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Moving further into the 80s, Priest courts controversy by embracing the “glam” sound that was making waves on MTV. With all the new developments metal was exploiting to the full now, this must have seemed immensely lacklustre, not only compared to the old Priest albums, but to everything that was going on. If I was into metal at this time, I probably would have just laughed this album off and gone back to cranking “Pleasure to Kill” up to 11. But listening to it in this environment seems to benefit it more.
I have a bit of a weakness for the whole 80s “glam” thing, but even so it seems almost inappropriate that the molten metal machine that is Judas Priest should be making dabbles into it. They don’t do it nearly as well as many bands that were committed to churning out this stuff, but the mix of it here with Priest’s haughty metal sound turns out some sumptuous tunes and marginally less embarrassment than might have been the case.
It may seem like it doesn’t gel satisfactorily at first, from the perverse pomp of “Turbo Lover”, rife with electronic, inorganic sounding drums and sweeping guitar synths. Though, it’s a popular Priest tune and the fired up riffs beneath the surface do keep it on its toes. Glenn and K.K. are unfortunately understated on the studio version. The production reeks of the Hollywood strip more than anything and does makes it measurably dated compared to their other albums. The main thing for most of it is that the new ideas get more or less overdone, with the exception of Rob’s voice. He’s wilfully holding back his extreme falsettos on this, and attempts to fall in line a bit with the Vince Neil’s of the day.
The album does work okay in Priest’s favour as they always creep in those undeniably rock solid metal riffs that play crucial parts in “Private Property”, “Rock You All Around the World”, “Out in the Cold” and “Hot for Love”. They aren’t just tucked away into a small corner, instead ringing out loud and proud up with the drums in the mix. See? They’ve still got it. The lavish guitar synth decorates Glenn and K.K.’s solos with a lush coating, and they still rip out some quick fingered, hell blazing fury on “Rock You…” and “Hot for Love” that leave the rest underneath. Though the dated cheese is not always fresh, “Parental Guidance” is an insipid anthem that got them a hit for the album, but loses all touch with the Priest identity still here. Even the fun, pop showiness that gives the album a certain charm loses its flavour with this one. This is just way too prissy for Priest, but I kinda dig the chorus.
The bonus tracks don’t need much of a mention. “All Fired Up” sounds like a more typical 80s Priest number but is a weak recording and has “B-side” firmly stamped on it. “Locked In (Live) is another fairly decent live recording but also appears in a different (and probably better recorded) version on the “Priest… Live!” video so it loses purpose. It does sound a lot more “Priest” without the synthetic layers though.
They were definitely trying to go some way to emulating the “glam” bands that were flavour of the week, but used their established sound as a convenient foundation, so it’s not totally indistinguishable from the traditional Priest sound. They got more new fans out of it, but realised this wasn’t the direction they were most comfortable in, and four years later we get “Painkiller”. A winner is you!