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From out of the ashes and looming shadow of "Screaming For Vengeance" comes "Defenders of the Faith", the evil twin brother of Judas Priest's most popular 80's accomplishment. Underrated and sometimes even totally overlooked, this sucker can more than hold its own against its fellow brethren. However, as with its counterpart, "Defenders" suffers from inconsistency, which makes this all the harder due to a number of songs being some the band's most AWESOME of the decade, if not ever.
The band takes their talented (well, mostly) musicianship from the previous album, and add a darker, more evil slant on things, all seen over again by a big Tom Allom production. Dave Holland still just trudges along with his boring, meandering drumming, but at least he has more of his fast, hard fills to show off now and again. Ian Hill has slightly more notable bass here, but sounds a bit too laid back in the final mix. Still he pounds it when possible, adding serious power to a few numbers. Glenn Tipton and KK Downing still whoop ass here with their solos and riffing, but come up with even better stuff here with the decision for added aggression. Of course, Rob Halford lets it loose here, sounding really mean on some tracks with near growls and his rough 'n' tumble mid-range vocals. The man throws in a number of classic screams as well, though not as operatic as those on "Screaming For Vengeance".
The album starts off like any good Priest album should: AWESOME. But this isn't just any song. Oh no, this is "Freewheel Burning!!!!" *Da-na-NAA-da-na-na-na-na* "Freewheel Burning!!!" *DA-NA-NA-NAA* Too fucking awesome, this one of Priest's finest openers. It has a sense of evil, aggression, lots of cool riffs, a vicious and memorable solo with slight but chilling tempo changes, and vicious Halford vocals, including his legendary spitfire shouting during the song's middle portion. A fucking killer start! A pretty killer followup is "Jawbreaker". While still dark and menacing, it lacks the speed and overall aggression of "Freewheel". Still, its stomping midpace and abundance of catchy riffage, as well as some neat melodic vox, make it one killer keeper. In third is the great, woefully underrated "Rock Hard, Ride Free". With a more hard-rock tinged sound, as the title suggests, this big and beautiful semi-ballad comes complete with a gorgeous, epic-sounding chorus and an aboslutley rockin' solo that runs over two minutes long with time changes and Downing-Tipton dueling a plenty. DO. NOT. SKIP! Up next is probably the main reason why I gave this album the high rating it has: THE FUCKING SENTINEL! Take the "big" feel of "Rock Hard" and give it the evil of "Freewheel", and here you have this masterpiece. Beware of Ian Hill's bass attack in the intro, Halford's wild shrieking, the nifty time changes, and that chorus, which at the end builds and builds until we get a glorious heavy metal explosion, ending in a slow fadeout. After that, "Defenders" sort of trips and falls on its face, but manages to get back up with relatively minor injuries. We get a triple shot of "Love Bites", "Eat Me Alive" and "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll". The 1st has more immense bass to it and a good atmosphere, but it lacks the glorious punch of the last 4 songs. The 2nd thumps along with some of that more "Freewheel"-sounding speed and aggression, but its repetitive nature and goofy lyrics (less subtle than those In "Jawbreaker" by far) hold it back from being really good. The 3rd stands out as the strongest; while still kinda repetitive, it comes with a thundering mid-pace mixed with more melodic riffage, giving it a sound that somehow makes it stand out. Unfortunately, the album falls to its face a second time, but now never recovers. "Night Comes Down" is an unholy boring ballad that stops the flow dead, followed by the lame and forgettable "Heavy Duty" which fades into the pointlessly short title track. What the fuck could have went wrong?
Overall, this album, like its predecessor, is a mixed bag, only at greater points across the scale. It starts out absolutely awesome, and then gets progressively weaker after the first four songs. I highly recommend the first four, while the next three are just okay, but beware the lousy finale. Buy at your own risk, I guess. It could've been a good EP.