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There’s absolutely no reason for you to hold on to your seats. Nothing exciting has happened in the past few weeks and now we’re even starting to worship songs that are in fact ships lost at sea lead by a broken compass. And as soon as this compass tends to point north for only a few seconds we immediately convince ourselves that the Metal God is back. He is not. Only now, we are sure that he is gone for good.
This song is different from other Halford releases in terms of sound. It’s also the first time a Halford song begins with narration. When we’re done telling bedtime stories we receive an outburst of heaviness and the guitar and bass drums smoothly fire a round of bombastic heaviness. Not really original, but never seen before at Halford. Then, our beloved vocalist Rob Halford comes in. The last time he used his convincing screaming falsetto was on the Crucible record in a song like “Betrayal”. We heard him at two Priest albums and a holiday record since, and wise men have already concluded Rob Halford to be too old for this. Yet he manages to release a studio recording such as “The Mower”, this one, featuring his high screaming falsetto. Except, there’s something wrong... it’s even painfully wrong. It doesn’t go as fluent as ever before and this just seems as an obligation to the fans. The man is old, but still doesn’t want to admit it. His screams do reach his notes, with the help of some studio editing, but it truly sounds as if the man squeezed it out of himself, thus giving his last breath.
Alright, the rest of the song. Well, it pretty much doesn’t really get interesting. The bombastic salvo of guitar and bass drums continues to merge with Halford’s deathscream to the mid of the track. At that point, the song speeds up a little and lets Mike Chlasciak and Roy Z give us a one note palm-mute riff. In the meantime they sometimes play some random powerchords and Halford screams a bit maniacally and out of control. After a while the drum becomes bombastic with its tom-toms and the noise continues. Then the guitarists enter with a mediocre riff and a non-impressive guitar solo sounds through the speakers. And so it goes on a little with some variation in the drumming pattern and some more headaching screams from our has-been Metal God. Frankly, at the end it even starts to become a little cool, but that was only just a few seconds before the end, which is celebrated with a grunt from Halford?! Anyway, I guess it’s pretty clear now that the track is not really a reason to bang your head, unless you would bang it to the wall, but I assure you that deleting the single will be more helpful to the situation.
In short, this is quite a boring song that could sound impressive if you never heard Robbie Halford or metal before in your life, but for experienced listeners this should be a real letdown. If, however, the upcoming Halford IV album features inventive material in the same style, I could still be interested. But “The Mower” ain’t doin’ it for me.
Earlier last week, on a pure fit of capriciousness, I sat through the entire “Hellraiser” series, including the brutally terrible sequels in the 2nd half of its 8 film entirety. During the climactic sequence of “Hellbound”, the rather elaborately mystical 2nd part of the series, I took note of the near invincible nature of the freakish villain Dr. Channard in his cenobite manifestation. Between the somewhat witty one-liners before letting lose his hyper-violent methods of death upon multitudes of mental patients, I began to wonder what sort of heavy metal song could hope to do justice to something as horrific, as surreal, and at times as quirky as it was. Recently I think I may have found the prime candidate in Halford’s latest single “The Mower”.
In all respects, this song is steeped in slowed down, simplistic cliché in the same manner that most of Fight’s material was. What little riff work is at play on here is present only for the purpose of establishing an atmosphere, and the resulting affect is something along the lines of a chorus of compactors in a nightmarish junkyard. The guitar tone is literally so heavy that it sounds like anvils being crushed under the weight of some otherworldly force. Combined with one of the creepiest narrated intros and a fair amount of ambient keyboard effects, the whole of the music surrounding the Judas Priest front man literally takes on a aura similar to the mystical labyrinth of hell featured prominently in the 2nd “Hellraiser” film.
But the true powerhouse that shakes this thing clear out of the realm of being just another groovy scare fest is the pummeling banshee wails that Halford just belts out like no tomorrow. He literally makes older ball busting anthems such as “Freewheel Burning” and “Blood Red Skies” sound tame in comparison to what he pulls off here. This couldn’t quite be qualified as singing in the general sense as there isn’t a single pretty moment in this beast, it’s just a non-stop assault of sonic blasts that remind all the imitators of just who rules this side of metal’s massive kingdom. If Halford himself were a cenobite, he wouldn’t need hooks or tentacles to spread havoc, he could literally dismember every weak-kneed poser with a single shout.
Although I wouldn’t characterize this as something that most would want to try and sing along with, this is a new classic that should not be dismissed by any fan of Halford’s lengthy career simply on the grounds that it doesn’t bust out into speed metal territory. Metal does not live by riffs alone, and occasionally a song can be carried completely by the sum of all its parts, or the power of the vocalist, or in this particular case both. Whatever comes to be of the soon to be released “Halford IV” release, you can rest assured that at least one of these songs will force itself into your long-term memory with little difficulty.
Seriously? The much more widely known Judas Priest delivers us 2 discs of the self-involved monotony that was 'Nostradamus', and Rob then decides to drop this thick slab of HEAVY metal on his next solo release? I'm outraged! Well, not really, especially after the money seeking debacle of 'Winter Songs'.
But the music speaks for itself here, with a thick, modern production with crunchy, groovy riffs courtesy of Roy Z, some good leads by Metal Mike, and rounded out by the hammering wall of Bobby Jarzombek's drums. With a sound like 'Fetish' from the 2006 remix and remaster of 'Resurrection', this could fit in anywhere on Fight's 'War Of Words' without missing a beat. No light and airy, artsy-fartsy instrumental interludes here, just brutal heavy metal picking up where 'Crucible' left off.
Even Rob's vocal performance is better here, one fans of his solo work will expect and appreciate (save 'Winter Songs', shudders). If you've heard Halford live in recent years you know he doesn't have the chops he used to, and you can tell on this song, even though it's still top notch. He sings more mid-range high vocals, and throws in some of the harsh or deep vocals ala 'Fight' and 'Crucible', much to my delight. These are the kinds of things I was hoping he'd incorporate into the Priest sound after he replaced Tim Owens, whom I particularly liked, only to be disappointed.
One of the things that irks me most about this is the lyrics, which sound very conceptual, akin to 'Nostradamus', but the music here is much better, leaving the prospects of an epic 'Halford' release come October!
Which begs the question: why isn't this Judas Fucking Priest?!
I won't lie, this entire song is basically one huge breakdown. But you know what? It's motherfucking epic. This song is reminiscent of Painkiller-era evil epics such as "Night Crawler" and "A Touch of Evil", and if you loved those, you'll love this!
Beginning with a ominous spoken piece, the song quickly turns into the 2 minute breakdown that some are already condemning, but oh man, this is a good fucking breakdown! Starting off with a few symphonic elements that give a wicked feeling to the music, Halford's vocals take over soon enough, and it's a surprise that at his age, he still sounds absolutely magnificent. The combination of chugging, long drum fills and high-as-hell vocals are a colossal alliance which is broken just at the right time (around 2:30), to give you some riffs and a solo! And after the extravagant solo, you're treated to a mighty post-climax of Halford screaming "No hell! No life! No exit!", and damn, is it good!
All in all, this is a mighty, smoldering, massive, epic, evil, hellish and all-around METAL song, and if you're gonna jump on the "Death to -core!" bandwagon and bash Halford, you need to have your brain checked, because this is one of Halford's best moments, and "The Mower" is enough to make Satan himself wimper!
Just when I thought 2010 was starting to get good in terms of metal releases, Halford comes out of nowhere and fucks it up. Seriously, as much as I love classic Priest and think Halford's voice was among the best in heavy metal in the Screaming/Defenders era (he just sounded plain homo before that), this song is a complete atrocity and makes the stuff on Nostradamus sound like hall of fame material in comparison.
Honestly, I don't understand the sound Halford is going for in this song. Heavycore? Tradcore? Powercore? The entire first half of the song is a massive fucking breakdown with some of the worst vocals I've EVER heard. Ozzy can sing better than this, seriously. Sure, he's still got range and a bigger set of pipes and balls than most men - straight or otherwise - but if your voice isn't the same it was, there's no use trying to hit those high notes. Besides, since when was Halford restricted to falsettos only? The Halford of old (read: pre-Painkiller) didn't solely depend on ultra high shit, he varied his stuff and brought a lot of depth to songs that were otherwise fairly standard (Some Heads Are Gonna Roll for example). But he doesn't even attempt to make his vocals sound interesting here. It's all the same monotonous garbage over an endless amount of shitty breakdowns in the first half.
Thankfully the song starts to get better around the 2:40 mark, with a couple killer riffs and then an awesome solo but our collective ears are still being raped by the abomination of a vocal performance. After that sweet, sweet solo that almost saves the song from being a complete shitfest, the song degenerates into that same shitfest it was earlier with a groove type riff and then a botched 'epic' ending. So overall... an awful song, yes. Incredibly incoherent and even when those good riffs kick in I'm still wondering what Halford had in mind when making this.
I really don't understand this song or what Halford was trying to do. The only other good thing about this song is the cover but if only the song was as awesome as the cover. I really didn't know what to expect from this song since I've never really touched any of Halford's solo stuff but I was sure it'd be good enough to at least headbang to. And seriously, it was impossible to do even that.