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A more straight-forward heavy metal sound. - 88%

Nightcrawler, February 18th, 2003

Judas Priest's earlier albums so far had all been quite epic and melodic, but now they change sound completely, making shorter, punchier and more straight-forward heavy metal songs, while still remaining a great sense of melody. The bluesy sound that was very present on the first four albums is entirely gone now.
The songs are very memorable and catchy (with maybe one or two exceptions) and the entire album is a really fun listen, and should please most everyone.
Rob's vocals have changed alot too. He doesn't do the high-pitched vocals as often as on, say, Stained Class where he sung the verses on several song in high-pitched vocals only, although he still does some higher singing. His voice has gone a bit darker pitched, and he's gained alot of attitude to fit the mood of the album.

We begin with Delivering the Goods, one of the major highlights of this album.
Classic Judas Priest material, catchy slightly over midpaced rocking tune, with some wicked groove in the riffwork, and a blazing solo.

Rock Forever is another killer rocking tune. It's got about the same pace as Delivering the Goods, but the mood of the song is very different. The first was just straightforward in-your-face heavy metal, this is more of a party track, but not really an anthem.
More wicked, catchy riffs and a short but killer solo completes another great song.

Evening Star is pop-metal at it's best. It begins as a beautiful ballad, and turns into another incredibly catchy tune. The pace remains a bit over midpaced, and the mood is the most upbeat so far. A great melodic solo is also to be found in this song.

Now we have reached Hell Bent For Leather, the ultimate peak of this album and one of the best 70's Priest songs ever. Pure speed metal, with some absolutely wicked catchy guitar riffs, dark vocals and crazy basslines and a blazing fast melodic solo. The song is the darkest so far, but is still fairly upbeat.

Take on the World is an insanely catchy heavy metal anthem. A marching drumbeat is evident on through the midpaced verses, catchy singing, fantastic singalong chorus but there are barely any riffs during the song, just a few chords then and there. There is no solo either for that matter, and that's what this song lacks: Guitarwork. Still, it rocks like hell.

Burnin' Up is in my opinion the most underrated song on this album. The pace is as usual slightly above midpaced, the groove and catchiness is incredible and the mood is dark and mean. The melodic bridge is just amazing, and has a tremendous atmosphere.
All in all, this is one of Priest's greatest "sex songs".

Next is The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown), a Fleetwood Mac cover, executed very nicely. It has a dark and catchy mood overall, with some nice melodic leads placed at two places which makes for a great singalong melody when played live. Actually, the entire song smokes live, while the studio version isn't quite as strong.

Killing Machine up next. It's a decent, midpaced and very groovy rocker. It's a good song, but not very memorable, and kinda falls short compared to the other excellent material on the album.

Running Wild is another fucking killer song. Straightforward, catchy in-your-face heavy metal in the vein of Delivering the Goods, and one of Rob's strongest vocal performances on the album.
The main riff is wickedly catchy, and it seems Iron Maiden agrees, since they so obviously ripped it off for The Wicker Man (a far worse song by the way).

Before the Dawn is a very nice ballad, showing the more emotional side of Priest. Great, acoustic guitar riffs and a very emotional solo, and a truly beautiful vocal performance. But I do have one major complaint about this, and that is the fact that the song really gets nowhere. It's just vers, chorus, solo, chorus, vers, and because of this the song loses a lot.

Evil Fantasies is, as the title indicates, another sex song. This one is more upbeat and slower paced than Burnin' Up. It's very catchy with a nice, groovy guitar riff and simple but effective bassplaying. It's a very nice song, but not at all among the best of the album.

Then we get to the bonus tracks. The first is a studio track called Fight for Your Life, which I pretty much hate.
It's the older version of Rock Hard Ride Free, and it shows you how much a great song can suck if you just alter a few things. The guitar sound doesn't fit well with the song, the chorus is much weaker and the spinechilling intro isn't there. Didn't they have any new stuff to choose as bonus material instead of this crap?
The second bonus track is a mediocre live version of Riding on the Wind, with a quite weak vocal performance by Rob Halford. It seems that most live bonus tracks have quite weak vocal performance, even though we all know that Rob can is usually amazing on stage.

All in all, this can be compared to Halford's Resurrection. Very varied songwriting with in-your-face heavy metal and some nice emotional material. What makes this the better album is the fact that it's just catchier and more memorable.
It can't compare to the masterpieces Sad Wings of Destiny and Stained Class, but it's definitely better than Rocka Rolla and Sin After Sin, and those are both great albums. So on my list it ends up in the middle of Priest's 70's records, and that's one fucking achievement.