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Saturday, November 06, 2010

CD Review: Halford - Halford IV: Made of Metal

Halford - Halford IV: Made of Metal
2010 Metal God Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

It's fairly unanimous hardcore metal fans have blown raspberries at Judas Priest's triple-dog-dare-you epic Nostradamus, even if the Grammy committee tagged honors upon it. Some fans even stake a dagger of hatred into the Priest's Angel of Retribution album from 2005.

While 1986's Turbo truly deserves a thumb bite, the point of the matter is Judas Priest is held to such a high standard by the metal community they're demanded by de facto to be nothing less than British Steel, than Stained Class, than Screaming for Vengeance or Hell Bent For Leather. Judas Priest is the epitome of heavy, the automatic brand name when you discuss the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Deviation from the script is not tolerated. Ask Ripper Owens. Hell, there are even some purists out there who rebuff the louder 'n hell Painkiller, shudder to think.

Rob Halford understands this fully well, at least when it comes to issuing his solo work. Under the Halford moniker, you may not get Downing and Tipton, but you do get the scorching (and of late well-respected) Roy Z and Metal Mike Chlasciak, who entertain like the dickens on Made of Metal. Hey, when you're the Metal God, you don't surround yourself with a court of fools.

Thus, if you are said purist, rejoice, lad and lass, because Halford IV: Made of Metal is the textbook primer of classic metal you're salivating for. Forget the operatics and the symphonics. Made of Metal is straight-up vintage Rob Halford and Priest, so much you get a slowed-down reworking of "Electric Eye" with "Speed of Sound" on this album plus a deliberate hail to red times ala Stained Class and Sin After Sin on "Hell Razor."

Put your faith in Uncle Rob, because he knows what you're craving. He takes Priest's halcyon "Before the Dawn" and speeds it up in the thread of Stratovarius on the quick-stepped "Fire and Ice." Then he atones for the strangely addictive misdemeanor of "Turbo Lover" with the cyber-slick pumper "Made of Metal," one of Rob's most memorable non-Priest tunes outside of "Nailed to the Gun" from Fight.

With 14 songs, Made of Metal is a bit of an endeavor, largely because Rob Halford takes a few outside chances in the interest of creating a leaner, more diverse listening experience. This means getting Bon Jovi jiggy on the verses of "Thunder and Lightning," which heavies up on the choruses and solos before the song gets too oily for its own good. Like Bon Jovi, Rob Halford takes a crack at the cowpoke metal ditty on "Till the Day I Die." Roy Z and Metal Mike are up to the task in creating blues slides and grimy lines for Halford to ante up from a near-whisper into a cracking metal hoedown catcall. Far less melodramatic and more testicular than Bon Jovi's "Blaze of Glory."

One of the elements most critics are missing with this album is the inherent romanticism Halford exudes. Sure, Rob's delivered the goods to many a love rocker in his career, but Made of Metal reveals a tender, muse-stricken intimacy to the Metal God. He's in free-frolic mode beneath the rocking stanzas of "I Know We Stand a Chance," "Fire and Ice," "Thunder and Lightning," "Heartless" and "We Own the Night." His seven-minute self-flogging mini-epic "25 Years" is nearly heartbreaking. Bless you, Rob, it's nice to hear such lovestruck humanity sieved out with the molten lava.

Halford tempers his vocal patterns throughout the entire album, withholding his screechfest "The Mower" for a grand finale. Hinted at from the beginning of the album by the proto-power chugger "Undisputed," "The Mower" becomes a cathartic finish to a marathon of pure heavy metal and bobbing rock delivered as only Rob Halford can do without a flinch. "The Matador" may be Halford's smaller-scale vie to emulate Nostradamus with more efficiency, but in the end, Made of Metal is like that coveted chair in the warmest part of the house: it rocks.

Rating: ****


Metal Mark said...

"Judas Priest is the epitome of heavy, the automatic brand name when you discuss the New Wave of British Heavy Metal."

Change the first two words to Iron Maiden and I would agree. Priest were well established by the time the NWOBHM popped up although they were a huge influence on the bands of the movement.

It's odd that Halford's return to Priest in the post Ripper-era has produced two soulless clunkers yet with Fight and Halford the Metal God has rarely missed. Almost everything he has done since first leaving Priest in the early 90's has been at least good and frequently great. I agree with you that the new album is solid. It's a shame he just doesn't stick with these projects, but I guess the big paycheck of doing another Priest album and tour has just been too much for him to turn it down in recent years.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Well, you know Maiden is number one in my heart for all of metal and I agree with you, but seriously, Priest tends to get named first before Maiden out there, which was the point I making in that statement.

I don't hate Angel and I don't even hate Nostradamus, though the latter one was shocking. It may become one of those albums appreciated later in 20 years or it may be villianized forever. I don't mind them taking a chance here and there and KK, Glenn and Rob were all incredibly nice and professional gentlemen to interview.

That being said, I am curious as to what direction they take the next go-round. I don't know if the latter two albums were heavier leaned through Halford's influence or the rest of the band, but it certainly rings to me with Halford and Fight that the Metal God knows how to work his realm in those outlets.

I only hope the future of Priest isn't running album anniversary tours because the British Steel tour was highly successful, but obviously people were there to reminisce versus move forward Priest's new material.

Maiden's taking some chances and for the most part they're winning with them since they've not hyperextended their identity. I think that's where Nostradamus really hit people in the gut, and not for the reasons the band intended, I'm sure. Who knows? Like I said, I don't hate those two albums like many people do, but it's loud and clear this Halford album is surefire crowd pleaser.

Metal Mark said...

"That being said, I am curious as to what direction they take the next go-round."

Well, my first thought is couldn't get any worse, but then again maybe it could.

Priest had a great track record up through and including Painkiller. Since then four stink bombs and they can't even blame it all on Ripper Owens since they were just as bad with the last two outings with Halford.

Nostradamus was like Spinal Tap only it wasn't funny if you had to hear the whole album.