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Mainstream Judas Priest - 79%

DawnoftheShred, January 5th, 2007

As a fan of the faster, heavier early Priest albums, it took me a long time to appreciate this album for what it is. The band kept their tempos limited to mid-paced rockers, simplified their songwriting formula, and started writing songs that didn't sound too out of place on rock radio of the time. A sure recipe for disaster, and yet Priest managed to do it without making themselves completely unbearable. For the most part, this is a great classic metal album, if not necessarily a great Judas Priest album.

The most apparently mainstream aspect of this album is the tempo. Aside from the burst of speed that is "Rapid Fire," the album is pretty consistently slow to mid-paced. The guitarwork and drums are simplified, allowing the songwriting emphasis to shift to the vocals. Therefore the album can't be approached like a metal album; this is pretty much hard rock in the flavor of Judas Priest. However, it works because of Halford. Though he keeps his falsetto in check for most of it, his vocal melodies absolutely rule. He's the primary reason for the album's overall catchiness. Not that the riffing is terrible, just that most of the rhythms are applied solely to highlight the vocal lines.

The songs are highly anthem oriented, and many of them will stick in your head long after listening. The big hits off the album, "Breaking the Law" and "Living After Midnight" are solid examples, although this songwriting approach climaxs with "United," which is possibly the catchiest song ever. Again, it's Halford that makes this own so much. The other great aspect of this album is the Downing/Tipton lead combination. While their riffwork has been simplified, their leadwork has not, and the soloing throughout the album is great. Typical of classic metal, but I'm not about to start complaining.

While there is no song I really dislike on this, the album is weaker overall than their earlier works. The mainstream influence works here, but it's not the ideal Priest sound. For the high-speed, rifftastic Judas Priest of the past, check out Stained Class, but if you don't mind a little hard rock influenced metal, British Steel is pretty much the best Priest album of its kind.