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The Best Album from the 80's? - 70%

ballcrushingmetal, February 18th, 2018
Written based on this version: 1990, CD, Columbia Records

Having tasted the sourness of inconsistency, Judas Priest seemingly recovered their ways in the ninth studio album, without representing a return to the good old songwriting habits. Instead, the band relied on the commercial formula used in the late 1970s. The difference is that this time the album features numbers holding a heaviness of bestial proportions that they did not dare to write for previous releases (perhaps, with the only exceptions of "Rapid Fire" and "Running Wild"). However, the band kept the tendency of including filling material, and this is what affects its consistency in general. If these Britons had dealt more carefully with the songwriting department, something better could have resulted.

In general terms, the performance from Tipton and Downing displayed substantial improvements compared to previous studio albums. They sound more natural, showing that they can keep on doing what they are best known for. The only weakness is still the drumming. For whatever the reason, since Dave Holland joined the band, the drumming in the albums he features is too distorted by sound effects, and his technique is not able to reach the levels of quality shown by other drummers that used to play for the band. It does not mean he is a bad drummer, is just that his technique is way too average, and as a result, the exciting moments are quite a few.

The album starts in quite an impressive fashion with the instrumental prelude "The Hellion", which features some of the best riffs played by the twin-guitarists during the 1908s, and heralds one of the best songs in their catalog: "Electric Eye". This number is greatly played and written, as well as, a perfect precursor for the space-themed power metal played by bands like Scanner and Screamer. The next number is another highlight, and of those few moments provided by Holland. Wow! It is fucking heavy, speedish and steps on the border that divides men from children, and so on. Then, "Bloodstone" runs a little bit slower, but is still a killer. Its intro riff is a masterpiece in guitar playing, while Holland still sounds in good shape at this point. These three pieces make up a solid part of the album, what a godly beginning! Here is where the band put things together.

Unfortunately, the album going forward becomes too dull and is quite irregular. The title track and the AC/DC-inspired closing number get lost between some ballads like "Pain and Pleasure" and "Fever", which are not even half as good as (for instance) "Beyond the Realms of Death". Regarding the title track, it represents a comeback point in the album after the dull ballads. Its frantic speed and insane drumming almost destroyed Halford's lungs on account of the effort he makes to reach the velocity of this outrageous speed metal number. Along with the astonishing opening section of the album, this song is part of the most memorable moments thereof. With no doubts, this work is quite a remarkable part of their catalog, but its inconsistency does not allow it to reach the heights of the band's earliest stuff. Anyway, it is still something that should be part of your collection.