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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Halford

Crucible

Review by Mike Korn

The name of this record should really be "Redemption". "Resurrection" was a very apt title for the debut Halford CD. Former Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford was making his return to heavy metal after the disastrous experimental outing known as Two. "Resurrection" showed that metal was indeed still in Rob's blood. But was it there to stay? Could he return with an even stronger effort? --- There's no doubt about it now. "Crucible" is a terrific and gutsy statement of intentions from Halford, saying that they are not only here to stay, but here to dominate. It is heavier and more energetic than its predecessor but also more original and more daring. It establishes a Halford "sound". Comparing this to Rob's old band mates and their latest album "Demolition", would be patently unfair because this blows "Demolition" right out the door. It's really the kind of record Priest could have made after "Painkiller" or what Rob's first solo band "Fight" should have created.

All the performers are operating at peak capacity. Rob sounds a little less shrieky and a little more soulful on "Crucible". On "Resurrection", he had to prove he still had the lungpower for metal. On "Crucible", he shows more what he can do with that lungpower. Guitarists Pat Lachman and Mike Chlasciak have also picked up their game. Their work is more refined and inventive here and they indulge in some dueling guitar solos that would have Tipton and Downing nodding in approval. Outside of Halford the Metal God, the real star of the band is ex-Riot drummer Bobby Jarzombek. He is not only extremely fast, but very fluid as well, handling major time changes and fills with ease. He gives the record an added touch of class and is ably backed up by Ray Riendeau's pounding bass.

The record covers lots of territory, from thrash to Priest-like epics to more melodic explorations. Each song definitely possesses its own identity and the record never stays in one place too long. It works very well as a coherent collection of metal tunes. The lyrical theme would seem to revolve mostly around religion and a very dark take on it, my guess would be. This is a very deep and satisfying heavy metal record not lingering in any one subgenre but embracing both the past and the future. I'd say it's the best record with Rob Halford's name on it since "British Steel". His redemption is now complete..

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Park Manor
This brief heavy instrumental sets the stage for the next cut.
Crucible
The title track is one of the most compelling tunes on the disk. It begins with slower, heavy riffing possessing a definite Middle Eastern feel (a common theme on the whole record). The first time I heard this unusual singsong chorus, I didn't know what to make of it, but it really sticks in the brain. The piece has a very haunting refrain. The pace quickens quite a bit in the middle before a powerful climax. This is a superb heavy tune with Rob showing his strength in the more subdued vocal parts.
One Will
This one is a rock solid fast paced anthem with a very catchy chorus. The lyrics seem to apply to either Roman gladiators or basketball players - or both. There are some good Priestish guitar exchanges from Pat and Mike.
Betrayal
This is a song that jumps out, grabs you by the throat and yells "HEAVY METAL!" in your face. It's quick, brutal and to the point, with riffs that seem familiar but never delivered with more fury. Halford puts his screamier, higher pitched vocals on display here. I love the riffing beneath the solos in the mid-section. This is one of the record's best tracks.
Handing Out Bullets
I would have thought the pace would slow down here, but it doesn't. Bobby's drumming is blistering, and the tune is fast and crunchy to the max. Rob's vocals are double tracked and full of venom as they condemn religious terrorism. Good cut!
Hearts of Darkness
This is another powerful bruiser here! It's got a kind of chugga-chugga Fear Factory type riff, but the Middle Eastern feel is extremely pronounced on Rob's vocals. I like the combination of Arabic melody and industrial brutality. I didn't like the very abrupt ending, though.
Crystal
The record finally takes a bit of a breather here with this much more melodic cut. Not really a ballad, it has a very mournful quality to it. You can really hear how much Pat and Mike have improved. Rob's vocals transmit the sad feeling of the song very well indeed.
Heretic
A tough little number with some very heavy down-tuned guitar on the pre-chorus, this one also has shades of Soulfly. Not the most inventive number on show, it is enjoyable nonetheless.
Golgotha
Here is a song that will have all those who remember the glory days of Judas Priest weeping with joy. The track has "Stained Class"-era Priest stamped all over it. It starts with pounding slower riffing and Rob's vocals are exactly out of the elder era of Priest. The tune then quickens up brilliantly and shows some aggression. This is the sort of song that got me into heavy metal. It's as good as anything Judas Priest ever did in their heyday.
Wrath of God
Blazing all-out thrash is laid down with a vengeance here. It's not that original, but boy, does it kill! This is the fastest cut on the record.
Weaving Sorrow
"Weaving Sorrow" is a muscular crunchy anthem that shows some influence from nu-metal and bands like Godsmack but done in the Halford style. I thought it was one of the lesser cuts, but the chorus has a way of getting under your skin.
Sun
On this track, Halford really demonstrate how far they've come. It's a quirky and delightful number that is still pretty heavy, but very untypical of what we've heard before. The guitar is jangly and psychedelic and full of that Middle Eastern feel. Rob's vocals are extremely melodic. This is just a really cool tune.
Trail of Tears
That song title has to be one of the most over-used in the last couple of years. Nonetheless, it ends the album proper with a somber, slow-paced track that has a lot of emotion. It's not really the all-out attack I was expecting, but it shows that Halford can transmit intensity with a more melodic track. NOTE: Many copies of the CD will have two extra tracks but actually, I think you'd be better off going for the 13-track original. The two extras, "She" and "Fugitive", are both low-key ballads that really drop the intensity of the record as a whole. Stick with the "non-bonus" package to experience "Crucible" at its best.

 
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