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Undeniable Classic - 90%

ballcrushingmetal, March 19th, 2016
Written based on this version: 1984, CD, Columbia Records

Built on the blueprint of its predecessor, "Defenders of the Faith" is definitely a step-up in terms of musicianship and speed; however, it did not sell as much copies as "Screaming for Vengeance". Even, Halford himself told that while sales of Defenders came to their peak, they were still selling copies of Screaming. And is better to not compare it with "British Steel", which was by far their best-seller. Furthermore, the main reason for the decrease in the sales was the lack of songs that could be as catchy as "Breaking the Law", if considering that not only metalheads made of the latter such a popular track.

Whereas Screaming has a more simple sound, Defenders seems to trade catchiness for a speedy, more technical oriented music, featuring the well-known qualities of their 1970's stuff (e.g., guitar driven songs that feature incredible neoclassical guitar solos and harsh riffs) and some other characteristics of the NWOBHM, such as bassy drums and speed metal stuff. This formula results in very solid songs and quite elaborated compositions that are very engaging and interesting for the listener. Moreover, Halford's haunting vocal performance provides to the songs a touch of madness and aggressiveness that make them unique.

The true musical ability of the band is heavily exploited and displayed in the first side of the album in which they tried to put their heaviest and most poisonous stuff. As mentioned above, they try to live up the NWOBHM to the extent possible, and while the twin-guitar mainly played in their 70's albums is present, they also include NWOBHM riffs like the ones played in Def Leppard's earliest stuff. Thus, all those who know the sound of songs like "Stagefright" could easily figure out how "Jawbreaker" sounds like, even though the latter is an enhanced version of the former. Furthermore, the crazy speedish drums played Dave Holland end up sounding alike to the ones played by Rick Allen, even in the frenetic speed metal song "Freewheel Burning" which is the album's glorious opening track that recalls the spirit of the freeway madness.

Unlikely, "Rock Hard Ride Free" is a softer song that can be compared to Def Leppard song "On Through the Night", mainly due to its melodic riffs (Helloween took notes from here and that is how they made "I Want Out"). On the other hand, the second half is full of mid-paced songs that provide a happier vibe to the album, and it is less based on Def Leppard's stuff. The songs herein kept in a certain way the sound of the preceding album, as they are somehow glammy, being "Some Heads are Gonna Roll" a good example. However, they refuse to stop playing speedish stuff, like the polemic alleged speed metal ode to oral sex "Eat Me Alive" which sounds like a mix of the opening track with some glammy elements of Screaming.

That said, the album definitely passed the test of time, and after 32 years of its release date, it remains as one of the best metal releases of all times. A necessary album for those who are interested in the genesis of power metal and the agony of the NWOBHM, which took place in the middle of the 80's. Thereafter, the band had serious difficulties finding a new sound and adapting to the constant changes that heavy metal experimented, either for good or for bad, which were mainly derived from the aforementioned decay of the NWOBHM.