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Awe. That was my initial reaction upon hearing this for the first time. On a normal occasion, it might not be as such. But, this was one of my first metal albums; I bought it at a garage sale on cassette for 50 cents. This was when I was beginning my love affair with metal, so this sonic assault was entirely new to my virgin ears. This intense amalgamation of speed, power, NWOBHM, and maybe even a tad bit of thrash remains just as aggressive two decades later.
The album certainly looks menacing enough from its cover. A winged, metalloid demon riding a flying, draconic motorcycle with lethal buzzsaws for wheels, roaring at the sky in triumph?! Metal enough for you?! It was amazing for me as a padawan of the metal order. The booklet has the pronged Priest insignia inscribed behind the lyrics on every page and a black and white photograph of the band in traditional leather and studs. Immediate icons for a boy of 15.
Anyways, onto the music! The guitar work is absolutely blazing in all senses of the word. The riffing is fast, tight, melodic, and original. Chugs, staccato, melodic wank up on the high frets, it's all present. A tinge of technicality is definitely present; not just boring power chords anymore. Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing have stepped up their game to keep it extremely innovative. The riffing style is normally fast and melodic, but some are more mid-paced, and Between the Hammer and the Anvil starts with slow, doomy chords. And the solos! RADICAL!! Both guitarists trade off lead and rhythm duties, and each of them do both jobs to a T. Tipton seems to be more structured and Downing seems to be slightly more chaotic with squeals and dive-bombs. The tone is crisp and saturated with brightness and distortion.
The vocals are generally high pitched and soaring way above everything, with some slight reverb at times to add some epic effect. Halford is a legend in his own right, on par with Bruce Dickinson, and Ronnie James Dio, and has set the bar high on this album for future power and speed metal vocalists and is THE example to be emulated. He sings generally cleanly, with a coloring of harshness and anger at times.
Ian Hill, the resident bassist, is audible, but nothing of true note here. He thunders along behind the rhythm guitar and never anything very special, but then again, keeping up with the ferocity is quite a feat.
The best thing they ever did was hiring Scott Travis to sit behind the skins. Replacing the mundane Dave Holland, who could have easily been in AC/DC (yes that's an insult) was a wonderful move, for he without a doubt could not have kept the pace Travis sets forth and would have been a liability to the rest of the band. Scott relies heavily on double bass, relatively simple beats, and lightning fast fills and rolls.
Lyrically, the album is both "trve" and goofy at the same time. The poetic verses about glory, mythical and apocalyptic beings, leather, metal, and more leather are amazing but also somewhat ridiculous. They are over the top at times but are also extremely metal, in the most literal sense. Also, Touch of Evil sounds like a totally romantic cheesy plea of infantile lust.
The production is very clear. Every instrument can be clearly heard, or at least felt. The vocals are a center point obviously, rising above the writhing guitar. The drums are audible and the bass pounding with the kick drum can be clearly felt as well as heard. The snare has a nice sounding snap to it.
-Painkiller is a blazing song complete with killer, pounding double bass intro, melodically deadly riff, greased lightning solos.
-Hell Patrol has a really interesting staccato riff syncopated with the snare drum and some lower-end singing which is a nice touch.
-Metal Meltdown has a lovely fast-paced thrashy riff in the beginning, an insane intro solo, and an interesting chord progression.
-One Shot at Glory is an anthem of metal, hands down. It has a great riff, chorus that makes you wanna run and never stop, and singing that sounds like a call to war if I've ever heard one.
Overall, this is a really good album, for either a beginner like myself or a seasoned metal veteran. No real weak points, and every song is good by itself or in sequence. There are no real bad songs, and even the filler, Battle Hymn, is pretty gnarly. It has everything a metal masterpiece should have: pounding drums with awesome double bass, soaring vocals from a legend, heavy, melodic, and fast riffing, magnificent, chaotic solos, and production where everything is audible.
-Amazing Guitar, both riffing and solos
-Much Better drumming
-Clear, Thick Production
-Rob Halford (yes, he is a pro by himself)
-Can be same-y; same basic structure, solos similar
-All Guns Blazing intro is kinda gay
-Touch of Evil sounds like a pre-pubescent romantic attempt