Judas Priest Defines Metal: Defenders of the Faith

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I’m aware that this isn’t a common choice, but Defenders of the Faith has remained for me, for thirty years, the quintessential Judas Priest album; and in my opinion, the album’s best track, “The Sentinel,” encapsulates all that is and all that is great, good, and fine about heavy metal in a single song.

Goofy, you say?  The song is goofy?  A song about a mechanized, emotionless killing machine is goofy?  Yes, well, subtlety sometimes is all.  The subject is perfect for metal, and the music and lyrics that support the subject could not be better.  “Sworn to avenge/Condemend to hell/Tempt not the blade/All fear the Sentinel” – I will stack that chorus up against pretty much any other heavy-metal lyrics ever written.

And The Rest Of The Songs?

This is one killer album.  It had a bona fide hit, the rather weird vampire song “Love Bites,” and one certifiably obscene and tasteless song, “Eat Me Alive” – and I hope it’s clear that my calling the song “obscene and tasteless” is NOT adverse criticism; it also had the Priest now-classic “Freewheel Burning,” the other hit “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll,” the biker ode “Rock Hard Ride Free” – well, there’s not a weak track.  And the boys are all at the top of their games on this one – Halford has never sounded better.

The Famous Harley

Full disclosure: I saw them on this tour, and it remains in my memory one of the very finest concerts I’ve ever seen.  And, yes, as the stoned biker on the subway after the concert kept saying with a goofy grin, “He rode his haaawg right out on stage!”  Halford did indeed appear on the Harley that has become one of his trademark stage props; and it was a great stage, back in the days of the huge heavy-metal spectacle.  But what I remember best is the playing, the singing – the performances, which included a number of songs from this album.  Defenders of the Faith captures a great band at its best and is a crucial bit of rock-and-roll history.




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