Defenders Of The Faith (30th Anniversary Edition)
March 10, 2015
There's something to be said for being the last guy standing. When the day is done, and all has been said, who is still standing tall in the saddle speaks the measure of the man. Judas Priest are out there, right now, proving it with a great new record and still amazing shows, and now they've unleashed one of the finest metal reissues I've had the pleasure to experience. The 30th anniversary edition of Defenders Of The Faith delivers the goods.
I'm going to go in reverse here, and start out by talking about the 'bonus material' of this package. It's a two disc live album that was recorded at the Long Beach Arena on May 5, 1984, and it is the logical follow up to the band's classic live set, Unleashed In The East. Plain put, this is one of the best live albums to come from perhaps the most fertile period in metal history.
Kicking it off with 'Love Bites', the first thing I notice is the pristine quality of this recording - most re-issues contain a barely better than bootleg live sampling, but it turns out that Judas Priest kept an ace in the hole with this set. I can hear quite easily the difference between Glenn Tipton and KK Downing's dual guitars, and it's a tremendous lesson in how to arrange two guitars in a hard rock setting. I don't think there are two more underrated guitarists on the planet than these two. They are as different as night and day, but when they sync it's as tight as it has ever gotten.
Even the balance between the audience and Rob Halford is perfect for the between song banter, and it truly feels like you're in the best seat in the house. Buy this set. Stop right now, and buy this record. You will thank e forever.
This set is perfect because it focuses on what has become a somewhat different Judas Priest. After the Killing Machine/Hell Bent For Leather album and this, the band became more song oriented and less, shall I say, guitar-centric. Mind you, the licks are still all there, but it seems more to the message and less into the guitar meanderings of the past. 'Grinder' is a great example of this as the riff is tougher, and tighter, but there's still a huge amount of guitar madness to be found.
'Metal Gods' is a song that featured the more modern more, dare I say, danceable metal that Priest had developed at about the same time The Scorpions delved into not dissimilar territories. It wears as well live as it did in the studio, and almost perfect planning next places 'Breaking The Law', and the near punk frenzy of its insistent riff reminds you that this is metal a it gets.
'The Green Manalishi' might just be my favorite Judas Priest song - I covered it in the first band I ever played in, and I was incredibly thrilled to hear how newcomer Richie Faulkner combined with Glenn Tipton to take the tune to a place that left me not mourning the departure of the always amazing KK Downing, but welcoming the new. But, the version they served up on this night 1984 may be the defining version. It's a basic replicant of their studio effort, but with the live edge you always hope for. One of the crowning moments of the Tipton/Downing era - worth the price of the package, this is.
This live set is as different from Unleashed In The East as could be, but it is the perfect follow up, and it's as good, just a bit different iteration of the beast that is The Priest. If you ever liked anything Judas Priest ever did, you will want to own this.
The remastering job that's been done on Defenders Of The Faith is exactly what I would expect from this band. Judas Priest has never scrimped, and they've not now. This package sounds like a million dollars (pounds).
'Freewheel Burning' is, of course, the opener, and everything is crystal clear as it punches you straight in the gut. You can really hear just how well everything sounded when it was originally put to tape - the guitars are easily recognized, the rhythm section is cooking and clear as a bell, and Halford sits perfectly atop of it all on his throne made of metal.
Defenders Of The Faith is the album that thrust the band into a heavier and more contemporary form of metal, and this album's effect on what came after can't be discounted. It's influence may have only been recognizable after the fact, but it cast a wide net.
You've never heard it quite as well defined as you will when you experience this update. So often we've been burned by the words remixed and remastered, but this is the perfect example of what can happen when a band chooses to update their catalog. To hear Judas Priest like this is life affirming - it proves that everything you ever loved about rock was true. Rob Halford is a major member of that small club of best ever rock vocalists. Glenn Tipton and KK Downing are both great players and composers who reshaped the metallic world they had been born into in a way that had never been. This is metal as it was always meant to be heard, and I would strongly, strongly recommend you experience it in the best sounding setting you can find, because this is how it can be.
I could say more, I could expound in greater detail, but that would only put unnecessary time in between now and how soon you can hear this package with your own ears.