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Heavy duty, indeed - 91%

Brainded Binky, February 15th, 2015

Out of all the albums in the 80's, "Defenders of the Faith" is my definite favorite ever to be released by Judas Priest. It's got more power and aggression than "Screaming for Vengeance" and "British Steel" combined, and up until the release of "Painkiller" in 1990, was pretty much the hardest album the band ever released. Sure, we do get some traces of commercial sound that CBS pressured Priest to create, but those don't affect how awesome it is in any way, 'cos even they're worth something.

The sweet album cover art by Doug Johnson is only the beginning to the awesome power of "Defenders of the Faith". On every song, Judas Priest put more power into their signature sound, creating something any metaller could be proud of. From the fast and blazing "Freewheel Burning" to the haunting and somber "Night Comes Down", there's something on this album for everyone. One of my favorite tracks, however, is "The Sentinel", which begins with an aggressive, yet elusive-sounding intro by K.K. Downing that builds up to the fast and driving song itself. The guitar solos of Downing and Glen Tipton clash against each other, both playing some sick and tasty solos before combining to create a single harmonic solo to finish the break. They do the same thing in "Rock Hard, Ride Free". Despite being at commercial tempo, "Rock Hard, Ride Free" doesn't necessarily need speed in order to be an underrated classic. We got harmonic riffs played by Downing and Tipton great enough to rival those of Iron Maiden's Adrian Smith and Dave Murray.

Sure, this album isn't without its more commercial songs (the band was, after all, under the iron fist of CBS Records!). The song which I'm sure would get a lot of complaints would be the ballad, "Night Comes Down". I actually kinda like it better than other people would. It's got a more eerie and somber vibe to it rather than a pretentious and synth-infused one. The chorus, however, could've been better, but it had to be catchy in order for it to get noticed, right? Then there's "Love Bites", a song with much more power. It's at that same commercial pace as the classic hit "You've Got Another Thing Comin'", but it actually has a more mystifying tone than an abrasive and crunching one. There's also "Heavy Duty", which fades into the title track, which mainly consists of a crowd chanting "We are defenders of the faith". Both songs have that pounding, and somewhat anthem-like tempo to it, but it's hard rocking tone doesn't quite make it reach the more majestic, anthem-like level of "United" on the "British Steel" album.

But there's also songs that are driving and powerful, all the way through. The opening track, "Freewheel Burning", is one of them. It's one of many songs on "Defenders of the Faith" that are grinding and full of energy, more songs than "Screaming for Vengeance" or "Britsh Steel". It's also the fastest track on the album, giving us the impression of leading at breakneck speed with high octane, as the lyrics describe, and the power of Rob Halford's vocals is part of the reason for it. With the previous album, "Screaming for Vengeance" we only get two or three songs where Rob is able to use his powerful voice to its fullest potential. With "Defenders of the Faith", "Freewheel Burning" is one of several songs which feature Halford's high pipes. They also carry these songs higher than the production quality could ever dare to. The production quality that makes the album heavier is good, but such an album with high-energy vocals is even better. They make even slower songs, like "Rock Hard, Ride Free" incredible tracks, 'cos the song gets more energy than it would without Halford. "Eat Me Alive", however is an exception; Halford barely screams in this one, and uses his more gruff and snide side. Even so, it still manages to be just as good as the songs that do feature Halford's metal screaming.

I honestly don't see how such a tremendous album could get so little fanfare, even from the band itself (its commemorative 30th anniversary edition didn't come out until almost a full year after its actual anniversary date). It's quite an underrated album. I get that we've got the classics, but why didn't any of the songs on here become classics themselves? How come "Defenders of the Faith" didn't get the recognition it deserved? And more importantly; why does "Turbo" get more respect? The answers to these questions might never come to light, but nevertheless, "Defenders of the Faith" is the "Painkiller" of the 80's, a true forgotten masterpiece.