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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Judas Priest

Defenders of The Faith 30th Anniversary Edition (Remastered)

Review by Gary Hill

This new reissue of Judas Priest’s Defenders of the Faith album is great. Not only do you get the original album remastered and sounding better than ever before, but they also include a two CD set, full concert recording from the same tour. I’d highly recommend picking this up whether you already own the disc or not. I should mention that I have already reviewed the original version of this. For the sake of consistency, my original review of the studio album will be included here along with the separate track reviews for that version. After that my track reviews for the new live recordings will follow in sequence. So, here’s that original album review:

In an attempt to catch up on some older releases we’ve never reviewed before, I decided to turn my attention to this oldie from Judas Priest. The funny thing is, looking back on it, I didn’t remember it being this good. I also didn’t realize how many songs from this set have appeared on compilation albums. Since I’ve reviewed many of these songs on those discs, the track reviews here are taken from those or at least adapted from those in the interest of consistency.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
  
Free Wheel Burning

Fast and furious, as the opening line declares, this one is a full on smoker. It's one of the most frantic cuts the band has ever produced, and still works every bit as well today. The guitar duel in the middle segment is stellar.

Jawbreaker

Rob Halford has said in interviews essentially that he had tried to "come out of the closet" with some of his lyrics. Looking back to songs like this one - how did we not get it? This is a frantic rocker, and the lyrics are pretty blatant.

Rock Hard Ride Free

One that should resonate well with bikers everywhere, this rocker is a solid, if not standout cut.

The Sentinel

Feeling hard-edged and a bit dark, this cruncher plods along at times, but it is a strong one nonetheless.

Love Bites

Starting with a tentative pounding sound, this one has a stripped down arrangement on the early portions. There are signs of techno music here, too. This one does manage to rock out at points, too, though. The later segment where Halford rapid fires several lines of lyrics is pretty strong, and he does manage to get in a scream or two. This has never been a favorite of mine. I think at least partly because the more rhythmically based Priest songs (like this one) just seem to work not as well as some of the other stuff. Still, there is some tasty guitar work on show here.

Eat Me Alive

Another from the "how did we miss the gay references?" files, this is a fast and energetic track with some killer soloing.

Some Heads Are Gonna Roll

This is another classic, and another that truly empowers the listener. This hard rocker is a killer anthem.

Night Comes Down

A killer metal balladic song, this one is dramatic and powerful.

Heavy Duty

Percussion starts this. It’s another rhythmically based song and I’m not all that crazy about that variety of Priest songs. I’d consider this one sort of a throw-away. It is very similar to “Evil Fantasies” from Hell Bent for Leather. It’s the weakest track here, no question about it. It segues straight into the next tune.

Defenders of the Faith
Carrying the same rhythmic structure from the previous piece, this adds some more melody and some vocals delivering the title to round it out. It’s not a big improvement from that piece, but it is an improvement. This is pretty short and I’d consider this one-two the weakest two songs here. That makes this an odd choice for title track and the duo not a great way to end a strong album. It’s probably part of why I’ve not considered this a strong disc all these years.
Disc 2
 
Love Bites

After the introduction, they launch out into a pretty stripped back rendition of the cut for the first vocals. The arrangement gets filled out from there as they continue.     

Jawbreaker
This live rendition seems to be more of a screamer than the studio version. It’s a killer metal jam here with lots of energy.
Grinder

An adequate live recording, somehow this song doesn’t hold up to the stuff around it. Still, it’s a Priest classic.

Metal Gods
Now this bit of Judas Priest metal comes purely alive here. The studio version is definitely great, but this surpasses it.
Breaking the Law

Although you can certainly consider this song to be one that’s been played to death, it still works pretty darned well in this live take.

Sinner
I’ve always been a big fan of this song. This particular version is purely on fire.
Desert Plains

Here’s another song I’ve always loved. This feels more fiery than the studio version.

Some Heads Are Gonna Roll

Another Priest classic, I don’t think I like this live version as much as I do the studio take. Still, it’s strong, either way.

The Sentinel

Although this is a solid live version of a strong Priest tune, it just doesn’t stand as tall as some of the rest. That said, the guitar solo workout is on fire.

Rock Hard Ride Free

This biker anthem works really well here. It also has some great guitar soloing. The chorus is very effective, too.

Disc 3
  
Night Comes Down

This isn’t really a highlight, but it lends a bit of a valley to a lot of the peaks of the live show. It’s good, just not one of the better things here.

The Hellion
On most tours this instrumental introduction starts the show. It’s weird to hear it mid-set, but it’s just as strong a piece in either slot.       
Electric Eye
This hard edged Priest classic works quite well here. It’s every bit as good as the studio version, even if a bit odd this late in the set.
Heavy Duty
I’m not a big fan of this rhythmic rocker. Still, it has some good vocals and some screaming guitar breaks.
Defenders of the Faith

Essentially a continuation of the previous cut, this works better than that one. It has an audience sing along, too.

Freewheel Burning

Now, this screaming hot metal number is one of the highlights of the disc. It’s purely an on fire performance.

Victim of Changes
Another of my favorite Judas Priest songs, this is one of the best live versions I’ve ever heard. It’s a real powerhouse.
The Green Manalishi
This is definitely another Priest classic. It’s hard to imagine a JP concert without it. This is a pretty solid live version. As strong as the tune always is, that means it’s a highlight of the set.
Living After Midnight
I know this is a Priest classic, but I don’t like it as well as I do some of their other stuff. Still, it rocks pretty well. It’s catchy and this live version is strong.
Hell Bent for Leather
I’ve always loved this song, and this live version is a great one.
You've Got Another Thing Comin'
Another Priest classic, this is delivered in live style.

 

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