In May of 1983, Judas Priest played one of their biggest shows at the US Festival in California. They played on what was called Metal Night with bands like Motley Crue, Scorpions, Quiet Riot, Van Halen and Ozzy. It was a very memorable event. Then three short months later, the band was back at in the studio in Ibiza, Spain where they had recorded their prior album ‘Screaming For Vengeance’.
They recorded the album from September to November 1983 with Tom Allom again at the helm. Well, they weren’t recording the whole time because when they arrived all the studio equipment was gone. Apparently the owner of the studio had some money issues. They had to get all new equipment shipped in and had to get it in to the studio. Rob tells in his book, ‘Confess’, they had to put a bunch of logs together and put the giant console on it to help roll it in to the studio. That had to be a sight to see. They definitely worked hard to get that album made…when they weren’t partying in town.
The album was done and the sound was very much like ‘Screaming for Vengeance’. The band felt that had tapped in to something special with that album so they basically repeated it on ‘Defenders of Faith’. Now they didn’t repeat really, but they wanted a similar vibe and sonic feeling. Which they achieved. And they achieved it with the band in tack from the last album with Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing, Ian Hill and Dave Holland. The album was released on January 4, 1984 and went all the way to #18 on the Billboard charts and went Platinum in the US with over 1 million in sales.
Like on the prior album, they brought back artist Doug Johnson to do the cover art. For ‘Vengeance’, he did Hellion and for ‘Faith’ we get ‘Metallian’ which is part tank, part lion or tiger and part ram or some horned animal, but all totally cool. The vibrant colors really helped make this a standout cover for the band. It makes you stop and take notice. And on the back cover, the band included a short story about ‘Metallian’…it goes like this…
“Rising from darkness where Hell hath no mercy and the screams for vengeance echo on forever. Only those who keep the faith shall escape the wrath of the Metallian…Master of all metal.”
And if that doesn’t make you want to listen to this album, I don’t know what to tell you…except lets go through the music.
The album kicks off with the first single, “Freewheel Burning”. The song is pure adrenaline and shoots out of the gate like a beast ready to attack. The tempo is almost speed metal and is a pounding and ravaging attack on the senses. It is pure metal madness and one hell of a way to kick off the album. Rob is laying waste on vocals sounding meaner and tougher than ever with still that Halford grit. The guitar solo is complete destruction as Glenn Tipton shows the true talent he is. This could be one of the best opening tracks they have had on an album.
The second track doesn’t go any easier. “Jawbreaker” was as destructive and deadly as the opening track. The simple chorus of Rob just singing “Jawbreaker” is all you need. The way he says it and draws it out is masterful. If these two songs are any indication, we are seeing a band that is on a mission and has found their groove. They seem heavier than ever and are in a zone that is unmatched by most bands of the time. And Rob is hitting these notes that will make the ears bleed and the dogs howl…pure magic.
“Rock Hard Ride Free” is actually a revised version of the song “Fight For Your Life” that was recorded during ‘Screaming for Vengeance’ but didn’t make the album. This version I think is a hundred times better. It is melodic and not quite as hard as the opening tracks. The dual guitar solo between Tipton and Downing is masterful. This feels like a road song and makes me want to drive down the road with the top down and blast this song. Which would be amazing as I don’t have convertible to do it. So I guess I will roll down the windows then.
“The Sentinel” is up next and brings a different element to the sound. It almost sounds progressive in style. There is a short instrumental piece at the beginning is great before Rob comes wailing in with the verses. It is another heavy blast of sound. The vibe of this one is rather different than the rest of the album and it does have a killer guitar solo and a speaking verse with Halford which is all great, but the sonics aren’t as accessible and the chorus isn’t very catchy. Still a good song, but not as good for compared to the triple opening salvo of songs.
Then we get to “Love Bites” with its ominous bass/guitar intro and then Halford comes in as dark and menacing has he can be. The song is not your typical Priest, but its quirkiness is quite catchy and I find this song to be a lot of fun. Is this a Vampire Sex Song? I’ve heard described as that and I’m okay with it. This is a strange beast of a song, but I love every second of including that little Halford howl at the end. The song will sink its teeth in you…yes, I went there!
Then we get the most controversial song on the album, “Eat Me Alive”, thanks to the PMRC movement. The Parents Music Resource Group, that was started by Tipper Gore, had this song as #3 on their 15 song list that they objected to and felt was offensive. I can’t imagine why as it was only about a guy giving another guy a blow job. Whatever were they thinking. Priest was trying to be corruptive, they were just doing a song that was a little tongue-in-cheek and Rob was being Rob with his lyrics. Anyway, the song is great and rocks out. It is extremely catchy and has a great grove that moves the song forward at a blistering tempo. You can’t help but be “sucked” in by it.
The second single off the album was the song “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” which was written by Bob Halligan, Jr. of the band Ceili Rain but not a cover as they were the first to do it. The song is a mid-tempo track that is ominous and tough sounding. It has two solos with Tipton up first and Downing laying down the second. The song just sounds tough and vicious and I love the slow pounding groove.
The next song I guess could be classified as a ballad called “Night Comes Down”. It is a little slow, a little monotonous in its groove. The chorus is smooth enough, but it feels like a song that is trying to go somewhere but is lost and roaming around trying to find its destination, yet never arriving. Going round and round in circles with wheels spinning and every place looking the same and total confusion sets in and they stop the car and cry because they are never going to get out of this never-ending loop. Okay, what just happened…What the hell was that…sorry I got off on a tangent. Needless to say, the weakest song on the album for me.
“Heavy Duty” is a pounding hammer to the side of the skull. The drums are heavy and Rob is ready for destruction. He sounds so evil in this song and I am ready for his head to spin. The guitar riff is repeated over and over like the drum beat and it feels like death. That is cool. The song then bleeds in to the short title track of “Defenders of the Faith” which has a chorus of either angels or devils singing the title name and the evil sounding music playing over them. I like these two together because it sounds so dark and evil…and I like things to be a little dark sometimes…don’t judge!
The next two tracks are the bonus tracks. First up is the song “Turn On Your Light” which was during the 1985 Turbo album sessions. It is a ballad and I think I like it a little better than “Night Comes Down” on the album. It has a beautiful sounding chorus with the music being played over that acoustic riff almost feeling angelic and then the solo is way better and actually one of the best on the album. And there isn’t just one solo, there are two. Okay, can we switch those two songs?
The final track is a live version of “Heavy Duty/Defenders of the Faith” performed At Long Beach Arena in Long Beach California on May 5, 1984. Wait a second, haven’t a lot of the live bonus tracks on these albums been from that show. Then you know
- Freewheel Burning – Keeper
- Jawbreaker – Keeper
- Rock Hard Ride Free – Keeper
- The Sentinel – Keeper
- Love Bites – Keeper
- Eat Me Alive – Keeper
- Some Heads Are Gonna Roll –Keeper
- Night Comes Down – Delete
- Heavy Duty – Keeper
- Defenders of the Faith – Keeper
- Turn On Your Light
- Heavy Duty/Defenders of the Faith (Live)
The Track Score is 9 out of 10 songs or 90%. And let me tell you those songs are worth a blast on the stereo turned up to 11. The band wanted to keep that ‘Screaming for Vengeance’ sound going and they sure as hell did. The album picks up where the other left off and kept the party going. There is really only one misstep on it and that is easily overlooked. The album seems a little heavier at times and the boys are hitting all cylinders as the race through the songs. The guitar duo of Tipton and Downing are unmatched, Hill’s bass is the driving force along with Holland’s pounding drums. Rob is sounding better than ever and his screaches and screams sound better than ever. Judas Priest was at the top of their game and are showing no signs of slowing down. This is a true beast of an album. And despite one hiccup, this is the second 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars I have now given and this is well worth it.
UP NEXT: ‘Turbo’ (1986)
THE COMPLETE ALBUMS COLLECTION SERIES:
- Rocka Rolla (1974)
- Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)
- Sin After Sin (1977)
- Stained Class (1978)
- Killing Machine / Hell Bent For Leather (1978)
- Unleashed in the East (1979)
- British Steel (1980)
- Point of Entry (1981)
- Screaming for Vengeance (1982)
- Defenders of the Faith (1984)
- Turbo (1986)
- Priest…Live! (1987)
- Ram it Down (1988)
- Painkiller (1990)
- Angel of Retribution (2005)
- Nostradamus (2008)
- A Touch of Evil: Live (2009)