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I really can't figure out what people dislike about this album. After the less successful album Turbo, Judas Priest returned to their heavy metal roots, and created one beast of heavy fucking metal: Ram It Down. It was their heaviest albums up to date (although it can't be compared to Painkiller), and is an all out assault of metal, filled with the relentless intensity and energy that can only be found on a Judas Priest album.
As always, the songwriting is top notch. One of this band's biggest qualities is their ability to write out-of-this-world vocal lines. The vocal lines these guys write are extremely well thought-out and always have a great flow to them, which is a strength that shows clearly on Ram it Down, and one of the elements that make this a masterpiece. Tracks like Love Zone and Heavy Metal are excellent examples of this.
The vocals are as usual divine- which is what we've come to expect from the Metal God, Rob Halford. His insane ability to sing clearly in that lethal high-pitched voice (See: Blood Red Skies) is something that pretty much no one else can pull off. And his midranged voice is as always incredibly powerful and energetic, giving the vocal lines the punch they deserve.
The ultimate guitar duo of all times, Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing provide one of their finest performances ever on Ram it Down. The riffs are razor sharp, catchy and relentless, and the solos are fucking mental- Ram it Down, Heavy Metal and Blood Red Skies features some of their best solos ever. And the guitar tone is absolutely lethal.
Ian Hill's performance on the bass is better than ever. On Heavy Metal he shines especially much, where his killer basslines are put to focus during the verses, but he puts out a really strong performance all over.
Dave Holland is something of a weakest link in this lineup though. His drumming is pretty catchy and solid, but he can get pretty boring and predictable at times- and on the title track, he sounds more like a drum machine than anything else. But this is just a minor flaw, and shouldn't bother you at all.
The album bursts right into ownage, beginning with the masterpiece that is the title track. Rob Halford screams, and we're off. Ram it Down is an insane ride of speed metal riffage and powerful fast sung, midranged vocals with the occasional high-pitched scream, and then that menacing chorus. And finally... "Shout it out, we join as one!" Guitar solo! One of their best solos ever, definitely up there with Beyond the Realms of Death and even Painkiller.
The rest is not fucking terrible either. Heavy Metal opens with some wicked shredding from Glenn Tipton, and turns into a brutally catchy heavy metal anthem, with those aforementioned lethal basslines, high pitched vocals, singalong chorus and insane solo.
Love Zone seems to be the most hated song on this album. Personally, I love it to an infinite extent. It's some of the catchiest shit the band ever wrote.
Come and Get It: Heavy, dirty and mean. Classic heavy metal.
And then... Hard as Iron. You enjoyed the title track? You'll dig the fuck out of this. The riffwork is total fucking speed metal that would make Kai Hansen cream his pants, the vocal lines are incredibly powerful, the soloing is awesome and- holy shit, Dave Holland plays double bass. And does it really well, I might add.
Blood Red Skies follows, which is a very experimental song, and also the ultimate highlight of the album. The acoustic opening melodies combined with the keyboard effects and Rob Halford's mesmerizing vocals set up one of the most beautiful moments in the band's career.
When it gets going, the almost techno-sounding drumbeat may be a turnoff for many, but it totally works, until the song explodes into the mighty chorus. "I'll fight you UNDER BLOOD RED SKIIIIIIES!" Rob Halford owns you, which he further proves during the awesome, powerful bridge. "You'll never take me alive!" Which is followed by one of K.K.'s finest solos ever.
I'm A Rocker is criminally underrated. Powerful, memorable vocal lines stand out, along with some excellent soloing. And then we have another underrated classic, namely the cover of Johnny B.Goode. The old classic is turned into a furious, raging heavy metal monster, with some of the most insane guitarwork on the entire album.
Aside from many others, I consider this to be an incredibly consistent offering, and I there's not a single song that stands out as being bad, or even average. The last two though, Love You to Death and Monsters of Rock, are slightly weaker than the rest, but are both amazing in their own right. Love You to Death is a midpaced, groovy and very dark, menacing tune. Monsters of Rock is a midpaced, bludgeoning heavy metal anthem sounding nothing like any other metal anthem I ever heard, but rocks nonetheless.
If I had to pick out my favourites on the album, I'd definitely say Ram it Down, Hard as Iron and Blood Red Skies. They are all immortal Priest classics, and will blow away anyone who knows what real metal is. But the rest completely owns as well. Ram it Down is an absolutely essential Priest classic, and it's really a shame so few people realize this.