Friday, March 30, 2007

Judas Priest-Hell bent for leather, 1978

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My favorite Priest album is Screaming for vengeance, however when pressed for what my second favorite is I would have to really think about it. Defenders of the faith is a prime consideration, but the later songs are a little weaker. British Steel has some great songs, but a few fillers as well. Painkiller is explosive at times, yet a little repetitive as well. So for Priest's second best album I may actually turn to the 1970's and consider either Sad wings of destiny or this album. It was almost the end of the decade and along with Motorhead plus a few others Priest were maybe unwittingly carrying on the torch passed on by declining metal acts like Black Sabbath. Both Hell bent for leather and the previous album Stained Class see the band really progressing and coming into their own. This is an album that always felt short to me, but not in a bad way. None of the songs overstay their welcome yet many of them quickly make an impact. There are some heavy hitters like "Delivering the goods", the title track, "Killing Machine" and a big monster called "Running wild". On these tracks the guitars are blazing, Halford is in fine form and one can see why some people think drummer Les Binks may have been the best drummer to sit behind the kit for Priest. Their are anthems like the single "Rock forever" and the a few years ahead of it's time "Take on the world". I think with songs like this, these guys were laying down the foundation for the metal anthems that would be popular to some extent for much of the 1980's. "Burnin' up" is a little dated in it's approach, but it's also a bit unique as it is certainly different from most of the rest of the album. Their cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Green Manalishi (with the two pronged crown)" is solid and Priest don't get enough credit for doing good covers. They knew how to be respectful yet add their own sound. "Evil Fantasies" is maybe the one song here that I think is merely decent. There are good riffs and tight vocals, yet it's difficult to get past the high cheese factor on this song. That leaves the two vocal gems in "Evening Star" and "Before the dawn". "Evening star" is more accessible overall and Halford's vocals are simply amazing as he weaves and builds the song up. "Before the dawn" is bit more odd in it's approach, but no less spectacular. At the start it's perhaps very removed from the other metal workings on the album. The music is very much in the forefront and Halford's vocals start soft and slowly he brings that up over the music and it all just works so well. There is also a brief, but stunning guitar solo in that track. This is just a truly fantastic album and one of several examples of the huge contribution Priest made to metal.


Blogger David Amulet said...

Good review. This is one of my favorites by Priest. I'd probably put Sad Wings of Destiny at #1, that whole package just works so well. But this album brings together a lot of the band's best elements and still sounds great today.

-- david

4:43 AM  
Anonymous Robert Ethier said...

Very good review...I'm going to have to pull that album back out and listen again. Like David, Sad Wings of Destiny is my favorite Priest album....Victim of Changes is just SO COOL!!!

I have never been as big a fan of the late 70s-early 80s Priest. I've always been really into Screaming on up and then the earlier stuff...I'm going to have to go back and give it another listen.


6:16 AM  
Blogger aXe mAn said...

I agree! This is a great album!
I think this is the 1st "big" album that Priest had. They had so many great albums! They are truly METAL GODS!
Great Review Mark!!!

7:07 AM  
Blogger RockDog said...

I dig this album! Good review!

7:42 AM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

This is probably my favorite JP album and has been from the first time I heard it, I think. It's a pretty varied album for them.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Aunt Jackie said...

I love the Painkiller album... It is at the top of my list of Judas Priest's albums. My friend Tamra has always been crazy about Halford.

Great post!

11:32 AM  
Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

What's interesting about "Green Manalishi" is that everyone associates it with Priest and not Fleetwood Mac, so perhaps they get a little respect for their covers, though it's not going to be for "Johnny B. Goode," ugh...

Good chat on this album, Mark. I definitely rank it up there. Screaming is my favorite too, though it was briefly Defenders. I've been listening to Sad Wings a lot more recently.

5:30 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Great review. Priest perfected the art of the metal album, if you ask me - the perfect mix of thrashers, epics and a softer moment or two, and this album is a near-perfect example of that mix.

11:34 PM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

The reason no one associates "Green Manalishi" with Fleetwood Mac is that it was recorded before they were a huge band, back when founder Peter Green was still in the group. If JP had recorded "Don't Stop" instead (an ugly thought, I know), no one would think of them ahead of FM. Actually, I'm not sure "Green Manalishi" was even on an album, it may have been a single or b-side. I wouldn't swear to that though.

7:28 AM  

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