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Heading your way like dynamite... - 89%

MercyfulSatyr, December 30th, 2008

Judas Priest - one of the best, if not the best, heavy metal bands of all time - more so in the '70s than any other era. Five perfect or near-perfect albums - Rocka Rolla; Sad Wings of Destiny; Sin After Sin; Stained Class - and last, but certainly not least, Killing Machine (or Hell Bent for Leather to us Americans). Priest reinvented themselves for the fourth time in a row, this time adding some funk into the mix. Though this might seem like a bad thing to some people, it was actually an excellent move. Priest's fifth effort added even more classics to their repertoire, almost always on par with any of their earlier material.

Rob Halford - anyone who's never at least heard of him must have either been living under a rock or been keeping their head up their ass all their life. On Killing Machine, he further proves his talents as he varies his styles throughout the album. Even more so than past releases, he brings a ton of character to the songs. K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton bring some great harmonies, melodies, and rhythms to the table, and as usual, they do not disappoint. Les Binks, also as per usual, is in top form.

Ian Hill, in particular, is spectacular. Thanks to a more rough approach to the production, he can finally be heard! It is for this very reason that the album displays the sound it does - he alone is the base for most of the rhythms on the album. He doesn't succumb to following the guitar as so many bassists do; instead, he brings his own flair to the music. The basslines he plays are of consistently excellent quality. All in all, he's the absolute best instrumentalist on the album.

The album starts out with a bang in the form of "Delivering the Goods." One of the most effective openers on any Priest album, it is amazingly anthemic and worthy of rabid headbanging. Halford's grunts are even cooler than Tom G. Warrior's, and he sound downright powerful through the song. There's an unexpected solo partway through, and it comes as a jolt in an already awesome song.

"Evening Star," while not anywhere near as great as the opener, isn't too bad. It starts out as a pseudo-ballad until the really catchy chorus comes in. Overall, though, it's pretty weak, and that chorus really is the only thing going for it.

"Hell Bent for Leather" is one of the most distinctive Priest rockers. At just over two and a half minutes, it's short, but concise and effective. The solo in the middle is one of the Downing-Tipton duo's all-time best, being melodic and electrifying at the same time. It's another highlight.

"Burnin' Up" has some of the most awesome, funky guitar work ever. All the riffs and leads are destructively forceful, and are backed up by great basslines and drumming. Unfortunately, the lyrics are really immature and dumb, especially by Priest standards. It's still a highlight, though the lyrics really hamper it.

"The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)..." this song can easily be described in one word: "WOW." That's a first-time listener's reaction to this song. What is it that makes every song Priest covers pure gold? This surpasses "Diamonds and Rust" for the definitive Judas Priest cover version. It's awesome for headbanging, and along with "Delivering the Goods," it's the best rocker on the whole album. Just listen to Halford as he booms "I can't believe that you need my love so bad" - absolutely brilliant.

Priest come from out of nowhere with none other than a ballad with "Before the Dawn," completely unexpected after the barrage of funky heavy metal before it. It's incredibly underrated, employing acoustic guitars and doing away with the drums to create an enthralling atmosphere. There's even a dark, brooding solo here, almost up to the level of the one on "Beyond the Realms of Death."

Even though most of the songs on Killing Machine are great, there's just one that is outright atrocious, that being "Take on the World." The only explanation for this abomination is an obvious one - it was created as nothing more than a live sing-along. It's by far the low point of the album, but thankfully every other song is miles above it.

You've gotta love the '70s. Progressive rock dominated much of popular music, as did good old hard rock, and, of course, the beginnings of heavy metal. And at the head of the heavy metal movement, along with Black Sabbath, Saxon, and Motorhead, was none other than Judas Priest. The decade went out with more than a bang for Priest - in fact, more of a nuclear explosion - in the form of Killing Machine. Almost twenty years later, it still packs a hell of a punch.