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After releasing "Stained Class", Judas Priest decided to put out, in the same year, "Killing Machine" and there are definitely lots of differences between the two. While "Stained Class" relied more on relatively complex song structures and on pure heaviness, "Killing Machine" is a lot more accessible and, at times, even commercial, with shorter (and simpler) tunes. That said, this is definitely the same band, so to speak, that released "Stained Class": Halford's vocals remain incredibly strong, the guitar playing is always excellent and the drumming very strong, even though less intricate. Still, Les Binks delivers a nice performance, adding some new nuances to the songs with his fills and varied beats. He's an excellent drummer and it's a pity he left Judas Priest after this record. Holland, a less original musician, occupied his place then.
Moving on, the songs on the record are all quite short, but there's a fascinating diversity here: the tunes are easily distinguishable from each other, which is a plus in my books. The commercial side of Judas Priest is represented here with "Evening Star" and "Take on the World", both hits. "Evening Star" is a little power ballad with an incredibly catchy chorus. That said, it still is an enjoyable song, even though the record contains much better ones. "Take on the World" sounds like "We Will Rock You", albeit stronger (yeah, I've never been a Queen fan anyway). Ironically, those two tracks are the blueprints for many of the songs on "British Steel", an album on which Judas Priest adopted an even more commercial and accessible sound. "Evening Star", particularly, is quite similar to "United", even though the latter is a tad heavier. As for the other tracks, they represent the heavier side of Judas Priest, all straight-forward, energetic heavy metal tunes. "Delivering the Goods" opens the record perfectly, with a nice long drum fill near the end. The cover "The Green Manalishi (and the two-pronged Crown)" is another killer song, with excellent, sing-along vocal melodies. Judas Priest used to release some pretty good covers back in the day ("Diamonds and Rust" on "Sin After Sin", "Johnn"... well, forget it) and this one is no exception (proof: the band still plays it live, nowadays). The highlight of the album is "Hell Bent For Leather" though: one of the best Judas Priest songs ever (that's saying something), together with heavy metal classics such as "Painkiller", "Exciter", "Victim of Changes", "Sinner", "Beyond the Realms of Death", "Rapid Fire", etc. Everything about this song is mind blowing: the solo, the catchy chorus, the main riff, everything.
The catchiness is, finally, the most important characteristic of this album, all the choruses being quite catchy. I remember every one of them, really. So, I like "Killing Machine", and that's quite surprising, since I generally prefer more developed and complex songs (my favourite songs are very long, etc.), but this album is a notable exception to the rule. Straight-forward and simple? Yes. Quite commercial at times? Yes. Weaker than "Stained Class", "Sin After Sin" or "Sad Wings of Destiny"? Yes. Bad? No, definitely not. If you like your metal extremely catchy and straight-forward, yet quite heavy and solid, get this album: I definitely recommend it.
Concluding, two notes: Iron Maiden ripped off the first riff of "Running Wild" (check out "Wicker Man") and the first vocal lines of "Burnin' Up" incredibly sound like something Dave Mustaine would come up with: really, listen to it and tell me that Halford doesn't sound like Dave there!
Best Moments of the CD:
-the solo of "Hell Bent for Leather".