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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Judas Priest

Hell Bent For Leather - Expanded Edition

Review by Gary Hill

Hell Bent For Leather was the first Judas Priest I ever heard, and for that reason has always been one of my favorites. While not all the songs are spectacular, it definitely has some strong material. The sound of the band was transforming a bit on this disc, but still had not gelled into the more anthemic mode that became a trademark of the band later. No other Priest disc really has a sound like this one, putting it either into a love it or hate it mode. Frankly, I am in the love it category.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Delivering The Goods
This is a solid and gritty metal number. It's quite effective and features a great guitar solo break. I've always loved the latter verses on this one. It gains a lot of energy as it carries on.
Rock Forever
This cut, rather generic Priest is saved by a cool arrangement on the verse and Halford's awesome vocal delivery.
Evening Star
The first Priest song I can remember getting airplay, this is a metallic ballad that has a lot of class. The chorus here and mid verses rock out hard here, though.
Hell Bent For Leather
Now, this is more like it. This frantic Priest classic is a smoker and always a personal favorite. If this doesn't get you on your feet, dial 911 and have them send the ambulance. The guitar solos here are awesome, as is the vocal arrangement.
Take on the World
This starts with percussion and is an anthemic "We Will Rock You" type piece. Personally, it's never ranked high for me. I've never really gotten the whole stripped down, drum driven vocal dominated cuts.
Burning Up
Sound effects way down in the mix give way to a harmonic chord that feels like the famous one from Yes' Roundabout. This gives way to a grinding metal romp that has always been a favorite of mine. Halford's oh so cool deliver coupled with some awesome guitar work and an extremely potent mid section, atmospheric and bluesy all add up to create an exceptionally powerful seductive song. The quirky timed instrumental break after the midsection is quite cool, too.
Green Manalishi
Who would expect Judas Priest to cover Fleetwood Mac? Still, this one was from the psychedelic blues Peter Green era of that band. The original is slow and rather creepy. The Priest ramp up the volume and intensity, but keep the song pretty well intact otherwise. Halford's higher than the heavens stake on the outro vocal becomes a trademark of Priest, and the guitar solo on this one purely smokes. This one really becomes all Priest and a killer classic metal song at that.
Killing Machine
This riff driven cut about a professional killer is a smoker.
Running Wild
This metallic romp seems a bit more like something from Sin After Sin or Stained Class. The main verse of this leaves me a bit cold, but the instrumental break and vocal segment that follows, along with the frantic guitar soloing on the outro take this one above mediocrity.
Before the Dawn
A beautiful acoustic guitar driven ballad, I've always fancifully thought that this one seemed like it was about a vampire. While true metal heads might be put off by this, the arrangement and song structure, with Halford's killer performance and a smoking guitar solo make this one a real winner in my book.
Evil Fantasies
One that has never really done much for me, this ode to S & M has a very stripped down arrangement. Halford's vocal performance is pretty stellar at times, though.
Fight for Your Life - Bonus Track
Feeling a little rough around the edges, this hard rocker seems to be a missing link between the Hell Bent sound and the later more anthemic mode of the band. It's a strong, if a bit understated and generic track and a nice addition to the disc.
Riding on the Wind (Live) - Bonus Track
Fast and frantic, this live cut smokes, but since the studio version wouldn't appear for several years after this album, it seems an odd inclusion here. Still, the band put in a very strong performance of this furious Priest classic.
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