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Rob Halford knew exactly when to abandon the incredibly pretentious and out of touch monster that was Judas Priest. While "Painkiller" was a soaring metal cruncher it bore the IQ of an 14 year old and showed that Priest had finally peaked and needed a rest. As a man in his late 30's-early 40's it became obvious that Rob was looking to sing less about "metal monsters" and "metal meltdowns" and more about something that hit closer to home for him. Politics, AIDS, insanity, new beginnings and deep secrets became the grist from which Rob would pull his rather tormented vocals. I hate particularly when people call this a "Pantera" influenced record as this record does little "groovecore" and slams more convincingly as a mixture of low-down street thrash and late 80's crossover such as Cryptic Slaughter and the Cro-Mags. Rob took something tough, fresh and fast and made a one-dimensional but pummeling record in which he growled, screamed and shouted his way through thoughtful lyrics and a scooped "tone of hell" production. His backing band was ferocious and young enough to put Rob back in the position of making music that found a purpose beyond trying to be "video game" styled entertainment that was long tiring on the worldwide metal throng.
Among the many highlights on this record include the double-time "Into the Pit" and "Nailed to the Gun" displayed a chugging machine-grind that benefits from Halfords throaty delivery. Slower numbers like "Reality - A New Beginning", "Little Crazy" and "Immortal Sin" give room for passionate vocal performances that finally show Rob tackling ideas that were actually important to him as the time. "For All Eternity", "Laid to Rest" and "War of Words" also provide strong moments for the band as well. "Life in Black" may not be the most exciting track and "Kill It" may be a bit 'durrrrrrr' but but the rest is a strong example of a man who wanted to try something new and embraced the sound as an honest personal expression.
While many debated the value of Fight, I feel that this first record with it's snazzy and rather confrontational artwork, lyrics and strong political stance made dolts like Pantera and the like look rather immature and left to the rednecks. This would also be Rob's last extreme vocal performance for quite some time as he would explore other vocal styles for a period of time before coming back to the screaming metal style on his own.
This is a classic that stands for quite a bit and draws a reaction from anyone connected to the Priest camp. I for one found it passionate, grinding and rather impressive from a man who had only been singing about the "wings of steel/deadly wheels", "metal meltdown" and "hell patrol" just a few moments earlier.
I suggest that fans of old-skool metalcore, Rob Halford and even those who liked the more brutish Judas Priest tracks to purchase this...