Rob Halford is a Metal God. There is no denying this. When it comes to the godfathers of metal, the names that come to mind are Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest. These three distinct flavors have had some sort of influence on everything that has come since. Sure, you can argue the point, but that is how I see it. Now, recognizing Halford and Priest’s contributions over the decades makes listening to this album a rather disappointing experience.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some good moments on here. The problem is that the best I can say about Made of Metal is that there are moments. The production values and performances are quite good on the whole, but where it doesn’t hold as much water are the songs themselves. They feel lackluster, largely uninspired, at best galloping Priest-tinged metal, and at worst dull semi-metallic excursions that just fall limply around the ears.
It goes without saying that Rob Halford’s place in metal history is secure and he could turn out a polka album with no damage done. Even the great ones make missteps along the way (and Halford has previously disappointed with his Two project in the 1990′s). I am not quite sure where this went off the tracks, but it is pretty early on.
Made of Metal opens with “Undisputed,” a track that tells the story of a champion boxer. It has a great classic metal gallop that is hard to deny. The problem is that the lyrical phrasing feels really strange and awkward. It is not so much the content (although, listening to Halford sing about boxing reminds me of Megadeth’s hockey anthem) as it is the words chosen. It sounds like he has to carefully dance around them to get them out in a timely manner. So, after a promising beginning it quickly falls off, save some nice guitar soloing.
The second song, “Fire and Ice,” follows much the same pattern. There is a nice metallic gallop but when the chorus kicks in, it just doesn’t work. It sounds common and beneath someone of Halford’s stature. Then there is the title track, with its auto-tuned opening and the NASCAR subject that fails to engage me.
It is not until the sixth track that I got into gear with the album. The funny thing is that it is a country-western tinged metal track called “Till the Day I Die.” There is something interesting about Halford experimenting with the opening twang of this tune and the rock groove it builds into. This is an album highlight.
Another highlight is his ode to sobriety with “Twenty-Five Years.” There is something about the way he belts out the title that gives me chills. I am not so sure it is the words so much as it is the sound and power of his voice and the apparent emotion the subject brings up in him that energizes the performance.
Made of Metal closes with a pair of enjoyable songs. First is the power ballad, “I Know We Stand a Chance.” There is a sense of hope in the tune that is also a little mournful. It has a nice flow that carries the ear as it weaves its way through. This leads directly into the heaviest tune on the album, “Mower.” This is what I expect from Halford. Heavy, driving, and Halford getting up there in register. This is the sort of song that makes you put the horns up even if you are alone. It is metal.
Yes, the production is good. The instruments are all crisp and distinct and the work is first rate. Halford also shows that he still has the power to drive those old school metal pipes. It is too bad the songwriting feels like it was rushed. The overall feel just comes up a bit short. Granted, there is a lot worse out there. Perhaps it is just me expecting more from someone like Halford. If you are a fan, you will likely enjoy this but I doubt you will turn to it over prior Halford releases.