Judas Priest: Turbo (Dual-Review)

Ah, Turbo. Alright Holen, what do you say?

Turbo is definitely a polarizing affair, and it’s easy to see why. Judas Priest take the mechanical aspects from Defenders of the Faith and utilize those ‘80s production values for maximum appeal in the context of a metal setting. The ferociousness of their past few records is replaced with pop sensibilities, with massive hooks, gang background vocals, and newly implemented guitar synthesizers. For what it’s worth, despite all the mechanical aspects the whole thing sounds much more lively than the nearly narcoleptic British Steel and Point of Entry. I suspect this is due to the production more than anything else, since the metal factor in this delicate equation has been reduced. But are the songs there? Sort of. I definitely liked it better when I was a teen though.

Things start off on a high note with “Turbo Lover”, a song with dynamics that just build into that pop payoff chorus. Right out of the gate we get Holland playing an electronic gated kit and guitar synths, so you know you’re in for a different beast. This would be enough to turn off song longtime fans completely, but there’s no denying the infectiousness of the title track. The solo is imaginative as well, aping the song’s melody before spurting to a halt. “Locked In” is a decent but unsubstantial rock number with some nice dual guitar work from Tipton and Downing. “Private Property” with additional lyrics and backing vocals from Racer X’s Jeff Martin struts with a boastful swagger rarely heard with a big arena sing-along chorus. Then things slide off the rails with the rather embarrassing “Parental Guidance”. It belongs to a set of tracks on this album that sound too juvenile for their own good, with cheesy lyrics and cutesy melodies unbecoming of the men who wrote them. The others include “Rock You All Around the World” and “Wild Nights, Hot & Crazy Days”, though they’re not quite as egregious as “Parental Guidance”. Really everything on this record can be considered pretty cheesy, with sections being guilty pleasures.

There’s no guilt to be had in “Out in the Cold” though, a fantastic ballad-like number with a hypnotic synth guitar intro, and robotic drumming that actually helps the track’s ambience. It has great power, and some of the best dual guitar parts of the entire Priest catalog. It’s a total winner. “Hot for Love” has a cool riff and atmosphere, and “Reckless” was supposed to be used in Top Gun, but ultimately wasn’t. That’s too bad, it’s a powerful song that empowers. It’s super cliche bad boy brand bullshit, but it’s hard not to get pumped up with the ascending descending melody line in the verses and the shouted chorus. It’s just the right amount of macho confidence, it’s the sonic equivalent of the 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Commando. Technically really stupid, but so overwhelmingly hilarious and masculine that you can’t help but like it if you possess a Y-chromosome. While Turbo isn’t as awful as its reputation, it feels like the boys could be doing more, especially lyrically. I know Halford can write better lyrics than what his effort here suggests, because I’ve heard  his ‘70s material. The longer the group has been around the further the lyrics of steel, metal, and leather slip into caricature. Still, some of the music is the most accessible and fun of the band’s career, and the guitar synths and solos here offer an interesting array of sounds.

3.25/5 Gear Stick Hand Job Visual Metaphors

Alright then, my turn. My favorite 80s Iron Maiden album is Somewhere in Time, so I was really really looking forward to Turbo, so much that I had to have a preview early. I chose “Turbo Lover”. I loved the first two minutes but regretted that we didn’t return to that style after the first chorus. The rest of the album did disappoint me at the time. It was nowhere near what I’d mentally hyped it up to be. 

But that was then. It has grown on me a lot since. A lot more than any of the other Priest albums. “Turbo Lover” was the first to. After a few listens I found myself liking the rest of the song as much as the first two minutes. It rules, but those first two minutes are something else. The building tension, the hushed tones, the chugging synth. I love it. Turbo isn’t at Defenders of the Faith level though. “Locked In” is alright, but has a chorus I described in my notes as “nah”. “Private Property” is similar though with a better chorus. 

We are now, however, treated to a trilogy of pretty good things. The first of these, “Parental Guidance”, though lyrically basic, has got melody and is an enjoyable listen. Second of the three is just as good. “Rock You All Around The World”, a fast-paced little rocker makes for an enjoyable listen too. It may be more commercial than previous material but I don’t care. I’m here to find great songs, not uphold traditional values on the Priest discography (If you couldn’t tell already). “Out in the Cold” is the last of the three. It’s leans a bit heavily on the synth but it is pretty damn good for a slower Priest song. Commercial as hell, but still good. More commercialness abounds on the next song, “Wild Nights, Hot & Crazy Days”, but like most of the other songs I like it a lot. It’s very AC/DC, especially the vocals, but there’s some good head banging on the pre-chorus and the chorus is good too. 

“Hot For Love” is next, another commercial song, but like the other ones, great. Great chorus, pre-chorus and much appreciated midrange Halford. It does overuse the synth a la ZZ Top’s “Sleeping Bag” a bit during the solo. Album closer “Reckless” is pretty good, not as good as the rest, but not bad at all. Having already heard Ram it Down, I think it’s safe to say that the Twin Turbos ideas was a mistake and that Priest picked, with the exception of “Ram it Down” itself, the better songs of the bunch for Turbo. Sure it’s commercial but me, a non Judas Priest fan, liked it a lot and did buy it (the 30th anniversary edition to boot), so it did its job. And it’s not like the songs are bad or anything. 

The verdict- 4/5

(Note: I will be retroactively boosting Sin After Sin’s score at the end of the series to account for the context of when I reviewed it.)

3 thoughts on “Judas Priest: Turbo (Dual-Review)

  1. Harrison is high again. Rock You All Around the World is the worst song!

    Although I’m glad he liked Turbo. In ’86 I had three Priest albums and this was my favourite of them, because it was exactly what I liked at the time. Of course as a kid I thought all those sounds were keyboards! A few years later I read about them using guitar synths, and heard some at the local music store, and “got” it.

    Anyway I think both of you are fairly on the mark here, a few favourite songs aside.

    Liked by 1 person

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