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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