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Judas Priest returns after their classic "Stained Class" with a very worthy follow-up album. Killing Machine contains several Priest staples, each of which can actually be found in better form on the 1979 release "Unleashed in the East". The first thing one will notice is the better production than the previous Priest releases. The guitar sound is much heavier than that of Stained Class, and the mix also contains more bass. The faster parts sound fresh and heavy, and the vocals are not too high in the mix (a la Sin after Sin).
Now for the songs themselves. Well, I shall get the bad out of the way first. Before the Dawn is crap, it really goes nowhere, and I don't say this simply because it's a ballad. It's just a crappy ballad, medicore guitar work and minimal drumming. Even Halford sounds strained on this track. With the bad out of the way, the good is very, very easy to focus on. Depending on which version you own, the title track is either Hell Bent for Leather or Killing Machine. Both songs are equally great, with the latter being my favourite on the album.
Hell Bent for Leather is a fast paced number with a heavy as fuck intro, that nicely slides into speedy verses and one of the most catchy choruses this side of Breaking the Law. The solo in the middle is also one of the best that Priest recorded, especially the tapping bit. My only problem with this classic is the length, which only clocks in at a measly 2:39. Killing Machine is a much slower song, but even better due to the subject matter of the lyrics and the evilness of the guitar work. That part at 0:39 (I got a contract...on you!) is an absolute audio orgasm. This combined with rather unorthodox vocal work from Halford (rather low and midpaced) makes for a tremendous song.
Rock Forever is another honourable mention, with a sweet riff carrying the song through the intro and after the chorues. Halford brings in another incredible vocal performance, definitely another catchy Priest classic. And of course, who can forget the Priest live staple The Green Manalishi. Think AC/DC meets Iron Maiden, with Halford on vocals. Nice lyrics too. (Yes, I realize it's a cover).
Get this album, it's high on the list of classic Priest studio albums, with only Painkiller, Vengeance and Destiny beating it out.