Judas Priest - Defenders of the Faith
Well, we know it might be a bit out of consensus, but the album "Defenders of the Faith" is one of our favorites in the "Judas Priest" repertoire.
True, it lacks the primacy of "Sin After "Sin", it is also lack the hits such in "British Steel" and does not have the cruel fangs of "Painkiller". But there's something about it that makes us want to listen to it time and time again, even almost four decades after it's release.
This album which was released on January 4, 1984 is a direct, yet darker and gloomier sequel, to "Screaming for Vengeance". "Judas Priest" used the same successful formula of the previous album, but with a little twist. Even the album cover shows the similarities between them. "Screaming for Vengeance" shows the flying "Hellion" in most of its glory, while this album gives as the "Metallian". On the back of the cover you can even find a sentence that connects the two albums as follows: "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 ".
Did we say that there is something in this album that makes us come back to it again and again? So one of the reasons for that is Rob Halford who just surpasses himself here. This is one of the albums with his best vocal performance. These are not only the insane high notes he reaches (listen to him for example at the 3:00 minute of "Jawbreaker"), it's also his incredible voice control and his ability to turn it into a musical instrument that blends in amazingly with the band. Listen to him in the song "The Sentinel" for example, especially in the chorus starting at 0:50 in the studio version and you will understand what we are talking about. It's not that on other albums his voice was any less good. God forbid. It is simply that here the melody, dynamics, diversity and power are simply amazing.
Another reason we love this album so much, lies in the crazy collaboration of K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton. Even the transfer of the baton between Johan Blake and Usain Bolt at the relay race in the London 2012 Olympics was not as synchronized as those two. Listen to their performance in the song "Rock Hard Ride Free". for example. Notice how K.K.'s solo starts at 2:34 (studio version) and his smooth “baton transfer” to Tipton at exactly 3:02 and from there to their duet at 3:30. This song by the way is an outtake from the previous album then called "Fight for Your Life". The song was recorded in 1982 but did not make it to the final mix of "Screaming for Vengeance". For the current album the band "renovated", "repaired" and re-recorded it, and maybe for the good, because it just sounds amazing.
From here we move on to the third and overwhelming reason why we love this album so much. Prepper yourself to a statement that might raise your eyebrows: In our humble opinion, the song sequence on the first side of this album is the best of "Judas Priest's" repertoire. It opens with "Freewheel Burning"'s Speed Metal with Dave Holand's insane double bass drumming, Tipton's neoclassical solo, and Halford's fast and powerful singing that match the insane song rhythm. It continues with the amazing "Jawbreaker" that "drops our jaws" over and over again, just like its name. The song's amazing and iconic riff and Halford's staccato cuts in singing, just do it for us. It continues with the amazing guitar collaboration of "Rock Hard Ride Free" and with one of Halford's greatest vocal performances in the song "The Sentinel", which we mentioned above.
Don't get us wrong. The other side of the album also features great songs, like "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll" and "Night Comes Down", that connect to Priest's more melodic and subtle side, or like the closing song "Heavy Duty" that connects with the repetitive track "Defenders of the Faith".
So true, this album is not really perfect. "Love Bites" contains eighties-pop influences that will only intensify on the album "Turbo". "Eat Me Alive" is perhaps the filler on this album that also caused harsh reactions from the "Parents Music Resource Center", which labeled it with the dubious title "Filthy Fifteen" due to lyrics That imply on oral sex. But even this so-called album's "flaw", sent "Judas Priest" to write the excellent song "Parental Guidance" in response to the "PMRC". This song will be included in the next album "Turbo".
For Listening: Spotify, Apple Music