All Access Rating: A-
|Judas Priest - Defenders of the Faith:|
Special 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Burdened with impossibly high expectations, Judas Priest's ninth album certainly has its detractors, many of whom swear the metal gods were simply repeating themselves and unable to recreate the incendiary magic of an enduring song such as "You've Got Another Thing Coming," among other Priest classics.
It did go platinum, though, and it wasn't just because it rode Screaming For Vengeance's coattails for all they were worth. Reissued by Columbia/Legacy, the three-CD Defenders of the Faith: Special 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition presents a golden opportunity for reassessment, the remastering job clearly defining the sterling metal craftsmanship and subtle accessibility of the smoldering smash hit "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll," as well as the rich, complex circuitry of "The Sentinel," the aggressive, rough-trade erotica of "Eat Me Alive" and Priest's oddly stylish and infectiously robotic sex toy "Love Bites." Some of the edgiest and most sinister stuff in Priest's catalog is found on Defenders, practically baiting the PMRC into giving the record some titillating publicity, but it's also perhaps one of their most sophisticated efforts, as this release so reverently articulates.
Not that it needed much of a push, what with the hit-and-run energy of "Freewheel Burning" and "Jawbreaker" setting pulses racing, thanks to the thrilling guitar interplay of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing. Delve a little further and rediscoveries of "Rock Hard Ride Free," a fist-pumping. mid-tempo anthem with a gripping groove, and the shadowy, slow-burning "Night Comes Down" beg for renewed appreciation, all of this setting the stage for a dynamic and warmly recorded live outing, included in its entirety, from the "Defenders" tour that completes this package.
Storming into the Long Beach Arena in California on May 5, 1984, Priest eagerly and with relish attacks the new material, injecting more tension into "Love Bites," adding heft to the swinging wrecking ball that is "Heavy Duty" and charging into "Freewheel Burning" and "Jawbreaker" with blood lust. Along with rigorous workouts of Priest favorites like "Electric Eye," "Living After Midnight," "Hell Bent for Leather" and "Breaking The Law," this set rips through lesser known classics, such as "Sinner," "Grinder" and "Desert Plains," with controlled violence, Rob Halford singing them with as much conviction, vicious intent and operatic expression a he gives to the classics, like the venomous jams "Victim of Changes" or "The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)."
Maybe some additional demo material or unreleased songs from that era would have enhanced this collection, but as it is, it certainly gives listeners reason to revisit the cloaked brilliance of Defenders of the Faith, an album that not only still holds up, but also deserves more respect.
– Peter Lindblad