2015 minus 1984 is 31, right? Apparently not. Judas Priest is releasing their Defenders of the Faith album from 1984 for its 30th anniversary. I’m sure it wasn’t released last year to not detract attention away from their new album, Redeemer of Souls (reviewed here). Regardless, it is an album to celebrate.
Their ninth major release, Defenders of the Faith continued the ferocity that Priest laid down on 1982’s Screaming for Vengeance. Defenders features a few radio hits, some intense speed metal, blistering riffs, and plenty of Halfordian screams for any metal maniac. It is one of their best ‘80s albums, on par with British Steel.
The record kicks off with “Freewheel Burning,” a fast and furious track with an unconventional rapid-fire vocal delivery from Rob Halford in its second half. This is a great song to drive to and is one of my favorite Priest tracks. K.K. and Glenn nail it with crazy riffs and solos. The next song, “Jawbreaker,” has a similar magnitude to its predecessor. While not as fast, the riffs and melodies are killer. It is especially gratifying when Halford screams at an ear-shattering pitch “JAAAWW-BREEEEAAAKEEERRRRR” multiple times toward the end. “Rock Hard, Ride Free” is a radio-friendly song with a common lyrical theme of Judas Priest – freedom. I remember I heard this song faintly on the radio once before I became familiar with Priest’s entire catalogue and I could tell it was them. It’s a testament to their signature sound.
“The Sentinel” is another Priest classic on Defenders. Though not my favorite, it features some cool melodies and an interesting interlude. “Love Bites” is very much an ‘80s tune, with a radio vibe. It has its cheese-factor, but it is a fun song. They played this one live when I saw them last year, which was an odd choice, but it worked. “Eat Me Alive” is possibly my favorite track off the album. It cranks up the speed from “Freewheel Burning” and has sadomasochistic lyrics. Rob Halford’s sexual appetite is on full display with this song. The singer’s flamboyant nature makes him a great front man. He sounds like a monster when he sings the chorus, adding another layer to the title. This song was on the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC)’s “Filthy Fifteen” list in 1985 for sexual content. That only adds to the song’s awesomeness.
“Some Heads are Gonna Roll” follows, with much delight. It is a powerful number with a very strong chorus. The visual that comes to mind with this song is bowling with human heads. “Night Comes Down” slows it down, and is very ‘80s ballad-y. It’s my least favorite track from the record, but there are much worse ballads out there. The record closes with “Heavy Duty” and “Defenders of the Faith,” which are basically one song. “Heavy Duty” features a great old school metal riff. It feels great to bop my head to this one. The track works well as a live anthem. “Defenders of the Faith” continues unbroken from “Heavy Duty” and is a natural fellow-up. It just repeats the title over and over again, but that’s all you need. A fitting close.
The decades-old album really stands up. It doesn’t sound dated (for the most part), and is a great collection of classic heavy metal songs. The remastered edition sounds crisp and clean – as it should. The re-release also includes a live show from Long Beach, CA in 1984. The setlist features all songs from Defenders except “Eat Me Alive” and a lot of other Priest hits like “Victim of Changes,” “Breaking the Law,” and “Electric Eye.” This is Priest in their prime, and they sound amazing. This album and its re-release prove that Judas Priest are still the Defenders of the Faith – that Faith being HEAVY METAL.
Defenders of the Faith Line-up:
Rob Halford – Vocals
K. K. Downing – Guitar
Glenn Tipton – Guitar
Ian Hill – Bass
Dave Holland – Drums