British Steel, Point of Entry, Screaming for Vengeance, and Defenders of the Faith (Columbia/Legacy)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., July 13, 2001
British Steel (Columbia/Legacy),
Point of Entry (Columbia/Legacy),
Screaming for Vengeance (Columbia/Legacy),
Defenders of the Faith (Columbia/Legacy)You'd never suspect it from Judas Priest's upcoming Atlantic Records dud Demolition, but the English fivepiece was once the Stones to Black Sabbath's Beatles in the realm of modern metal. Like Ozzy & Co., Priest emerged from the blackened, industrial backwater of Birmingham circa 1970 with a grinding metallic cry that suggested Led Zeppelin if Jimmy Page really had assumed the spirit of Aleister Crowley and sold his soul to Satan. Where Sabbath belched the black doom of acid rock, Rob Halford and his leather-clad crew sped up the stark, driving blues of Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac (check "Green Manalishi" from '79's Hell Bent for Leather), and spewed serious, dead-end angst. Solidifying their classic lineup in 1974 -- screamer Halford, dual gunners K.K. Downing and Glen Tipton, founder Ian Hill on bass, and drummer Dave Holland -- they stamped out half a dozen creepy hard rock LPs before the turn of the decade met them with mass appeal. Columbia Legacy's reissue of Priest's commercial peak, '80's British Steel, '81's Point of Entry, '82's Screaming for Vengeance, and '84's Defenders of the Faith, ignores bookends in '79's platinum live souvenir Unleashed in the East and '86's tunefully synthetic Turbo, while restoring (artwork, lyrics), remastering, and welding a pair of bonus tracks to all four titles. Breaking the Law finds the lads throwing off the last shackles of its proletariat chorus ("United") for the glammy Eighties hedonism of "Living After Midnight" and Reagan administration theme song "Breaking the Law." Point of Entry sands off its predecessor's barely raw edges with clean, stainless steel production, and, despite highlights "Heading Out to the Highway" and "Desert Plains," is generally bland. Screaming for Vengeance, on the other hand, is both rough 'n' radio ready, "You've Got Another Thing Coming" being the big hit on a disc payloaded with bull's-eyes. Follow-up Defenders of the Faith, featuring FM faves "Freewheel Burning," "Love Bites," and "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll," begins the band's long, slow descent into that which touched off the grunge revolution of the Nineties ('88's Ram It Down notwithstanding). By that point, Halford had glimpsed the future, leaving the group for Fight and, years later, coming out of the closet and going "industrial" with Two. Thirty years after roaring to life, Judas Priest sounds like bigdumbfriendly classic rock, as opposed to the legions of speedthrashdeath metal bands they spawned, but at least one need not reside in the closet to get fisted.
(Point of Entry; Defenders)