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This Is Consistent? - 80%

StainedClass95, July 6th, 2014

To my mind this is Judas Priest's seventh best album. For most bands, that would make this garbage, but Priest were a strong band. For as much had decayed from their greatest years, this is still a good album. It suffers largely from annoying 80's cliches that renders almost half the album comletely uninteresting.

I'll start with the guitars, as they're possibly the best aspect of the album. The riffs to songs like Freewheel Burning and The Sentinel are really, really good. The leads are even better though. I can't put my finger on why, but this just seems their most synchronized display of soloing. Each and every solo is matched by another in perfect succession, and for the last time their leads are roughly equal. After this, Tipton began to really dominate the soloing, which I think is why people often associate Tipton as being the greater guitarist, which I don't disagree with so much as find the near-unanimity odd. I recall watching one of their live concerts on TV from this era, and Tipton definitely had more of an arrogance to him on stage than KK had. His ego pushing Downing out was my first thought. My second is that as Tipton absorbed the new techniques first, he decided to give himself more solos to show them off. I don't know which it is, but considering the way KK worded his departure, I tend to think the former may have at least been on his mind.

The next great aspect about this album are Halford's vocals. He gives one of the best performances of his career on The Sentinel, and he's pretty good elsewhere. Supposedly, it was around this time that Halford kicked his addictions, but I don't hear any real improvement. Honestly, I like his vocals on the previous album better, and I think he just sounds his normal, high, quality here as opposed to some new heights. Compared to Screaming, these vocals are more heavily slanted to his gritter hard-rock style. He definitely has some great screeches, but they're not as common as they were on Vengeance.

My metal and really music interest in general began with 70's bands, including Priest, and most of those bands worth hearing had a strong rhythm section and some good progressive songwriting. This era of Priest has neither of those, and so it leans far more heavily for me on its track by track impact. I've mentioned the two classics, and one could toss the whole of the first five into the success pile. Eat Me Alive is a little different for two reasons. The first is that it's a good deal more aggressive than the rest of the album, so it seems almost out of place from the start. The second are the infamous lyrics; they're dreadful and pretty easy to make out. The two ballads afterwards don't do much for me, and the attempt at an anthemic stomper is boring. There's something about the cliches of the 80's that have aged far more poorly than that of the 70's. The latter is that of rock music stretching out into uncharted new territories, and the mistakes are still listenable to some degree. The 80's, goaded by god knows what, spurned these gains and went straight for the allure of singles, thus creating such pandering cretins as what squats at the end of this album.

One could argue that it's unfair to criticize an album on the basis of what was common in its time, but Priest predated this trend, and they could have chosen otherwise. They showed an entire generation of metal bands how to craft epics with Beyond the Realms of Death and Dreamer Deceiver still stands as one of the greatest metal ballads of all-time. They also knew what they were doing when they dumbed down the lyrics and kicked out Binks. Priest chose financial success over consistent quality, and this album's second half is part of what paid the price. Obviously this is still one of their better albums, but it's nowhere near a must for metal fans like a few others are. This is just recommended to fans of early metal and hard-rock, or at least the better songs are.