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A mix of might and meh. - 81%

Stormrider2112, September 15th, 2006

The trouble with Judas Priest has always been their inconsistentcy, and this album is no doubt one shining example of that. If some of the filler tracks had been pruned off, this would have been the album that Stained Class is (namely, the first "true" metal album). It sounds as if they wanted to make Sad Wings Part II as well as a commercial rock album at the same time, and it can come off as plain goofy in parts (namely the first 4 minutes of Raw Deal and the ballads). These songs' placements in the tracklist just kill the feel of the album, and really do it a disservice, which is unfortunate.

It's obvious that Priest can't do wrong when they crank the metronome up and just play fast on 10, like on Painkiller. The good ol' speed metal tracks on Sin After Sin are all incredible, and highly worthy. Let Us Prey/Call For The Priest is easily the standout, and still possibly the fastest song they've ever done (280 BPM), all while maintaining an excellent sense of songwriting and melody; the riffs and solos are both phenomenal. This is also the first Priest song with a true guitar duel (Tyrant seems a bit underdeveloped, and only has 3 solos) and also a killer harmony section. It's a shame this song hasn't been played live in the past...28 years or so. Hearing that organ melody as opposed to The Hellion open their live set would definitely be a welcomed change.

Starbreaker, Sinner, and Diamonds And Rust are no slouches either, though Starbreaker is the weakest of the three. All are packed with yummy riffy goodness, and again, Priest's sense of melody at this time was impeccable. Halford is spot on here, and really never screams for the sake of screaming, which plagues a majority of their post British Steel output.

The album's closer, Dissident Aggressor, has to be the heaviest song ever released for its time. After a few seconds of some pick scrapes and triplet-eighths guitar strumming, the most intense scream Rob has ever unleashed arrives. It's almost inhuman sounding (actually, it sounds pitch-shifted...or his boyfriend at the time was a bit too aggressive the night before...but who cares!), and the song never lets up after that. The riff set is punishing, crushing, and all the while, clear and melodic. Slayer had 9 years to think of a way to make this song heavier, and even they failed; that truely is a testament to this song's place as the first "extreme" metal song, blending Deep Purple's speed and aggression and Black Sabbath's bludgeoning and heaviness in a mix that not even Priest has managed to recreate (though Slayer is still trying to recreate the hurricane/cat-in-a-fan sound of the solo). For 1977, it would have scared the shit out of someone, like The Excorcist of metal. In 1987, it was still heavy as fuck. In 1997, it was still heavy as fuck. It's safe to assume that it will still be heavy as fuck in 2007.

The musicianship here (save the ever-inaudible Ian Hill, poor bloke) is superb. It's a shame Simon Phillips couldn't stay on as part of the Priest lineup, especially comparing him to mediocre drummer extrodinairre Dave Holland. The drum sound on this album is second to none in the Priest catalog. Glenn and KK really stepped up the riffage here, too, creating a highly varied musical feel with (I mention it again) a killer ear for melody, and their guitar tone is clear, bright, and heavy. Halford is also at his vocal peak (let the phlegm-filled scream in Metal Meltdown be evidence that he has been sliding down hill since this album), using his full range as needed. A very underrated slab of 70s metal.