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Rob Halford may have rejoined his comrades in Judas Priest and released two new studio albums with the group, but he is still remaining more than active as a solo artist. In the past five years, he has worked to remaster his solo catalogue, make a movie, found a record label and clothing line, and even put out a Christmas album!
This particular effort is the widely-proclaimed Metal God's fourth album under the Halford banner and his first secular album to see release since Crucible came out in 2002. Fortunately, Made of Metal proves that Halford is still able to come up with solid material on his own terms.
Despite the title that Halford has chosen for this release, Made of Metal may actually be one of his lighter and most diverse solo efforts to date. But having said that, the album's overall sound recalls a mix of Priest's Screaming For Vengeance and Halford's own Resurrection.
Most of the songs on here are pretty accessible with much of the emphasis being placed on the various vocal hooks and ear-catching riffs. There also appears to be an almost pop touch at work with it particularly standing on the title track. Simply put, you'll be disappointed if you're expecting another soul-crushing Painkiller...
Going along with this trend, Halford himself seems to have toned down his vocal prowess in a way similar to his performance on 1980's British Steel. While Nostradamus featured the singer putting on a commanding performance and even trying out a few new techniques, he mostly sticks to a slightly monotone voice on this album and rarely explores the full extent of his range.
In fact, The Mower is the only song on this album that seems to prominently feature his signature falsettos. Even then, it sounds more like Udo Dirkschneider's screech than an All Guns Blazing shriek. Fortunately, this is not a complete loss as Halford still has a fantastic voice and carries the songs fairly well.
The other band members also perform well though they are mostly devoid of the aggression that made songs like Betrayal and Made In Hell so powerful. However, the guitars and drums have retained their technicality and keep the songs from faltering with their energetic performances.
In spite of the changes that have been made, most of the songs on this album still mostly comprise of upbeat rockers with some power metal influence at work. Of these tracks, Undisputed and Matador seem to stand out the most due to their triumphant verse-chorus transitions. In addition, Fire And Ice and Speed Of Sound also manage to be memorable thanks to the former's happy refrain and the latter's similarity to Priest's classic Electric Eye.
The album also has a softer side with Till The Day I Die standing out in this regard for its mellow attitude and noticeable country/blues influence. Heartless is also a highlight thanks to its soft/heavy contrasts and Twenty-Five Years brings the classic Silent Screams to mind with its cathartic refrain.
Ultimately, the title track proves to be the album's most distinctive song whether this be out of love or seething hatred. With its processed vocal effects and NASCAR-themed imagery, it may be one of the cheesiest things that Halford has ever written (Yes, even more so than Turbo Lover) and should have its share of haters, but its infectious hooks are incredibly hard to deny...
And speaking of NASCAR, the lyrics on this album are fairly interesting in that they mostly deal with a mix of love themes and cheesy aesthetics. Matador is a particularly interesting track as its lyrics tell the story of a gringo who becomes a top bullfighter. Don't worry, I'm confused too.
All in all, this is a pretty solid album though one that I would hardly recommend as being an essential purchase. Priest fans that were rubbed the wrong way by Nostradamus should find this to be a much more accessible effort.
For what it's worth, it's a pretty decent album if you manage to look past some of the album's slightly cheesier moments. Good luck getting the chorus to Made of Metal out of your head; if you're not prepared, it's going to be stuck there for a long time...
Fire and Ice, Made of Metal, Till the Day I Die, Heartless, Matador
There's plenty of legends that have flown the flag for metal and fronted some of the greatest bands the genre has ever produced, Ozzy, Dicko, Dio. Yet amongst them all there is only one that was bestowed the title The Metal God!!!!!!!!!
Halford had a lot to prove after leaving Priest all those years ago, and its fair to say that Fight wasn’t exactly his greatest solo work, however works under the Halford banner have mostly been stellar. Resurrection was a heavy metal masterpiece and follow up Crucible displayed a heavier darker side, unfortunately the less we talk about the bewildering Winter Songs the better, but everyone’s allowed at least one slip up (enter any of the Big 4 here). So here we are, post the successful Priest revival and Halford is back in full metal mode with the appropriately titled Made of Metal.
Halford IV is a blend of two parts: 1. well played modern metal with childish lyrics and 2. heart felt introspective love songs with just a little too much angst to feel comfortable. Let’s get it out now, Rob as we all know is gay, good on him I’ve got no hassles there love your leather bloke. But when songs either intentionally or not start to give a little too much information eg ‘I find myself in you, And I can't let you go, In me in you’, well……… lets just say I like my metal content strictly butter side up.
Kicking things off is ‘Undisputed’ which lives up to its chorus as the ‘Undisputed Heavy Weight Champion of the World’ in regards to being stupid. Now Rob has written some cheese in his time but this awkward clunker takes the cake, its so cliché and rhymes so predictably bad that even while drunk on News Years Eve you'd be hard pressed not to be embarrassed belting this one out on Sing Star. Then theres also the title track which takes on further thought provoking themes like car racing, but wait theres more there is also Matador a stirring number about………………….a matador.
Boo I hear some of you yell, Halford has always come with a sprinkling of cheddar and yes to this I must concede, but for a man now nearing his 60th decade I would expect a bit more substance than what is dished up here.
Bad adolescent homophobic jokes and diary products aside (sorry Rob, much love), Made of Metal still packs a punch when it wants to, after all anything involving the talented Roy Z cant not. The Mower is good value as is Fire and Ice and even Hellraiser and even some of the slower ballads are well constructed and well sang. However with the more modern edge and daft lyrics this is potentially right up there with the awful albums Priest did with Ripper in the Metal God’s absence. Its neither the old school trad metal of Resurrection or the Heavy brooding style of Crucible, but something a little more groovier and newer in between.
Surprisingly one of the better tracks for me is the one that could be the most derisive in the form of ‘Til the Day I Die’ it’s a nice little country tinged ditty with a good build up and ‘Blaze of Glory’ attitude an interesting interval to the soft and hard surrounding it.
So there we have it, a mixed bag of the serious and insightful and the playful and dumb, not a great combo. Musically it’s a pass with some well written heavy tunes, lyrically it’s a shambles from the smirk worthy to the cringe worthy. Long term fans I am sure will find a lot to love and it is good to still see the old dame of Metal out and about belting out the anthems (his voice is still loud and strong), however there is a use by date on us all and maybe The Metal Gods is fast approaching.
A new Halford album… what could we expect from the Metal God at this stage of his career? Would it be as heavy as his previous two solo efforts? Will it be as cheery as Winter Songs? Will he continue what he did on the latest Priest release? When “The Mower” was released I had almost lost hope for a decent album. It seemed obvious his voice was gone; the live performances were dreadful… how the hell could a next solo release from Rob Halford be any good?
Apparently, I was very mistaken about the Metal God. His voice is not gone; it’s just as good as it has been on a release like Painkiller. Only his high-pitched trademark screams are not as good as before, but hey the man gets older too and luckily there’s only one track with these screams and that would be “The Mower”, a track full of bland low e-picking and directionless screams. But apart from that, Rob Halford is absolutely not a has-been singer. He sounds so alive and fresh on here, at times you’d even forget he is close to 60 years old. At tracks like “Hell Razor” he even sings like he did in the 70s. Combine these fresh vocals with a very fresh sound of the instruments. Unlike on Crucible or Resurrection, the main focus is not a heavy guitar-sound. Made of Metal sounds very much like 80s Priest classics like Screaming for Vengeance or Defenders of the Faith. Tracks like “Speed of Sound” or “We Own the Night” might as well have been Priest classics. I think a lot of people who hear this album will feel this should have been the previous Judas Priest effort, and not Nostradamus, even though I really liked that one. This is also the first album to feature tracks that have been written entirely by Rob Halford. Mostly he co-writes them with his band mates. Talk about his band-mates, they are in great shape too. The album is full of inspiring riffs and terrific solos, especially on “Fire and Ice”.
Unlike the previous solo efforts, this album does not begin with an in-the-face heavy killertrack, but with “Undisputed”, featuring lyrics about boxing, Halford presents us the intro to a more melodic release with still enough power to fill your veins with adrenaline. A track like “Fire and Ice” sounds like an Yngwie Malmsteen classic, probably due to the neoclassical riff combined with the epic vocal melodies at the chorus. The title track is quite a standard track with a four-chord chorus and monotonous verses, but later on we’ll be pleased with superb tracks like “Speed of Sound”, “Like There’s No Tomorrow” and “We Own the Night”. “Till The Day I Die” is a real stand-out track. It’s very bluesy and clearly shows Halford’s interest in the genre. With tracks like “Heartless” and “Hell Razor” the album collapses a little. These tracks suffer from less originality and have a ‘been-there-before’-feel to them. With “Thunder and Lightning” Halford gives us another epic with certainly one of the finest choruses on this release. “Twenty-Five Years” is the only ballad on the album. It lasts seven minutes and perhaps that is a little too long for this song, but then again, it’s a good track and a very personal song. With “Matador” we get another track about racing, but it has these very catchy melodies and even reminds me a bit of “Nostradamus” in the chorus. The final epic “I Know We Stand A Chance” could’ve been expanded upon, but it’s a good track and should’ve been the last track. “The Mower” closes the album, and surprisingly the song is a grower. It’s obviously the least interesting track of this release, but the quality of the album lifts this song up and makes me able to enjoy it even if only a little.
In short, Made of Metal is nothing like Resurrection or Crucible in terms of sound. It sounds a lot more like 80s Judas Priest with a dash of new Halford. Were you disappointed with Nostradamus? Do you want some more kickass old school metal? Then you’ve got to listen to this record, ‘cause it’s Made of Metal!
Strongest tracks: “Fire and Ice”, “Like There’s No Tomorrow”, “Till the Day I Die” and “Thunder and Lightning”.
Weakest tracks: “Heartless”, “Hell Razor” and “The Mower”.
After the past two mediocre Judas Priest albums Nostradamus and Angel of Retribution, and the only marginally entertaining Christmas album Rob released last year, I have to admit that I was not quite excited for his next true, original-loaded solo venture. Then, when the single for "The Mower" dropped, I was even further perplexed, for it featured Rob's Painkiller era screaming over some extremely weak, chugging riffs that did absolutely nothing of note. Fast forward a few months, and you can see the terrible cover art to his latest album, Made of Metal. Yes, by this point, expectations were not running high at all! But, you see, Halford is just one of those folks one should NEVER count out, because lo and behold, this new record is the strongest he's done since his first solo under the Halford moniker, Resurrection, trumping Crucible in the overall songwriting.
Yes, Made of Metal is far better than it has any right to be, especially when you consider this man's age. But his vocals are still on top, conjuring up a performance here that should prove a thrill to fans of his 80s work like Turbo, Defenders of the Faith and all leading up to the amazing Painkiller. This is also a fairly diverse album, with Rob trying his hand at new subjects and slight tweaks to the formula he's been a part of for nigh on 30 years. You've got your more modern power metal with NWOBHM roots, namely "Fire and Ice" with its descending, gorgeous slopes of melody, and then a number of pure old school Priest-like pieces via "Speed of Sound", "Hell Razor", "We Own the Night" and two of the strongest songs the man has written in forever, "Like There's No Tomorrow" and the "Breaking the Law"-like "Matador", the latter showing him in extremely strong form vocally, arguably the equal of anything in his career, with hard as hell drumming courtesy of veteran Bobby Jarzombek.
The whole band turns in an amazing performance here, with Metal Mike Chlasciak and Roy Z ousting their prior lead work on Resurrection and Crucible, and Mike Davis throwing it all down with his steady, powerful plucking. The solos are all well written, adding interesting aspects to the songs that go above and beyond a mere formulaic acknowledgment of the rhythms beneath. This is especially true of "Matador" or the arena metal anthem "Thunder and Lightning". There are very few songs on this album I would kick out of bed for crackers. Strike that, only one. And if you were paying attention, you'll know exactly which I mean. Thankfully, "The Mower" is tacked on to the end of the album, almost as if Halford & company saw the reactions from the early release and realized it was not the single they might have been expecting. But alas, it still remains, a stain of poison in an otherwise pure, delicious apple. A few of the other tracks suffer lyrically, like the ballad "Twenty-Five Years", the metal boxing anthem "Undisputed" and the goofy but lovable robot alien sci-fi schlock of "Made of Metal" itself, which...sort of addresses the cover image?!
The Made of Metal mix is quite superb, and perhaps this is one of the reason's Rob sounds so good. He literally soars across the metalscape, but not at the expensive of the instruments. The rhythm guitars are given excellent crunch, the melodies ringing off beautifully into the night, and the drums are loud, clear, and forceful. Like the latest from Accept, or Saxon's excellent streak through the late 90s to the present, it's an album that enforces the cliche of 'old dogs with new tricks'. Surely, Halford is paying tribute to his own career, but this is once again about getting with the times, without losing what made you so important in the first place. My hat is off to this living metal deity, now if only he could convince Priest to write something worthwhile...it has been far too long.