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The real birth of metal - 100%

Ancient_Mariner, August 18th, 2016
Written based on this version: 1978, 12" vinyl, Columbia Records

The true birth of British Steel.

This is the album were metal as a style of music was really born. On earlier Priest albums, as well as those by Black Sabbath and other early innovators, there was as much distorted blues rock as actual metal, which was to be expected as the genre of metal was created. Here the blues was thrown to the side and only the gleaming metal was left, launching many styles and bands, and in a way laying down the bedrock of modern metal.

Right off the bat you get one of the foundational tracks of speed metal, Exciter. Starting off with pounding Binks drums before launching into speed riffing, this tune is pretty much the basis for all the American metal legends of the 80’s and the drive to be faster . Halford’s wails fly over the top of this and destroy any idea that you are in for a record of bluesy rock with some crunch. No sir, this is heavy metal as the gods intended. A sonic distillation of steel, leather, and chrome. The title track is pure metal bliss. Opening with some excellent lead work over rolling drums, then settling down into an iconic heavy metal riff before Halford’s vocal acrobatics begin. Add in an amazing chorus and you have a total gem of a track. Other standout tracks include the cover of Better by You, Better than Me which I love for the wonderful vocals of Halford and the punch of the drums Binks lays down. Listening to Halford sing this is nearly worth the price of the record alone. Beyond the Realms of Death is a guitar and vocal masterwork. Binks only writing credit on the record is a pure classic. He knew when to inject himself into he songwriting process I’d say. Soaring emotional vocals lift the listeners up to Beyond the Realms of Death while the band plays probably the best ballad ever written. The solos...oh my the solos. Words can’t describe the emotion of the playing. You need to check it out for yourself. Immediately. The rest of the tracks all are solid examples of what metal is and would be for all time. Sharp riffs, screaming leads, thumping bass, pounding drums, and Halford over the top. Deny this and as Halford says, Fall to your knees and repent if you please!

Musically the band is on fire and inspired. Halford wails like only he could when he was young. He also shows off how amazing he sounds in the mid ranges on songs like Stained Class, and Invaders. Just perfectly executed. KK and Glen are...well KK and Glen. Tight leads, tight rhythms, and wonderful song structures. The guitarists of Priest have always been at the head of the pack when it comes to trading off leads and solos and this is one of the masterpieces that established them as the legends they are. Les Binks drums sound just amazing, a perfect crack that punches though the guitars like well recorded drums should. He tosses in double bass now and then for accent and his fills are top notch. I’ve always thought he was the best Priest drummer but Scott Travis always gets the praise due to a lot of double bass. Well there is more to metal drumming than just that and he puts on a show here. I wish we could have heard the 80’s records with a drummer of this caliber. Ian Hill is the member of the band who is usually ignored but he does a fine job here supporting the music with basslines that fill out the sound and give the tunes the necessary low end Nothing flashy, but perfect for the songs.

This is the true birth of Judas Priest, despite the amazing quality of earlier records, and really the true birth of the style heavy metal. Utterly mandatory.