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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Halford

Metal God Essentials Volume I

Review by Gary Hill

This compilation of remasters from the real metal god, Rob Halford is a top-notch set. Not only do you get a CD that’s full of some of his best material from his three previous solo albums, but that’s just the beginning. The audio CD also includes a couple new tracks and some demo versions of songs from his band Fight and his solo stuff. If that were all you get it would be well worth it, but Mr. Halford didn’t stop there. This thing also includes a bonus DVD that has some behind the scenes clips from recording his Resurrection CD and also from the Insurrection tour. But wait, he’s not done yet. You also get several videos of various songs. These range from pure live concert footage to concept videos like you would have seen on MTV (remember when they played music videos? – it did stand for “music television,” didn’t it?). For my money the highlight of the DVD is the live performance of the Priest song “Never Satisfied.” I’m a long time Priest fan and getting a live rendition of that track is definitely a great thing. It amazes me that Halford’s voice shows no sign of aging or getting any worse for the years of belting it out. He arguably has the greatest voice of our time and it just doesn’t let up. If you are a Halford or Judas Priest fan, you have to check this out. If you are a fan of “cookie monster” vocals, then you should pick this up and hear the way metal should really be done. I personally think that bands started doing the death metal grunts and growls because they realized that with people like Geoff Tate, Ronnie James Dio, Bruce Dickinson and (the king of all of them) Rob Halford setting the standard there was no way they could compete on that playing field, so they found a different one to play on. Please note that I had done track by track reviews of a number of these songs on their original disc. For the sake of consistency the reviews of those songs here have been copied and/or modified from those reviews.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Resurrection
Weird sound effects and a processed "Resurrection" are the first sounds we hear. Another "Resurrection,” this time more clear and forceful, and the song is off. With a definite Priest sound, ala Screaming for Vengeance era, this one really shows once and for all that Halford's pipes are still in prime form. The cut really rips and all of the vocals are in his high range style. Lyrically this one is autobiographical - kind of Halford's retelling of how he has come to this point in his career. "I walked alone into a Fight, No longer standing in Satanic light, I tried to look too far ahead, And saw the road go to my past instead."
Made In Hell
More major metal crunch starts this one, but the sound really seems to merge Priest with Maiden. This one tells of the origins of Halford's metal, right back to its birthplace, Birmingham, England. It includes sections referring to both that early era and Priest's heyday. "From memories of '68 when the Wizard shook the world, Metal came from foundries where the midlands sound unfurled." This one is really one of the best praises of the metal genre ever written.
Screaming in the Dark
When it appeared on the Live Insurrection CD, this was the first of three new studio numbers. It is a fast paced, modern sounding heavy metal cut.
Golgotha
Coming from the Crucible disc, this is a heavy, thundering piece of music that has that down and dirty nu-metal sound, but with a metal God sensibility. The chorus reminds me a bit of modern Alice Cooper in some ways. This is a powerful slab of metal majesty and power. It screams out into faster paced crunch later in the track. It drops back down to end.
Silent Screams
This cut is a demo from 1999 of the track that showed up (in its final version) on Resurrection. Acoustic guitar modes lead this off in a pretty and still rather dark manner. This cut has a metal ballad approach that feels a little progressive rock oriented in terms of the keyboard overlayers. It pounds out later in a scorching metallic fashion that works quite well to pull it up in a satisfying manner. It alternates between the mellower and harder rocking fashion getting more powerful as it continues on. A pounding metal crunchfest takes it later. It drops back to a slower, but no less heavy mode beyond that segment. It drops back to the mellow modes that started it to finally end. This is one of my favorite tracks as it shows up on Resurrection and is just a potent here.
Crystal
Another that originally showed up on Crucible, it opens up in an aggressive heavy manner, but drops back to more balladic modes for the verse. The heavy, nearly psychotic sounding section returns for the chorus and it alternates between these two modes. The guitar solo on this is particularly tasty.
Into the Pit
This is a demo of the classic Fight track. It’s crunchy and ferocious. This is one designed to break some necks in the mosh pit and it works just as well here as it did on the Fight showing. The guitar solo here is a bit on the noisy, somewhat random sounding side, but it works nicely for the whole of the track. This thing is just plain brutal.
Nailed to the Gun
Another demo of one of Fight’s tracks, this is even more frantic than the one that preceded it. This demo feels a bit too raw and unfinished in some ways, but still, it rocks out quite well.
Slow Down
Another Priest-like number, Halford's vocals really make this cut, a bit in the way they did on the Turbo album. This one is lyrically basically a quest for personal peace. "Let it be, Still my anger, Bring me peace, From my temper, I'm trying every way I can, I'm doing wrong I understand, Let it be - slow down - I can't have it, I can't have it all." This song includes a dramatic, more mellow section and the movement that pulls the cut back to its earlier mode is quite strong.
Locked and Loaded
This cut is not as strong as some of the other songs. It really feels a bit generic. It does have a catchy hook and nice crunchy riff, however.
Forgotten Generation
A new song from Halford’s self-titled band, and they waste no time getting to the meat, pounding out in reckless metal abandon from the starting gate. This one feels a lot like Judas Priest in many ways. The chorus, though, reminds me a bit of something from Iron Maiden. The guitar solo has a great swirling, epic metal pattern. There is a cool percussion solo section late in the piece. This is definitely a screamer.
Drop Out
Another new Halford piece, this comes in feeling a bit meaner and more twisted. It drops to a more standard metallic approach for the verse and in many ways this track feels like early Black Sabbath. The guitar riff calls to mind “Paranoid” just a bit and Halford’s voice even resembles Ozzy at times on the verse. The guitar solo here is a swirling, frantic pattern of notes at first, then leads into a more melodic jam that calls to mind Priest’s “Victim of Changes” a bit. They pound out into screaming territory once more and I really like this tune.
War of Words
Here we’re back into the Fight demo zone. A climbing melodic guitar mode leads this off as the First Amendment of the US Constitution is read over the top. Then it pounds out in an aggressive punk meets metal approach that is just plain mean. Of the three Fight demos on show here, I think this is my favorite.
Sun
Another cut that originally appeared on Crucible, this one comes in with less of a metal, more classic rock sound. Halford’s voice comes in to weave the melody and lyrics over the top of this in nice fashion. After the first verse they pound it out into metal modes and then alternate between the two motifs. The twin guitar segment on this is just plain killer.
Trail of Tears
Here we get the final Crucible track on this set, and it is another major metal journey. While this one is strong in some ways it doesn’t stand up to some of the other stuff here – or at least rise above enough. That said, the chorus is a step above.
Bonus Hypocrisy U.S. Mix
This is rather weird, a sort of techno / house take on Halford. It’s definitely a change up, but I don’t know if I like it. The chorus rocks out pretty nicely, though.
 
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