'm sure you've heard, he's well known in certain circles as Mr. Snuggles) The acoustics are whitewashed and go nowhere, and for anyone who's ever come down like a guillotine on Turbo because of the synths, well, the infestation didn't start there, friends. It's just that Turbo put all the wonking at the very beginning where everyone was sure to notice, and this album waits until everyone's either too stoned or too passed out to care. I'm sure Turbo has a song this bad, and I'm sure I'll dig it up when the time comes, but for now I'll leave it that this song fits into this  Crisco leather orgy of a record like Pat Robertson at a Burzum show.

And because 'fitting in' seems to entail writing really sleazy groove songs about sex that would probably do really well at a male strip show, you can tell why a ballad has absolutely no chance whatsoever. The highly Zeppelinized 'Evil Fantasies' keeps it in its pants at least (plus giving Rob the chance to do a faux black bluesman's growl at times is kinda snickeringly funny), but 'Burning Up' is simply gross - why this stuff isn't called Metal Disco, I'll never know. Same lightweight drum vibe, same glossy solos with gobs of overreverbed sustained wailing notes, same breathy middle eight - put horns and a wah-wah on it and you've got yourself Giorgio Moroder, for Chrissakes. Ick. 'Evening Star' attempts an Alice Cooper evil showtune, but falls flat on its gutless Broadway chorus. 'Take On the World'...well, if you ever wanted a Priest version of  'We Will Rock You' crossed with 'God Gave Rock 'n' Roll To You' (10 years before that Kiss blight was written, mind you), here's the first of too many attempts Priest made to satisfy that group, as overestimated in number as it may be.

The rockers on this one are so good, though (I mean...'Delivering the Goods' is wicked awesome), that I have to score it at least a B+. When I'm in a certain kind of absolutely jolly, uncynical mood, I'll take as much of this album as I can get (other than 'Before the Dawn', which is just whiny as frig). And when I'm not, well, there's always Stained Class from the same year, huh? As I am required by law to mention, this one was originally released as Killing Machine in 1978, except in the US, where it wasn't released until the next year, when it was given the title Hell Bent for Anonymous Man Love with a rather cool Fleetwood Mac cover tacked on ('Return of the Great Manalishi', or something like that). I've got 'Killing Machine', but get the other one if you can. Extra tracks rule as long as they're not on 1970's Kinks albums.

Capn's Final Word: Gets a tad wing-nutty at times, and the homo content is laughably high, but the rockers are as savage as you wanna be.

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michael richardson     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: 'god gave rock and roll to you'was originally done by ARGENT back in the 70's FYI

(Capn's Response: That's not what Gene Simmons said, but when was Gene not spewing bullshit off his reptilian tongue?)


Unleashed in the East - Columbia 1979

Probably an A's a mistake when you consider that Unleashed in the East violates a couple of the Capn's cardinal edicts as regards live albums - no new songs ('The Green Hashishi' cover, which hadn't yet seen studio release, notwithstanding), a sidesplittingly poseurish cover shot, rerecorded lead vocals (more on that in a second), and a short track list that seems to have a couple of glaring mistakes ('Genocide'? 'Tyrant'? What about something else off Stained Class or Killing Machine, fools? 'Running Wild' is great, sure, but this album cries out in pain for criminally forgetting 'Delivering the Goods').  But the thing that kept popping into my head, rightly or wrongly, as I listened to this album in the sweltering sweatbox that is my un-air conditioned Jeep Cherokee on my 30 minute commute home, was 'this is the metal Live at Leeds'. God only knows why I thought that, except for the fact that the Judas Priest live act is one of the most exciting units in all of rock music. They do what so many bands are not smart or patient or selfless enough to do - cover the fundamentals with solid and unwavering skill in lieu of forcing their whims on the audience unwillingly. It's one thing to play your songs exactly as they sound on the record, like Genesis. It's another, more risky and often less satisfying thing to constantly retool them into something completely different. The Priest do neither - they strive for that obvious but near impossible to obtain third option - don't fuck with the arrangements at all, but play them tighter, harder, louder, and ten times more blood-curdling than you did on the already excellent studio albums. Priest, god bless 'em, makes it happen. And, to be fair, probably Unleashed is closest in effect to the original Live at Leeds LP, not the CD-length reissue. They don't play the entire Stained Class record in order, do any mini-operas, or do 'Summertime Blues' or anything like that. This is a short record (especially for a live one), but it gives just about a perfect dose of live heavy metal music despite its perceived flaws. I'm listening again this morning after a good night's sleep and a couple of sobering jugs of coffee and I find I have very few quarrels with my somewhat shocking judgement of this record. This thing is fucking marvelous.

Strange thing is, they don't really jump through too many flaming hoops to get the job done. I'd even say that their jarring lack of me-first-my-spotlight solo spots (including, thank Christ, no drum solo) is one of the keys to my undying enjoyment of this record. The band just blasts and blasts and blasts as an ensemble. The solos, for the most part completely different from their studio counterparts, are kept succinct enough that the flow of the song is never interrupted to make room for a minute or two more of shameless ego-stroking. The rest of the time the guitars careen off of one other with such punkish force that anyone who claims these versions sound 'just like the record' is talkin' out their Dockers, if you woofer my tweeter, and I think you do. Tipton especially (he's in the right speaker, with the slightly louder Strat guitar versus KK's Flying V) is a beast unchained. He sounds like Keith Richards did on some of those fantabulous '72 tour bootlegs I've heard - all over the stage and sloppier than Faith Hill after a Sturgis rally gangbang, but injecting the entire arena with so much raw adrenaline as to puff that fucker up to near bursting. Downing keeps up as well as he can, but someone has to be Scotty Pippen to Tipton's Air Jordan. I mean, listen - 'Victim of Changes' is a religious experience for me on this record. I'm dead, straight-faced serious about that, believe me.

So, as the story goes, Halford's lead vocals got screwed up in the mixing process and he had to rerecord them 'in a live setting' in order to release this LP. Usually, this'd be the kind of thing I'd spend an hour and 300 words lambasting, but this time I'll give a free pass to the Priest, and I'll tell you why: Halford is obviously singing live on these takes, and he is kicking all sorts of ass all over the rumpus room while doing it. He gets out of breath, he rushes some lines (on 'Tyrant' especially), usually the kind of things a producer would talk an artist into editing out on a studio take. I would've done the same thing, because all the important parts are nailed here. The high notes on 'Sinner' slice like razors, 'Diamonds and Rust' sounds sincere and clean, and 'Victim'...well, it's just a frigging clinic, that's all. If you think the 'YOU BEEN....FOO-LIN' part was electrifying on the studio version, just you bloody wait.

I may be making it sound like Priest coulda spent thirty five minutes singing Edith Piaf B-sides and I would still dig this record, and you may be right. This album is way heavy on the Sad Wings material (an album that was already three years old by this point), leaving their mini classic Stained Class and new release almost high and dry.  'Manalishi' is decent but inferior to the Priest originals (kinda like 'Diamonds and Rust', now that you mention it. I'd trade both for one shot at 'Better By You, Better Than Me' in a heartbeat), and 'Tyrant' was never exactly a favorite track of mine, though it's nice to hear it charged up and missing the foppish, misplaced 'Toy-rant!' background chants on the chorus. I could call this album a classic of the form, but the thing is, it really bucks the trend when it comes to live metal albums. It's short, the songs are kept intact, and never does the band leave the stage for a toke and a piss while the drummer relives the Bobby Gets a Drumset episode of the Brady Bunch. That's not how live heavy metal albums are supposed to be!! What the hell was wrong with these people, anyway?

Capn's Final Word: A classic of some other, really goddamn good, form.

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vbopmc     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: The "metal Live At Leeds" thing is quite an astute judgement.  Still, if anything, I think it's MORE energetic.  The beginning "Exciter" is breathtakingly fast, much beefier than the studio version, and those guitars!  The guitar interplay totally makes the whole thing for me.  I would have preferred "Beyond The Realms Of Death" rather than "Diamonds And Rust" in the "slightly more mellow song" slot, but eh well.  "Victim Of Changes" is brilliant here too.  Great, great live album.  The only metal live album that I've heard that I'd rank equal to "Unleashed In The East" is Slayer's "Live: Decade Of Aggression", mainly because Slayer does a similar thing there to what does Priest here - namely, forgetting solo spots and Iron Maiden-esque annoying extended audience banter, and just playing their songs REALLY GODDAMN FAST AND LOUD AND ANGRY.

And incidentally, the reissue of this album DOES have "Delivering The Goods" - it's a bonus track, along with "Rock Forever", "Hell Bent For Leather", and "Starbreaker".

 


British Steel - Columbia 1980

So very frigging close to an A+ my gut can't stand it, but say you have nine tracks, and one of them is sorta dull and obvious, and another feels like a cornier rewrite of an already corny song that was on the last album, and even if all of the others are pretty much career-high gems, you find you just can't give out the golden goose in good conscience. But, holy holies, this is one great goddamn heavy metal record. Priest finally take their live sound and philosophy into the studio and come out with one of the most immediate and alive sounding hard rock records I've ever heard. You could call it stripped down, except Priest has never exactly been Chicago or anything.  It's, I dunno...distilled. Toss out the fucking ballads, the irritatingly superfluous keyboards on said fucking ballads, the oddball cover versions and just go into the studio and blast out seven-and-a-half great (a quarter 'great' for the letdowns 'United' and 'You Don't Have to Be Old to Be Wise'), no bullshit new songs as live as possible. Except, unlike Stained Class, which took a similar approach on paper, British Steel (great title) is in color rather than just awash in blacks and greys.  This one is just more metallic and pure - I can barely even make out overdubs on a lot of this record, fer chrissakes! Just their cracking, classy new drummer Dave Holland keeping lockstep time over the two guitarist doing their best to stay as wickedly tight with each other as possible.

The album opens with one of the classics of the Judas Priest canon (thus keeping alive the string of tremendous album openers for a fifth straight album), though instead of a mongrel epic or a violent slasher, we get one of the few tracks I would use to give someone a definition of propulsion.  It's not just that 'Breakin' the Law' is fast - it's so unbelievably tight, noose tight, and has nary a single wasted note in 2 and a half flawless minutes. The words, well, they're not exactly specific as to what laws are being broken, but driving down a deserted darkened highway at Warp Factor 5 is probably a pretty good place to start. This is the band as a single metallic unit, one organism...a method that is revisited over and over again on this album.

If 'Breakin 2: Metallic Boogaloo' was fast, 'Rapid Fire' is pure thrash, and every bit as exhilarating as the preceding track. This one has a more demanding arrangement (not to mention lead vocals and lightning-crack guitar solos), however, and it's here that the precision of the reinvigorated rhythm section proves itself beyond any shadow of a doubt. Deciding which Priest song is fastest may be an impossible task, but 'Rapid Fire' sure feels like it has no competitors when its in full blasting glory.

The tempos drop for the groovier 'Metal Gods', but the thrash is given over to an infectious cock-rock swagger that recalls 'Delivering the Goods'. Plus, you know, it's about being really good at playing heavy metal, and that's Judas Priest, no doubt. Hey, man, self-aggrandizing lyrics are fair game in rap, so why not in metal? Whose codpiece is bigger? Who does more 'mowin' down the audience with machine gun guitars' pose shots? Who's got the biggest drum kit? (That wouldn't be Holland, who sounds like he uses a maximum of three pieces of kit through this entire record, and there ain't a damn thing wrong with that. Priest needs a woodblock like Neil Peart needs another Ayn Rand novel.) The guilty pleasure, and, fer God's sake, the fourth excellent track in a row, is the bloodsoaked 'Grinder', which could be about mass murder, or could be about licking wee-wees. I personally don't give a crap either way, when Killing Machine had as much ecchy homoeroticism to fill up an out-of-the-way airport bathroom.

Okay, so I said this album had two slightly lesser tracks on it, and here comes the first, a fist-pumpin', five-slappin', and ass-grabbin' it's way through the arena corridor - 'United' creates an unlikely pairing of 'Killing Machine's chorus ('got a contract on you') converted into a verse, and 'Take On the World's Queen-ish foot-stomp we're-all-part-of-the-Metal-Army-so-why-don't-we-share-a-tent-on-the-march-tonight communal lyrics. The verse is derivative, but tight. The chorus? As cheesy as a women's studies major's thighs. 'You Don't Have to Be Wise...' is just a mediocre rocker, lacking even the screwed-down tightness of the other tracks on here, without even a decent riff to redeem it. It almost feels like a Killing Machine leftover, and sticks out here badly.

Side 2 begins with the second all-time hit, the good-timey party track 'Living After Midnight', which somehow makes use of the oldest chord sequence in the known universe (outside of the 12-bar blues, of course) and makes it sound fresh-faced and hooky. At the Priest concert I partook in a couple of months ago, this was the track that the pack of thirty-something rock chick girls stood up for (not even 'Breakin' the Law'? What's the matter? No more headbanging after your boobs started sagging to your wastelines, ladies?). And you know what? Ain't a damn thing wrong with that. Rob, again, may be singing about finding suitable male fucktoys after his concerts, but this fits any old late-night good times as far as we care. A hook for the ages. After that 'You Don't Have to Be 18 to Come To My Hotel Room' awfulness, we get two more great rockers to help us forget, the deliberately paced 'Rage', which slowly boils over before backing off into an almost New-Wavey middle 8, and the hardcore action of 'Steeler'. Which, as you might have guessed, rocks. I'm glad that's not in question.

Capn's Final Word: British Steel may not have too many pretensions, but outside of a few tracks, it's as solid a metal album as I've ever heard.

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Max Lee Dagger foreverd@rambler.ru      Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Dave Holland used to say that his drumming wasn't the key part in the success of British Steel.

Maybe not the key, but definitely a huge part of that darn success.

The only other writer I can remember who wasn't afraid to call Dave 'Wild Mountain Thunder' (aka Charlie Watts of Heavy Metal, or just Mr Time) Holland a brilliant player was Sergey Kastalsky in his 'Rock Encyclopedia' released in Russia around 1998. I really appreciate the fact you still acknowledge Dave's input.


 


Point of Entry - Columbia 1981..

Gay Sci-Fi Bikers on Acid. Or, quite possibly a better description would be Mid Tempo Competence. Still pretty decent when you get down to it, Point of Entry has a history of being lost in the shuffle of the long march of classic Judd Nelson albums, because it's neither as infamous (it lacks the thematic vibes of Stained Class, Sin After Sin, and Killing Machine) or famous (it lacks the chart hits of British Steel or Screaming for Vengeance) as its surrounding records. This is still a pretty good record, mind you, and has a distinct lack of embarrassing crap material. The problem is that this is sort of like a blue-and-silver, sci-fi, lightened-up version of Stained Class in its execution - a bunch of highly similar songs recorded with all seriousness intact and little, if any, footholds for non-fans.  The features that made their recent albums so different from one another (Class's unremitting darkness, Machine's sleazy buzz, and Steel's laser precision) is replaced by something else entirely - professionalism, proficiency, and a weird-smelling Journey-ish corporate feel. Worse of all, I can definitely get bored during this album due to lack of strong, gripping hookage and mean attitude, and that's not something I've been able to say before. The riffs all seem to have had their number of notes reduced to between three and five (a nod to the New Wave, possibly? The evil attraction of Watered Down Punk was especially strong at this time, even when Priest's brand of hard rockin' was burgeoning into a bona fide metal revival. Don't forget that at this time, Alice Cooper had short hair and dressed up in skinny ties.) The best tracks ('Head Out to the Highway', 'Don't Go', 'Desert Plains', 'Troubleshooter', and 'On the Run') all are strong as hell on paper, but lack just about anything in the way of surprises for anyone familiar with any of the band's previous work, outside of a sneaking suspicion that the band refuses to play fast anymore. This album isn't exactly draggy, but when you're talking Priest, I expect some flailing tempos at regular intervals or I begin to itch. As much as I resist Priest becoming cartoonish and goofy, if this is the alternative, I'll take as many pinch harmonics and arcade-game cover-art graphics as I can.

'kay. Let me not overstate my case here. There's not been too many songs in the Judge Reinhold catalogue that can compete maturity-wise with the careful songwriting of 'Desert Plains' or the lyrics on 'Head Out To The Highway', and the only song on here that really deserves singling out for ridicule is the laughably derivative 'You Say Yes' (if you know instinctively what line is supposed to come next, you've now pretty much written the song. Again. For a third time. Rob did the second.), which is unparalleled in its laziness for these guys. The sound is crystalline, the guitars crackle like they should, and no one has yet shown as much good taste and reliability as Holland has on the drumkit. Finally, after seven years, these guys get the kind of drummer they deserve - one as non-bullshit as their guitarists are. I suppose the 'lone biker of the future' theme is kept up pretty well, though I don't really know how compelling it is, and..umm....I'm bored already. Call it a B+ for sheer reliability and get it towards the end of your Priest collecting jag.

Capn's Final Word: Not bad, but when the natural reaction is to use words like 'maturity' and 'professionalism' - ya gotta ask yerself - do you want your kids listening to this?

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Screaming for Vengeance - Columbia 1982

See, despite what that choad Dave Marsh wants you to think, Judas Priest isn't dumb. Whenever they figured out the audience didn't dig what they were doing, They knew that the lightening and brightening effect of Painful Entry hadn't cut it with the hardcore banger brother fanbase quite like British Steel had, and that with the arrival of new blood competitors like Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, and Motorhead, things would have to get appealing in a hurry or the Priest was gonna get locked back in the monastery with all the other pederasts.  The band responded with probably its most popular album ever (in impact, even if not in sales - I think it's Ram it Down that inexplicably holds the receipt crown), with a big, new Day-glo comic book look covering up a big, new Day-glo comic book sound. Well, not really, but if you think Priest is defined by its no-nonsense guitar tones and reasonably restrained drums, Screaming for Vengeance might make you scream overproduction.  The guitars are now chorused all to crap, making each one sound twice as big but twice as squishy as on British Steel. Some of the same processing had been explored on Point of Entry, but on that subdued record it fit in with the general non-asskicking nature of the record. On Screaming, its purpose is to make Priest sound Louder than God, and when mixed with the humongoid gated drum sound, it just about makes it. It's not just production tricks and clever mixing, either - the guitarists rely on a host of shred-like squeals and wails like never before, and the songs are written specifically to rock the dandruff off the arena crowd, get 'em sweaty, get their fists moving and their asses pumping.

That's right.

No need for maturity, either from Judas Priest or myself. And who wants it anyway? We don't want some middlebrow symbolism of a wasteland highway disappearing off into the twilit horizon...we want electricmotherfuckscreamingchickens, for chrissakes, ones that wouldn't look out of place plastered on the side of some 1982-era arcade game cabinet, next to the Centipedes and the Yar's Revenges and the guys selling skankweed. We also don't want mid-tempo songs about life's journey or some shit...give us songs called 'Bloodstone' and 'Electric Eye' and 'You Got Another Thing Comin' and make them fast, loud, and stupid. Sheeit, there I go again...not stupid, per se, but definitely stupid for Judas Priest. Lacking in, you know, depth 'n'  stuff. But great. Only one truly dumbfuck song on here, and that's the hairball '(Take These) Chains', and even that one was no doubt highly influential to invertebrate bottomsuckers like Winger and Slaughter about 6 or 7 years later. The rest feels like inspired retreads dressed up in the new Eighties Suit, but that's alright. Iron Maiden essentially took their first three years of existence and cloned it over and over again until they'd amassed a twenty-plus year career, and you can see the cockgobbling their supporters always give them. Squealing for Men's Pants starts off with 'Hellion/Electric Eye', the first part of which is what most of us would call an intro (plus, most of us wouldn't have banded something this slight into its own track, though it is a darn good intro...) to yet another killer Priest opener track. this one kinda derivative of 'Breakin' the Law', except with globs of slimy chorusing and reverb all over it, and lots and lots of lookitme guitar wank. I suppose K.K. and Glenn must've had a couple of lessons during 1981 to keep up with the whippersnappers like Randy and Edward Van, huh? And, unlike the merely rabblerousing 'Breakin', 'Electric Eye' sounds very, very, evil. 'I'm elected, electric eye. I'm protected, 'lectric eye'  doesn't necessarily give one much confidence in the powerful to keep their dirty agents to themselves, does it? I guess no matter how much reflecting you do on the matter, the song is still a sock in the gut and a massively memorable track. The rest follows the formula well and with style - 'Riding On the Wind' is also thankfully fast, recalling 'Rapid Fire' from Steel (again), except adding some corny sound effect washes that sound like you've just lost all your rings in Sonic the Hedgehog. The groove based mid-tempo track 'Bloodstone' wins over Point of Entry's similar examples with those obnoxiously, gloriously overloud drums and great instrumental section before the final verse. 'Pain and Pleasure' is the sleazy sex track that recalls Killing Machine, 'Screaming for Vengeance' brings to mind the unremitting speedraunch of 'Exciter', the huge single 'You've Got Another Thing Comin' sounds like a cross between 'Breakin' the Law' and 'Head Out to the Highway' (and is nearly as good as both, but is a little bit on the slight side), and, you know, there's those inevitable two tracks at the end that never quite make the first rank but don't sound like mistakes, either. 'Fever' brushes with cheesy balladhood, and 'Devil's Child' comes very close to sounding like something spawned by Poison, but since I'm feeling charitable, I'll let it be. Besides, it isn't Poison, and Rob Halford, praise Allah, ain't that pus puddle Bret Michels. So things were getting less hardcore, less mean, and were becoming poofier and more cartoon superheroish...Priest were still on the right side of the borderline, if you can hang with my science.

I waffled on this one like a Jew being offered free pork, and I finally came down to an A-.  This one just does not give the same kind of perfection of purpose that Class or Steel did, despite its very high listenability and likability (and lickability) factors. I also find it darn hard to reward an album that takes no chances outside of clicking a few buttons and twiddling a few knobs to create a 'new sound'.  You could call it a perfection of purpose, maybe, and one that really made the public at large take notice of the band for the first time, but you could also make the charge that they were pandering for sales. I guess it worked.

Capn's Final Word: False alarm on the grown-up business. As good as it is loud, but as original as it is subtle.

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Defenders of the Faith - Columbia 1984

I wonder if Emerson, Lake, and Palmer got a payment of retribution for the Tarkus wildebeest on the cover of Defenders of the Faith? Except Tark looked, you know, kinda drab and utilitarian compared to the Turtle Waxed glory of the Faith postercow. I tell ya, that's one mean bovine. Lookit that Benihana wall-ornament headgear he's got on. And that wussy little rocketpack on his back, as if his Continent Cracker 1500 SE nuclear rocket pack was in the shop and he had to borrow his wife's that day. What do you think Faithy's purpose is in the Land of the Tank Mammals? Looks to me like we've interrupted him from installing a couple of escalators in the food court of the Volcano Park Shopping Mall or something. Armored mechano-mammals gotta have their Gap, too, you know. Whatever it is, the time of the gleaming plastic animals continues on Defenders of the Screaming for Vengeful Faith. Something like that. Can you dig that they were trying to make the same album all over again? Well, I guess when you reign in a whole dumptruckload of new fans with a big, dumb, great metal album, giving them another easily recognizable product with a similarly symphonious title and similarly preposterous cover and similarly elephantine production isn't the worst of the possible ways of following it up. Other than to mention that this one had no ''nother Thing Comin' to sell it to Top 40, there isn't much to say about this record.  We've already done the 'roll call o' cliches' on the last record, and you can rest assured that Rearends on the Face covers all the same bases. Poorly disguised gay sex song. ('Jawbreaker'). Motorcycle song. ('Freewheel Burning') A poorly disguised gay sex song with motorcycles. ('Rock Hard Ride Free'). And a whole crapload more gay stuff. Did I say a few reviews ago that Point of Entry was one of the gayest Priest albums? Forget I said it. Wipe it from your brain. Pull a Total Recall on your frontal lobes. Here 'tis, gentle people, unless you are of the opinion that 'Eat Me Alive' isn't about peenies. It's okay that it is, you know. I don't care. I just get this constant vision of the idiotic things some early-80's denim-jacketed Beavis and Butthead must've thought this song was about since they had nary a shiver that Rob Halford was a major fundraiser for the March of Mimes, a proud supporter of the San Francisco 69ers, who likes a big, frothy mug of Cocka Cola with his beans and franks, and putting various pieces of male anatomy between his greased buttocks.

Good material here, really, and it sure sounded much better a week or two ago when I put it in first when I first started listening to all this Judas Priest all the time. Yeah, you could say I'm a tad burned out, but my biased subjectivity, lazy misrepresentation of half-remembered facts, and inexplicable refusal to ever proofread myself remains intact. What Depends loses in originality and great highlights, it gains in consistency and a distinct lack of low points. Isn't it funny how that goes? The A-level Priest albums have all the highlights, but, outside of Stained Class, always give you a lame track or two, and the B-level Priest albums, outside of the obviously undercooked Rocka Rolla, seem to spare the losers and the classics? They certainly got better at pegging their audience, though, and Defenders is an album their fans, me included, can really enjoy. Even the tracks that threaten suckhood, like the ever-so-close-to-awkward 'Love Bites' never becomes 'Take these Chains' for people who like being bitten instead of tied down. It's got a song called 'Heavy Duty', that's exactly that! It's got some honkin' guitar solos and a drum sound big enough to crater the crust of the earth! It's got the best of the Priest's several 'Sing This All In Unison, 'cos we all Like the Same Music, Goddamn It!' tracks! It doesn't have a ballad! Go Chiefs!

 Capn's Final Word:  Definitely not a shining example of Priest at their creative best, but it sated the fans. Rations can get mighty meager after this, so...

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Turbo - Columbia 1986

Eeeewwww! Turdo! Please tell me I'm not the only one who's ever thought of that cock-slappinly, knee-knockinly, molar-lickingly funny play on the title of Sad Wings of Destiny!. Alright, so keyboards have been a part of heavy metal since Jon Lard first twiddled along with Ritchie Blackhead in Deep Poople back in nineteen sixty-ecch (potrzebie!), and Priest even snuck a couple in the back door of some of their earlier records, but even the biggest supporters of this band couldn't understand the idea of turning Judas Priest 1986 into Alan Parson's Project, 1983.  That's probably an overstatement, just like every last goddamn thing on this website, but there are lots and lots of really poorly conceived synthesizers everywhere you look on this record. That's not even the worst part of it all: the prime reason to ever listen to this band, the magnificently crunchy dual guitar sparring, is thrown on a table, gassed under, and neutered, like so many unwanted homeless kittens. The drumming is so gated, chopped, and butchered it sounds like nothing more than Roland 808 clicks fed through a reverb unit, and even Halford's vocals are affected by the processing curse. The 'even-numbered' Priest studio albums have always been the riskier and, therefore, more satisfying of the catalogue, but this time a major mistake has been made. Priest falls headfirst into the vat of hair-metal shit that they helped to construct, except they never sounded this paper-thin. What kind of fool ever really enjoyed songs with lines like 'Hands up! Private property!' chanted via synthesized arena crowd like the Holy Grail of Rock Togetheness? The trick is repeated over and over again on this record...the people they chant 'We don't need no..no no no...parental guidance here!' (a response to the PMRC Senate hearings that year, no doubt).  Halford never needed help like this before, so why do we need to Def Leppardize all his vocals now? 'Parental Guidance' coulda been a great song without these production blunders, but I can barely stand it like it is.

Lots of Turbo is like that. The writing is, for the most part, better than so much of the Aqua Net crowd, but the production is so awful, so far from what this band ought to sound like, that it hardly matters. The bad songs are unfathomably corny - 'Rock You All Around the World', 'Private Property', 'Wild Nights, Hot and Crazy Days' (which Kiss, in their unequalled quest to prove they're dumber than a block of balsa wood, stole for 'Crazy Nights' in 1987) are all absolute horrors. and the possibly passable 'Out in the Cold' is taken out behind the woodshed and beaten bloody with a spiked 2x4 by its malevolent synthesizer.

The opener 'Turbo Lover' is the best and worst of times, the only really memorable track on the album, but also the place where people usually first have their violent bodily rejection of the poisonous sound of this record. Yeah, it's more Rebel Yell than British Steel, but the Billy Idol-ish pantywaist love predator pose was one of the more effective ones of the mid-80's, and the crescendo to the first chorus is a great way to forget the silicon-grown non-rock sound these instruments are squeezing out. In concert, with guitars tweaked and synths buried, it's a fine song.  Here it's merely puzzling. Does it suck? Should my Metal sensibilities be offended? Lord...do I have to buy a t-shirt with this gay-ass picture on the front of it?

Also puzzling is the fact that the two closing tracks, traditionally mediocre-but-inoffensive rockers that ease the album out on a blisteringly tolerable note, are still here, and still sound like the same kind of tracks they've always been. Few, if any, synths! Decent rock production! Some audible guitar crunch! Of course, they're still mediocre for Priest as a whole, but on this album, they're frigging great! Do you think Priest has an inexhaustible supply of middling Track 8's and Track 9's, the Kevin Millars and Bill Muellers of the metal world, locked away in a vault somewhere? Sure damn seems like it. Usually I pass by these finishing tracks faster than Halford by an underage wet t-shirt contest, but this time I'm happy as hell they're here. It's like showing up to Cheers, finding its turned into a sushi bar, and seeing everyone gone except for Woody and Carla, still there as always.

Okay, so this album really deserves all the objects thrown its way, that's for sure. Never will I feel like listening to it again, but let's say this - it is far from being the worst album of its kind, and retains just enough hint of the Judas Priest creative fumes to avoid total collapse. Mostly, it was just a mistake, and we can forgive one of those, right? I mean, we forgave Emperor Hirohito, Bill Buckner, and Richard Nixon, didn't we?

 Capn's Final Word:  An album as plastic as that yak on the cover of the last album.

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Priest...Live! - Columbia 1987

Judas Priest, at least until the late 1990's when they used some scab Yank singer to flog their old hits around theaters and bars, recording and releasing seemingly every third concert as a live album, in an attempt to fund their mortgages and yacht club memberships, has never been very generous with the live albums. Only two in thirteen years. The Grateful Dead had more live albums of themselves sleeping in the hotel room than that. And to start off your first post-breakthrough live document with 'Out in the Cold', well that's kinda like a reformed Beatles starting their first concert with 'Octopus's Garden', isn't it? This is about the least likely song to fire up a stadium crowd (or a home audience) to want to stick around for the rest of the show. But you've plunked down your $14.99, or $38.75, or 75 bazillion Lira or however much it was, and you want your fucking Priest, man. 'Breakin' the Fucking Law!', 'Head Out to the Fucking Highway!' Living After Fucking at Midnight! 'You Got Another Fucking Coming!', and 'Shout- Oh Yeah!', my favorite track off the rare call-and-no-response studio EP I Can't HEAR YOU, ELECTRIC LADY STUDIO STAFF!!! And you get all that jazz, I promise you, and about a thousand other things you forgot were ever on the second side of Point of Entry or Defenders of the Faith. This album gives you it all plus the kitchen sink (still no drum solo, though...wheee!), and that's part of what's wrong with it.  Unlike Unleashed, which bucked the live album trend by remaining short, bullshit-free, and excellent from head to heel, ...live! is rather exactly what you probably figured it was.  An entirely too lengthy 15 tracks, sound that falls from Unleashed's intense immediacy to a sluggish from-the-back-rows-of-the-arena live documentation, tempos that drag an awful lot. The whole thing feels too long, too unwieldy, and, often too boring. Priest has too long a history and too great a catalogue to ever bore an audience. Hell, I'd have them play Sin After Sin from beginning to end and be happy. For every song they nail ('Breaking the Law', 'Highway', 'Electric Eye'), there's one they berk ('Turbo Lover' comes across more fakey and featherweight than ever, 'Metal Bites' crawls, and 'Living After Midnight' sounds by-the-numbers), and with the number of Turbo failures and filler tunes neither you nor I remember ('Some Heads Are Gonna Roll'? The fuck is that?), we're able to kill off whatever Priestian live energy is generated over the course of this 2-LP monster. I guess if you're one of those freaks who prefers the sparkle 'n' pose of the post-Steel band over the frequently unfriendly seriousness of the early Priest, this is the live set for you. Me, I like my live Priest where every song rips like its fighting for its life, and for that reason I'll stick with my Unleashed in the East until something better shows up. Good luck with all that, Capn.

 Capn's Final Word: More is less. And that Turbo crap ain't nothin' at all.

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KJ     Your Rating: C
Any Short Comments?: But let me ask you this. Who IS the loudest audience in the wuuuld????

 


Ram it Down - Columbia 1988

Weak, embarrassing, and wearing, but not a sell out album! They've got charts to prove it! Synthesizers hidden in the mix! Rock content has been increased by over 62%! Completely inappropriate SatriMalmVai wanking available on all tracks! Number of opportunities for drumstick-twirling, guitar-as-erect-penis wiggling, and crotch grabbing increased ten-fold! How could you not adore this album, oh Gay Metalhead of 1988? The gay Ram it Down was the knee-jerk reaction to the public's regurgitation of the gay Turbid, a flat-out Priest 'hey now, babies...we still kick ass in a over-flashy late-80's way!' statement of competence. And late-80's it is...there's more amassed torch-waving choruses, gated drum ker-whonks I've met more than a few gays who'll stand on the gay and proclaim this is the bottom-scratching worst of the gay Priest lot, but they're just gay. Gay gay gay. Anyone who doesn't think Gaybo is the Gayest of the Judas Gay albums, they're gaying themselves. I mean, if anyone gays that gay isn't the gayest song in the history of gay gay, the gay gay gay gay gay. Gaygaygaygaygy gauyyeg gay gay gay. Gay? You fags.

Alright. Got my own knee-jerk homophobia out of my system before beginning this review, thus fulfilling my 'edgy' requirement, reassuring the redneck contingent of my fanbase (and while I'm thinking about it - Dwayne? Bubba? I need my 12-guage, duck calls, and four-wheeler back. Oh, and my wife's copy of Torch Song Trilogy.), and inflicting undue damage on a portion of society that has done nothing to deserve it. (Except for the whole 'men should know how to dance and dress themselves' thing. I mean, leave us poor non-dancin' slobs alone, will ya?) Now back to slamming a mediocre album that does deserve it.

For all it's grunting and shredding, I can't find a single song I really really like here. 'Ram it Down' is a decent Vengeance/Faith-style opener (and fast!), but so much of this album sounds like it comes from deep down in the same foul cliché-ridden well as where Whitesnake and the Scorpions get most of their material.  Most of it seems to have been included either as part of an over-compensatory response to the 'sell-out' charges circa Turbo (How can I have sold out? 'I'm a Rocker!' I play 'Heavy Metal'! Five years ago, we were part of the 'Monsters of Rock!') or tired, AC/DC-esque sex double entendres that sound doubly lame coming in the wake of so much 'Cherry Pie' material from the Aqua Net crowd. I mean, there are some major fucking motions-gone-through on this album, as if they had a list of Metal Album Requirements to tick off their list before the producer would let them out the door. Song about loudness of music doubling as song about hardness of erection? Chiz-eck. Kuh-wayzee shred deconstruction of heretofore untouchable rock 'n' roll classic? You betcha ('Johnny B. Goode' being, as far as I'm concerned, a cry for help or professional termination for this band). And more, but I bet you get the idea. The best thing on this album is the cheeseball cover, title track, and driving 'Love You to Death', which sounds like an outtake from a better record album, like say anything this band put out before 1986.

 Capn's Final Word:  Still an improvement on so much of its sad slimeball competition in that year of Our Bored 1988, but not a Judas Priest album of any true merit.

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Painkiller - Columbia 1990

Being witch-trialed for a bogus Fundie crusade may have been hell on the Priest, but it was sho nuff good for us fans. I mean, a little bit of real-life trouble and strife is always good for the inspiration centers of the brain (Blood on the Tracks, Tonight's The Night, Electric Company Panders to the Ethnic Groups, etc., etc.), but is it not ironic that Priest reacted to the public crucifixion of their Stained Class record by releasing their meanest and most diamond-hard record since that black metal classic? When it came out back in 1991, the title track of Painkiller was pretty much the first Priest I'd ever really heard, concentrating intently trying to make it out on the local no-fi AM metal station from the neighboring fuzz and farm reports. I thought it was magnificent at the time (much to the confusion of my metalhead friends) and still think it's one of the best metal tracks ever. As a statement of purpose ('Faster than a lazer bullet/Louder than an atom bomb/Chromium plated boiling metal/Brighter than a thousand suns , the last strong entry by a far-too-decent-for-its-own-good-down-on-its-luck metal band that was standing on the verge of falling into the pit. Painkiller is ten times as fast as anything else, angry as a pack of rabid rhinos, and more than holds up against the Children of British Steel now selling out stadiums with derived variations on Judas Priest's innovations.  This isn't merely a band of oldies gearing themselves up to play dat thrash like the kiddos - this is a pioneering thrash band reclaiming its rightful place as kings of speedy metal. Hell, after lame synth-metal and hairball outings, this push to pure speedmongering might come off to some as pandering all over again, but let's not forget stuff like 'Dissident Aggressor' and 'Sinner' existed long before Dave Mustaine popped his first pulsating neck zit.

No, they're not ready to compete against the Metallicas or Slayers of the world (they're still too rooted in vintage crunch to enter the conservatory), but if you ever wished Priest would shut up and just play as fast, mean, and dark as they'd hinted they could ever since backing off from Stained Class, Painkiller is the only rightful answer.  To hit warp speed again, a minor reconfiguration was in order, however...they got themselves a real-life thrash drummer guy in former Racer-X member Scott Travis to replace longstanding minimalist Dave Holland.  This guy is manic. The intro to the final, and quite possibly best Priest classic opening track 'Painkiller' should be enough to prove he's got enough skins on the wall (sorry for the witty wordplay, chaps...punishing, wasn't it?), to replace Holland. Holland was never exactly Mr. Scary on the trapset, you know, but the man had style. Travis would later make mincemeat of Holland's drum figures on some truly inadvisable live performances, but on Painkiller, the snare-tippities and double-kick whumpitties sound just peachy.

I guess it's pretty ridiculous to go and mention something like songwriting right about now (I wouldn't say Priest have been great songwriters since, like, British Steel), but I'll suffice it to say that the band does everything possible to keep their Sex Satan at the Speed of Sound lyrical shtick fresh (which is far more than I could say about the last three albums), making their messages harder ('Between the Hammer and the Anvil') and more adrenalized ('All Guns Blazing', featuring a great acapella scream-tro by Robbie) than they've been in a long time. But lyrics on an album like this is like lingerie on a whore - you'd miss it if it weren't there, but it's not what you plunked down $20 for. You want action, and delivering the goods is what Priest prides itself on. The first, oh, half dozen or so songs on this album are absolute classics of the thrash form. Things keep up a masochistic tempo throughout all of side A, through the fellow berzerker 'Metal Meltdown', but begin to sputter slightly on the second bit. 'Night Crawler' sounds very much like Screaming for Vengeance with busier drums.  'A Touch of Evil' looks for all intents and purposes to be a Turbo refugee with a riff ripped wholesale from Led Zeppelin's 'Wanton Song' hiding underneath its sad synthy sheen, and things take a turn for the cheesy-sad with 'One Shot at Glory', a lame fillerish track that isn't fit to finish off this otherwise great record. The fact that this record loses steam from a great first half is so stereotypically Priest it may as well ride around on a chromed motorbike in a pair of assless pants (and isn't that what the Just Push Play guy on the cover is doing?), so I can't do anything rash like rate this above British Steel or anything, but to hear this band do something this new and this great at such a difficult period of time testifies to their resilience and strength.

 Capn's Final Word:  Priest go down swinging.

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VB dompenguin88@sbcglobal.net Your Rating: A+

Any Short Comments?: The greatest speed metal album ever. A shot of adrenaline straight to the motherfucking heart. This thing never ceases to energize me, plus it manages to do it with actual kickass RIFFS rather than awful random grinding like they'd do with Jugulator. Damn near every guitar part on this record either flings itself snarling at you and kicks your ass or stomps all over the place midtempo-ly but STILL kicks your ass. Plus, the new drummer manages to keep the beat just as well as any Priest drummer has ever done, while also playing as fast as any other speed metal drummer - faster than Dave Lombardo, faster than Igor Calavera, and most definitely faster than that turd Lars Ulrich. But it's rhythmic speed, not just fast impotent bashings. Brilliant.

 

Dominic dasfichte@web.de Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: let me just say.. ah well. i pretty much agree with you here but give 'em a little push for the fact that they were so freakin' old already. they might not be able to compete with prime-era metallica and the likes at this point but i'll take any judas priest album (+ halford, of course) over the crap that other metal outfits did at a similar point in their respective career. st. anger, anyone? maybe some halford-enthusiast could explain to me what the hell
happened to his voice between RID & Painkiller? is that screechy stuff just one of his many voices or did he start to 'lose it'? if not, i can imagine this mistreatment of his poor, poor throat being a major step towards the aforementioned detoriation. sounds very axl

 


Jugulator - CMC International 1997

As metal went down the tubes in the 1990's, it retreated into a sort of sad defensiveness - bands either fought inadvisedly to keep current (Metallica's icky Load/Reload disaster), or, as in Priest's case, pulled up into a hardened little shell and played to the extremists in the audience.  Few bands seemed to care much for the fact that many in their audience were happy with them as they were, and didn't give a sweet Lemmy's buttock about which way the winds of fashion were blowing. Funnily enough, Priest had pretty well avoided (until Painkiller anyway) completely losing its connection with its late 70's hard-rock/proto-metal past, even with the twists and turns and goofy haircuts. No matter how weird or plastic the going got, you could always hear evidence that this was the same band that had done 'Sinner' or 'Victim of Changes' ten long years before, and that was no only reassuring, it was a sign of consistency and quality in their output.  Moreover, Priest had earned a position as a standard bearer, bridging the wooly, grooving 70's with the grinding, technophillic 80's. Within certain tolerances, you knew what you were gonna get when you picked up a Judas Priest record. Then Rob Halford left and all of that tradition and quality control got tossed into the Great Ululating Maw faster than you can say 'late yacht payment'.  The situation was clear - after Halford's departure in the early 90's, the three remaining core Priest members (Tipton, Downing, and that bass player dude who looks like that Spinal Tap guy) slept through the middle part of the decade, but woke up when funds began to run short. Income was needed, and it was needed fast. The problem was that ol' Rob was happy with touring college town basement bars with his minor-league side projects and had little use for Priest.  What we need is a replacement. A scab, baby. Someone, preferably from a Priest tribute band, who already knows all the words, does a passable Halford impression for audience members with a six-pack or two already under their belt, and may actually have some material to contribute (because, Christ knows, none of the other guys have written anything of worth in half a decade). Enter Tim 'Ripper-Offer' Owens, just the stooge they were looking for - a stiff who could just about cover the basics well enough that the band could tour as Judas Priest again and not suffer a debilitating number of beer bottles thrown at the stage in disgust. In concert, as my '98 Live Meltdown review below shows, things almost worked well enough to pass. But as endless semi-profitable van tours of tiny venues have a tendency to do, the retreaded Priest scored themselves a recording contract with one of those bazillion niche record labels that sprouted up as CD-production technology got dirt cheap in the late 90's. Yup, though the days of 'Breakin' the Law' playing each hour on MTV were but a dusty, cum-stained memory, there were still hundreds, of not several hundred Priest fans willing to track down and shell out bread for a new Priest album, and not all of them were Tipton's illegitimate children, either.  Except this is no Priest album, not in my particular shade of the wavelength, anyhow. This? I don't have any fucking glimmer as to what band this is, but it ain't Judas Priest. F'r one thing, it's all thrash, except not the fleet, lazer-sighted Painkiller kind. Jugulator is ugly, drum-and-pinch-harmonic driven black metal of the belching demons from heck type.  Ripper, besides his lyrical odes to snot 'n' blood 'n' pee, does all the requisite thrash-metal belches and grunts (as first popularized by the seminal 1983 Venom release Our Bassist Has Swallowed His Necronomicon, and Now Has To Cough It Back Up In Time For Black Mass Tonight or the Dark Priest is Gonna Make Him Hose Out the Sacrifice Bowl Again).  Except, this stuff is really ridiculously awful - 'social commentary' for shop-class dropout mouthbreathers who blame their $5.15 an hour on 'politishuns' instead of the fact that they can't tie their shoes without a picture instruction sheet. Listen hither:

 They turn their backs
While others
Commit grisly acts

We're scared
For life
By politicians' greedy
Blood stained hands

 Not only does it rhyme about as well as a set of Toastmaster assembly instructions, it sounds just as clunky and half-considered as it reads off the page. Except I suspect that Rip didn't even write the fucking things down himself. He just got together three or four CD booklets from his favorite 'Frowny Metal' bands, and just started reading lines off them at random. That would explain why, at one point on 'Burn In Hell' (yes, Virginia, he does use that crusty old line as an album title, as well as the witty Blakeian wordplays of 'Dead Meat' and 'Blood Stained'), he begins saying 'Rygar Assmonger plays ESP Guitars exclusively. Copyright 1994, Mom and Dad's Basement Records.' before shifting to a particularly awkward King Diamond lyric about watching butterflies mating. The fact that he lays into the odd high note at the end of a line here and there apparently covers his 'Priest Vocalist' requirements, leaving him free the rest of the time to essentially kick the Priest name around like a dead baby corpse.

The music is just about the same sort of thing, except with ground-up guitars and overplayed drums instead of horrible manglings of the English language. If you can imagine a guitar style as far as possible from Tipton and Downing's classic British Steel sound, except twice as distorted, this is it. It simply does not in any way sound like this was played by competent musicians, much less guys as talented as Tip and Down have a reputation for being. Junk-u-later is a morass of post-Metallica, post-Alice in Chains honking, burbling and fret noise, as far as I can make out. The songs are entirely unmemorable, entirely non-Priest like, and in case you hadn't figured it out, simply an awful pile of teenage fright-mask garbage with that Scott guy pounding like Carl Palmer with jumper cables connected to his manpieces. It's absolutely one of the most terrible things I've ever heard made in the name of heavy metal, and besides maybe a few of the second-hand shred solos, it's an absolute blight on the Priest banner. None of these songs should ever have been written, much less recorded and pressed for mass distribution.

Capn's Final Word:See...yacht payments and private school tuitions for the kiddos have a funny way of producing awful music.

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98 Live Meltdown - CMC International 1998

I know it's probably in poor taste to review a live album from a tour behind an album (Jugulator, a publication which I used to enjoy as a young lad, especially the issues containing odes to lactating women over 350 pounds in body mass) that I've yet to hear all the way through, but poor taste, tastelessness, and pasties are what the Bonanza prides its dark little heart on, and who am I, the Capn, to deny that I've heard this 2-CD, 1400-hour long, Ripper Owens-era live album once and never much feel like hearing it again? Like my last trip to the strip bar down on Harry Hines, his whole thing feels cheap, dirty, and wrong, but unlike my pilgrimage to Dollar Bill Heaven, I didn't enjoy this one much. The band sounds absolutely dominated by its non-original equipment - drummer Scott Travis, who overplays to the level of irritation, and that hambone vocalist.  Technically, Rip has a passing resemblance to ol' Rob Hobgoblin vocal-wise, when he really, really tries. Unfortunately, he feels like trying about as often as Dirk Nowitski feels like playing a little defense. More often he feels like playing Big Hairy Metal Singer Man, and shamelessly stroking his machismo. Now, I don't care if the guy sings the same notes Rob did, or in the same way, or even in the same key as long as he brings enough charisma and intelligence to makes the songs work.  As it is, he's a ridiculous little man with a huge self image who's hopelessly out of his league singing these songs with this band. His various grunts and asides sound hopelessly cute in the light of something like Unleashed in the East's scalpel-sharp focus, and even his lead-singer clowning pales in comparison to Rob's on Priest...Live! To this album's credit, the crowd is into it and certainly knows the songs, and often sings them louder (and better) than the vocalist.

Perhaps this album would've saved itself some easy potshots had it focused almost entirely on new Priest material from Jugulator instead of attempting every last live warhorse from 'Diamonds and Rust' to 'Electric Eye' to 'The Green Manalishi'. Perhaps it would've worked better is the band didn't sound like it was being rushed into the mud all the time (the bass and at least one guitar is trainwrecking horrifically at any given point on this album), if the drummer would quit with the shred-thrash crapola once in awhile, and if it didn't lean so heavily on the guitarists' ill-fitting reputation as shredders.  A lot of the time, the band sounds like its merely trying to catch up, and never locks into that ESP-groove that so marked this band's performances in its heyday. But mostly the problem is vocal - Ripper may have built his career leeching off of Rob Halford's songs and band, but he's far from being in the same league as his idol.  Compared to Rob, this guy is as charismatic and exciting as a cold bowl of unsalted corn grits. With only a bunch of songs we've heard better elsewhere and a pocketful of (ugh) new material to fuel us otherwise, leaving this in the dustbin of obscure metal history is an easy decision.

You'd think for all the identity theft this singer guy involves himself in, he'd pick up a glimmer of personality.

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Demolition - Atlantic 2001

Sounds a tinge more like original-issue non-carcinogenic sugar substitute Priest in that they actually formulate a few pretty solid riffs, but not enough to be any good, and not enough to warrant you caring. The Padres are still slumming it in the metal K-tel records hinterlands as far as I'm concerned, even though Allmusic.com somehow says this was released on Atlantic Records, an actual, real-life, no-kidding record company that used to house Led Zeppelin and Aretha Franklin. I guess Ozzfest and a general softening of the Indie-asshole stance at the end of the 90's helped bring this about, but didn't the Atco guys listen to Jugulator? Couldn't they tell they were buying the musical equivalent of a used Yugo here? The lead singer dude still sounds like the love child of Chris Cornell and Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade, the lyrics are still as dense and tasteless as a week-old Quarter Pounder, and this has absolutely zero Judas Priest vibe. I guess this is, you know, not really offensive or anything, but it sure as fuck gets boring enough as it tours through the dregs of the post-grunge 'no-glam' metal sound.  70 minutes is far too long for any heavy metal record...in this case it's deadly. The proportion of winners ('Bloodsucker', 'Hell is Home') to losers (the heap of whiny twelve-stepper Ozzy-ripoff bullcheese called 'Lost and Found', the closing rap-metal trashhunk 'Metal Messiah') is just too darn paltry for me to consider listening to this thing again. But, as much as I don't want to admit it, this album has definite improvements over the last edition of Robbed Halford - the drumming is poundalicious rather than thrash-clickity-clicky, Ripper controls his worst gastro-intestinal tendencies to a large extent, and I wished I was dead not because the album was that terrible, but because it was just way too goddamn long. I don't much feel like going into specifics, and by the rating you can tell that I think this album is still worse than Ram it Down (as well as most Paul McCartney albums...but just barely! And it's better than almost anything the Moody Blues have put out in the last 25 years!).  They do so little that's memorable, new, or even particularly rocking that one wonders what the point of all this was. And then one looks in ones wallet and sees the missing $16 bucks that was supposed to go towards the car payment/lunch money/dimebag of pot, and one is thusly educated in the harsh, harsh practices of rock and roll. Just be glad you didn't tack on a $25 concert ticket and a $30 t-shirt on the top of it.

Oh, you did? Well, I've got this great set of 80's and 90's Lynyrd Skynyrds albums for you, then. You do have a credit card, doncha?

 Capn's Final Word:  Less rancid, but still not the Priest who's lap I used to perch upon.

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Live in London - Steamhammer 2003
Incomplete

Lord only knows why someone would want a second Ripper-era Priest album when '98 Live Mashed Potatoes is still bumping around the dollar-bin.  I say download Soulseek and pick up the readily available 1981 bootleg show also called Live in London for nothing more than the cost of a few keystrokes (pick up Tuscon '83 while you're at it) and hear the classic material as Nature (and Halford) intended it. As for masochists who want to hear Demolition material live...isn't there a lawn implement somewhere you could be scraping against the inside of your thighs?

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Angel of Retribution - Epic 2005

The bitch is back! That's right...Rob Halford ends his decade-plus self-exile and returns to put Judas Ripper out of its misery and return things to more tasteful ground. Listen - I'll say this much about the Ripper Owens-era Judas Priest: it got better. If the third album had seen the same rate of improvement that we saw from Jugulator to Demolition, we might just have to start parading around a new Sergeant Pepper's or Exile on Main St. or $1,000,000 Weekend or whatever else you care to name. But, instead, we get Halford's inimitably great pipes singing over what sounds, for all intents and purposes, to be Defenders of the Painkiller. You get the terribly unoriginal consistency of the first combined with the angry posturing and thrash overtures of the second, except, you know, less so. Possibly because this band has now so well worn out its basic two or three thematic constants (demon motorcyclists, hot sweaty loverboys) they look like Jenna Jameson's reproductive organs, but I feel like I've heard most of this album before. And I'm not just talking about the fact that 'Revolution' is just Jane's Addiction's 'Mountain Song' (no wonder it sounds so fucking ace, huh?) with dumber lyrics. What the fuck kind of songs do you think 'Hellrider' or 'Wheels of Fire' are? Sure, the fact that the Downing/Tipton dual riff machine is back online pretty much guarantees that most of this stuff sounds great, but where's the goddamn ideas? Where's the spelunking through the darkness of the soul? The spirit is here, yes  (I will admit that this feels very much like a Judas Priest album should), but instead of hitting the oddball grey matter spirit of Sad Wings of Destiny, which the bandmembers and album cover both hope to conjure up, we score a hit somewhere in early 1985. When your big new idea is a 13-godfuckdamn-minute long song about the Loch Ness Fucking Monster, it's possible that you just might be missing the mark somewhere. Possibly. I could be wrong. It's worked for Iron Maiden for generations. Uriah Heep ain't got nothin' on lines like 'Loch Ness! Confess! To Me!'. baby! If you want cringeworthy moments, ones that shake your faith in the justice of the universe and your own love of British Steel, just put this one on in non-metalhead company and watch as your reputation plummets faster than Jennifer Connely's face when she sees the guy pull out the double-headed dildo in Requiem for a Dream.

Some admissions - first, the requisite corny power ballad 'Worth Fighting For' has a certain something about it, maybe the looong crescendos, maybe the fact that Rob sounds tired and worn down, that I've found myself enjoying the crap out of it. Oh, and 'Judas is Rising' is the coolest opener since 'Painkiller', which was the coolest thing since 'Breakin' the Law' - the Army of Rob's giga-tracked scream at the beginning is enough to convince me that Judas is rising, and not just standing pat and slowly festering like the rest of the album indicates.

So for artistic growth, this ain't got none. For showing that Priest is, indeed, alive and well, a 6 out of 10 (resorting to songs about overgrown soft-shell sea turtles is not a good omen for the future, folks). For providing a platform for this band to go out and tour again after twelve years, an A.

 Capn's Final Word: The same old stuff. The 'stuff' being the mid 1980's, not the 1970's, unfortunately.

 


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