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Judas Priest was in a sort of reckoning period in the aftermath of the success of “Turbo”, which unfortunately cost them some respect among their core fans. Judas Priest is credited for helping pioneer the Speed Metal style that brought about thrash metal, and rather than continue to pump out great speed classics, they elected to sweeten up their sound with some pop influences. Although “Ram it Down” is more of a transitional effort than a pure speed fest the way “Painkiller” would be, it rocks a hell of a lot harder than anything they had done in a few years and ranks high in their back catalog.
The essential speed classics are present in all of their blazing glory, incarnate in the triumphant and unforgettable title track and the equally blazing cooker “Hard as Iron. From start to finish these tracks ratchet up the technical prowess of the guitars and drums, and showcase Halford back where he belongs, breaking the sound barrier with his high frequency banshee cries. Other tracks such as “Love Zone” and “Blood Red Skies” are a bit more mid tempo, but are still riff monsters loaded with unforgettable themes and sci-fi inspired lyrics in the case of the latter.
Other tracks on here are still more in the 80s rock vain, particularly the somewhat Deep Purple inspired tracks “Come and Get it” and “I’m a Rocker”. We get something a bit slower yet menacing sounding in “Monster of Rock”, almost to the point of having a doom quality to it. “Heavy Metal” showcases further the technical excellence of the guitar players, in addition to the heavier tendencies of this total album. “Love you to Death” is a bit more in the turbo vain, though it highlights the more positive riff driven aspects of it.
The Chuck Berry cover is probably the most interesting part of this album for me, as I’ve always been fascinated at how bands can take older songs like this and all but completely change them. The guitar work is a lot less primitive than the original version, venturing well outside of the repetitive blues riffs that Chuck Berry elected to play a little bit too fast for the mainstream of his day. Essentially metal can trace some of its roots back to this music, but when one compares this version with the original, it is obvious that evolution has created a completely different beast.
In conclusion, this is a solid release for fans of older Judas Priest, although if there are some out there who liked “Turbo” and “Defenders of the Faith”, there are still some remnants of those on here. Come ye traditional and power metal fans, this is a treat for the ears that ought to get a nice loving home among you collections