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There is a longstanding consensus that in the mid 80s, particularly in the year 1986, Judas Priest ceased to be a metal band and went the path of other earlier heavy metal mainstays like Grave Digger and Celtic Frost and jumped on the glam rock train. Now if there is one thing in the world that I truly hate it’s a consensus, that decrepit destroyer of all things original and individualistic about the music we all know and love. Be this as it may, like with any other viewpoint, it lives or dies by its accuracy and not by how many people hold or refuse to hold it. “Turbo” is an album that isn’t so much troubled, but rather tends to trouble a lot of people, but often for the wrong reasons.
To dispense with the two clichés that often followed this band of either them starting to lose it after “Stained Class” or that this album simply leaped out of the mid 80s due to pressures from the changes in the rock mainstream, there is a logical way to look at this album as the logical conclusion of a progression from mainline 70s hard rock with a few pioneering metallic elements to 80s mainline rock with a few left over metallic elements. The result is a sound that is signified a bit more by the over-processed, mechanical drum sound that was very popular in the 80s across the musical spectrum, and a barrage of synthesizer and guitar effects that are not associated with Priest’s past efforts.
Be this all as it may, when discounting the similarities this album shares with Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet” and Cinderella’s “Night Songs” in a production sense, there is still enough distinctively Judas Priest about this album for it to be recognized as being one of their albums. The distorted guitar tone is still well within the paradigm established on “Defenders Of The Faith”; the riff work still has some bite to it that cuts through much of the keyboard malarkey. Sure, songs like “Parental Guidance” and “Reckless” are about as formulaic and cliché as they come, but they aren’t that terribly far removed from a lot of the fun that happened on Ozzy’s “The Ultimate Sin”, and if they cut the synth-like character of the drums, some of these songs could pass for Twister Sister.
One of the factors that really make this a fun listen in spite of itself is the unavoidable catchiness of the whole thing. Granted, this holds true for a number of fairly sappy albums that were burning up the charts while the likes of even Metallica and Anthrax were considered fringe, but when hearing the upbeat rocking of “Locked In” and the unforgettable mix of punchy power chords and spacey keyboards that is “Turbo Lover”, I tend to hear the same good natured rock that won me over to 80s ZZ Top when I was a mere 6 year old lad with no real sense for music. Leave us forget that this was also a time when the mainstream rock scene didn’t completely frown on musicality and both Tipton and Downing put on a riveting display of lead shredding that actually rivals most of their previous solos.
Sure, this is one of the weaker albums that bear the Judas Priest insignia, yet it somehow manages to keep me coming back despite my general all metal, the entire time attitude towards music of late. It could be chalked up to it just sounding worlds better than the shit the radio plays nowadays, or childhood nostalgia, but this just sounds fine to my ears though it is definitely among the shallowest and formulaic of albums to come out of the 80s. I can understand someone who was in his teens during the mid 80s and fighting the mainstream by spending their cash on the likes of “Reign In Blood” or “Darkness Descends” hating this with a passion, I just don’t.