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Before Killing Machine (or Hell Bent For Leather) was released Priest's previous albums were musically, sometimes complex and maybe even a little progressive from time to time. Sad Wings Of Destiny, Sin After Sin and Stained Class were all classics, but by the time the band released Killing Machine, the band decided to take a more straightforward, slightly commercial but heavy direction. In my opinion, Killing Machine is not a letdown. Yes, I loved the last 3 albums, but to me, this is up there as one of Priest's finest records too.
The heavy and simple sound works perfectly. Most of the songs pack a lot of punch, with naturally awesome vocals from Rob Halford, sharp riffs and precise solos from Glenn Tipton and KK Downing, and more impressive drum work from Les Binks, who also performed on the Stained Class album. The songs are also most definitely more catchy than anything the band had released before hand, making it more radio-friendly. This is not an issue because although it's definitely more commercial than the older material, it's still just as heavy as before and is still unmistakably Priest. Also, the album’s sound is light-years away from the likes of the ultra-slick Turbo which WAS a radio-friendly metal album.
Every song on Killing Machine sticks in your head. 'Delivering The Goods' is a hard and heavy album opener, with a cool intro and simple but memorable chorus. 'Rock Forever', in my opinion, sounds a bit like it could be off Stained Class, with more complex riffing from Glenn and KK. It's a short but sweet number. This song is followed by probably the most commercial song on here. The softer, melodic but excellent 'Evening Star'. Halford sings brilliantly on this song. This song definitely is commercial, but very good.
'Hell Bent For Leather' on the other hand is damn heavy with an excellent solo and a kick ass chorus. It's a shame it's less than 3 minutes long, because this song is easily a true stand-out! 'Take On The World' reminds me of 'United' from the next album, British Steel. 'Take On The World' is a big anthem with a huge sing-along chorus and simple power chord riff structure. 'Burnin' Up' is slightly less catchy to me, but very cool none-the-less. Halford is more relaxed and laid back here, mainly during the verses. 'The Green Manalishi' is regarded by many as a Priest classic. It's actually a cover, but a great one. It's heavy, basic and features some trademark twin guitar solo-sharing. This track is also a highlight. I do like 'Killing Machine' a lot too, though it isn't as great as it's other title track ('Hell Bent For Leather'). There is however, some excellent variety in riffs.
'Running Wild' is fairly fast when compared to much of the album. This song is simple again, but still means business. I suppose you could say it's a good fun gap-filler. 'Before The Dawn' slows things down, a bit like 'Evening Star', however, this song is light and acoustic and Halford's vocals fit perfectly with the melodic sounds of the song. 'Evil Fantasies' is an OK album closer, but not as impressive as much of the other material here. Halford is the best thing about this song. The riffs, to me, are a little uninspired for some reason. It's still decent though of course.
As far as the more radio-friendly sounding Priest goes (Killing Machine up to Turbo, and possibly Ram It Down), this is definitely one of the best albums during the era, although my favorite during this period would have to be Screaming For Vengeance. Killing Machine is a heavy metal classic, and the slight change in direction does not make the album any less strong.