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Best 80's Priest Album - 88%

StainedClass95, July 8th, 2014

This is Priest's best selling and charting album. Apparently when it came out, they even used the Hellion to sell cars. I don't view this as Priest's best, or even contending, but it is the best they did during the 80's. It's got some very good stuff going on, Halford brought back his high notes, the music is very fun, and very little of this run time is bad.

Considering the last three albums, it seemed Halford was phasing out his higher register. The trend is reversed here, and he's using every area of his range. The result is quite nice, and these are some of Halford's best songs. His mid-range, with a slight mechanical tone, on Electric Eye is fantastic. His vocals on Screaming For Vengeance are as close to his Painkiller vocals as he had gotten thus far. The guitar playing is quite good. The duo do as well as would be expected in the riff department. The majority of this album is very nice, even by Priest's high standards of riffing. The solos are almost as good. They didn't yet have quite the level of response that they would have on the succeeding album, but this is close. They had learned a few of the new tricks, and while they weren't to Painkiller technically, they were definitely up from British Steel.

Probably the biggest selling point, commercially and metal-wise, for this album is the tightrope that it walks. This managed to take most of their metal traits and package it with a fun, hard-rock vibe. This definitely is fun music, with more atmospheric commonality to AC/DC than Bathory. It's hard to pin-point how they manage this, but I'm thinking that it has to do the brevity of the tracks and the lightness of the lyrics. None of these tracks are epic length which was good for the rock-metal fans that didn't want much complexity to their music. The lyrics themselves are fairly catchy and seldom attempt serious subject matter. The exception is Electric Eye, which was probably the last set of good lyrics that they ever wrote. Now for metal fans who aren't as interested in the rock-metal variety, there is something to be said for variety. There isn't a ton of metal that pulls off "fun" without being dumb. Many even feel that Anthrax failed, which goes to show how hard it is. Almost no one ever really criticizes this for it's fun, as it does this better than pretty much any other attempt at "fun" metal that I've heard. Priest also achieved this on a few other albums, but this is the strongest example.

The rhythm section is as weak as ever during this time. Ian doesn't have any real moment to shine, and he isn't very audible either. The drumming is probably worse. With Priest speeding up the music, it is clear how much Holland isn't cut out for this. Part of me wonders if the band understood what getting rid of Binks would mean to future compositions. In any case, this is one of the main failures of this era of Priest in general, is their weak rhythm. Supposedly, Priest even had to either keep the pace and complexity down or get a machine in order to make things doable for Holland. I don't know if this is true, but the music hardly debunks this theory. The other weak spot to this album is the middle. Take These Chains and Pain and Pleasure are examples of 80's commercial songwriting that has aged horribly. I've no idea why the band thought these were good ideas, but they are there nonetheless and do nothing but blow a hole in the middle of the album. This does have one of the few bonus tracks from the remasters that are worth hearing. Prisoner of Your Eyes isn't Dreamer Deceiver, but it's a big step-up from their norm. Between some legitimately tense playing and atmosphere, this is one of their best 3-4 ballads

This is the best Priest did between Stained Class and Painkiller. I have it as a fraction greater than Hell Bent For Leather owing to it's more consistent track-list. The margin is small, but I only have two points between them. I view the year of this release functions as a changing of the guard. Essentially, this is the last year where all the best albums were of the early metal variety. Metal was about to splinter into many directions, and would stay that way. As to who would enjoy this, the power and thrash that split off are the main ones, along with the previous early metal and hard-rock fans.