Welcome, everyone, to another post of me trashing classic albums while Holen tries to keep it together. NOT! I’m just going to level with you guys now, because that will clear things up. I. Freaking. love. This. Album. So. Much. Now, let the positivity flow.
Or not, as the first song, “Freewheel Burning” is my least favorite song on the album. But I don’t dislike it in the traditional sense. It just doesn’t click 100% with me. It’s 90% there, just the vocals on the verses are just a tad too much like “Riding on the Wind” for me. But I give the song a pass for having such a wicked title. And that’s where the negativity ends.
“Jawbreaker” is next, a song that echoes some of the material on Sin After Sin, which you may remember is the only Priest album prior to this that I was positive towards. The guitars are top class as usual. The verses have a great vocal melody. The chorus might be slightly approaching shrill Halford territory, but in this case I don’t even care. I like it. This song rocks. The next song rocks too, aptly titled “Rock Hard, Ride Free”. This one has the perfect mix of midrange to tasteful highs, even if the chorus is taking a more commercial direction than most of their previous material. This also applies to some of the other songs, but I don’t care if they sound a bit more commercial, I love them, and that’s that.
The next song is the one that most people would be surprised to find that I love, and it coincides with us no longer being able to ignore the giant mecha-tiger tank in the room: Rob Halford is hitting some pretty high notes on this album. Especially in “The Sentinel”. But the crucial difference between this album and the other Priest albums is the way he hits these high notes, and it makes all the difference. On most other albums Halford would go for a really shrill clean high note, and while he does this sometimes on Defenders too, it’s few and far between enough for me to just flow with it. But on Defenders of the Faith Halford’s high notes are accompanied with some cool-ass rasp. And that rasp is what does it for me. Halford sounds very similar to Axl Rose singing Brian Johnson AC/DC, and I loved Axl Rose singing Brian Johnson AC/DC. So with Halford adopting a very similar style I’m just rocking out here. This is the perfect Judas Priest for me. This is where the aggressive midrange, the raspy high notes and the ridiculously awesome guitar work coalesced into the ultimate Priest album. And it’s why Defenders of the Faith is the best Judas Priest album. And while “The Sentinel” might not be my number one Priest song, it rocks almost beyond words.
And the album’s not even halfway through yet. We still have six more songs of awesome left, the first of these being “Love Bites”. “Love Bites” is completely different from “The Sentinel”, yet still just as good. It sticks in the midrange and has a similarity to “Burnin’ Up” though not as funky. It’s another winning song on an album with no shortage of them. “Love Bites” is followed by “Eat Me Alive”, one of the less remarkable songs on the album, it is not even approaching bad, just overshadowed by literally every other song on the album. The most remarkable thing about it though is how modern the chorus sounds. I wouldn’t bat an eye if Ozzy Osbourne or Alice Cooper released a song with that exact chorus today. I’ll leave the meritability of that fact up to you though.
Top tier awesome is reinstated on just the next song. “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” is another of the more commercial ones, but it smokes so anyone who dislikes it can sod off. “Night Comes Down” is next, and a bit of a left field song among the rest of the album. It’s a bit of a power ballad, with one epic chorus, and I like it. It’s not clear exactly what makes it differ from the other ballady Priest songs that I derided, but it is just right, and I’m glad it’s the one on Defenders of the Faith. The album is then sadly closed with the combo of “Heavy Duty/Defenders of the Faith”. The first half is a thunderous heavy metal romp that gets my approval, and the second half is an epic conclusion, though the vocals on the lyrics just rub me the wrong way a little. It is the last song on the album, and only a minute and a half, so I’ll let it off easy. Now was this what you all expected to hear about this album today?
It is sad to see Sin After Sin knocked off its podium after all this time, but this is a bloody great album, and although I’m almost tempted to take 0.25 stars off for the legendarily bad cover art, I can’t. This album deserves all the stars it gets.
The verdict- 4.5/5 stars
Judas Priest were definitely switched on when they played nine songs from this album live on its tour. It’s just a shame that Halford’s voice was at its worst that tour.
For once my brother from down under and I are in agreement. While it’s not my favorite Judas Priest album, there’s something about the sound/songs that is so unrelentingly badass that it’s impossible to describe. Particularly side A which is totally perfect totally transcendent heavy metal. It’s so fucking powerful it’s almost inhuman. Some people say that Screaming and Defenders are so alike they should be one double album, I think those people need to get their hearing checked. Screaming still had some of the airy percussion and jam quality found on the two previous outings, while containing a significant amount of muscle lacking from those previous releases. Defenders is processed and a little mechanical, and takes the heavy up several notches, while also placing an even greater emphasis on melody. Dave Holland may as well be a drum machine back there, but that’s part of the charm. It’s metallic sheen and processed sound creates a sci-fi atmosphere without resorting to excess synthesizers or anything dubious. It has more in common stylistically with Turbo than Screaming, but it goes down without any guilt unlike Turbo.
“The Sentinel” is one of the best metal songs committed to tape, with its dynamics, dual lead solos, and Halford’s raspy melody. This album is cinematic almost, but the fury of the music prevents the album from drifting into melodrama. You buy into it. The guitar harmonies in “Freewheel Burning” are literally jaw dropping. If the whole record was as strong as side A, this would probably be the greatest heavy metal record ever committed to tape. While side B starts of strong with the weird and erotic “Love Bites”, and “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” is as strong as anything on the first side, it hits a hiccup with “Eat Me Alive” pleasant filler that attracted the attention of the PMRC. “Night Comes Down” is a breezy atmospheric number in the same mold as “Fever”, but better. The closing salvo is infamous as being weak and closing the record on a limp, but I don’t mind it too much. The riff is cool, even if the lyrics are a bit cheesy and the whole thing feels a bit undercooked. Still, when this album is at its best there’s really nothing comparable to the unparalleled badassery contained on this disc. It’s a metal classic whose best moments are almost peerless, but a few periods of banality that prevent it from being perfection.
4.5/5 Jawbreaking Innuendos