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Home / Music / Reviews music / Album Reviews / Music Review: Judas Priest – ‘Defenders of the Faith’ [Special 30th Anniversary Edition]
'Defenders of the Faith' was, in essence, a love letter to Judas Priest's legions of fans around the world. Over 30 years later, it remains one of their heaviest and best albums.

Music Review: Judas Priest – ‘Defenders of the Faith’ [Special 30th Anniversary Edition]

No one would’ve blamed Judas Priest if by 1984, the pioneering heavy metal band decided to take a long break from recording and enjoy the success of their breakthrough, best-selling 1982 classic Screaming for Vengeance. It was the British band’s eighth album, and their American fan base, in large part due to big exposure on a then-new medium called MTV, finally rewarded them with sales in the millions – double platinum there, five million copies sold worldwide.

But resting was not in Rob Halford and company’s plans. Not even for a second. Even with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal carrying the torch that Priest, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and other British metal innovators first lit in the early-to-mid-’70s, with thrash metal being in its early years – a movement JP heavily influenced – and hair “metal” bands springing up all over the place, JP wasn’t about to let anyone forget about them anytime soon.

Defenders of the Faith - 30th Anniversary EditionDefenders of the Faith was JP’s ninth full-length and fourth one in five years. Released early in 1984, it was a big hit but was seen in some corners of the Priest fandom as a bit of a letdown compared to SFV. Over time, however, it became seen for what it is, another classic Priest album. Over 30 years later, Sony Music is reissuing it as a three-CD package, with the original 10-track set (remastered by longtime producer Tom Allom) on one disc, and two bonus discs of an epic 21-song concert from Long Beach Arena in California from May 5 of that year.

As for the main portion of Defenders, if you just play the first seven tracks and listen to nothing more, the album would still rank amongst their very best – but of course, short of the groundbreaking 1978 Stained Class record, which will always be #1 in most Priest fans’ minds. But just the opening number alone is legendary. “Freewheel Burning,” with its speed metal firepower, has become the concert staple that Halford rides his motorcycle on stage to at every JP concert (alternating with “Hell Bent for Leather”).

Other singles and fan favorites include “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll,” “The Sentinel,” and “Jawbreaker.” There’s also the controversially sexual “Eat Me Alive” and (super bass-heavy) “Love Bites,” as well as the melancholic semi-ballad of loneliness, “Night Comes Down.” It may not be everyone’s favorite, but after all the headbanging and fist-pumping of those first seven songs, “Night” fits as a well-placed come-down moment as the eighth track. The last two, “Heavy Duty” and the title track, are linked together and like “Rock Hard, Ride Free,” stadium-ready, fan-friendly numbers. Unlike “Rock Hard,” however, they are pretty much forgettable after one or two listens. And therein lies my only small issue with DOTF, a weak ending – wishing it had one final blistering, high-octane track to close it out.

As for the live show on the bonus discs, almost one-third of the setlist is DOTF-based (nine tracks), while the rest of the discs contain many of the classic speed and anthemic metal cuts you’d expect (“Breaking the Law,” “Victim of Changes,” “Living After Midnight,” “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” etc.). A JP show is even more intense live than on record – that is one big reason they are such an iconic and influential group. And at Long Beach, the raw power of Halford’s insanely versatile vocals, mixed with the fiery dual guitar attack of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing, really brings to life then-newbies like “The Sentinel” and “Jawbreaker” just as much as they do to oldies like “Victim.” Like you’d expect anything less.

Defenders of the Faith was, in essence, a love letter to Judas Priest’s legions of fans around the world. Over 30 years later, it remains one of their best albums. You can experience the whole new three-CD version of it now, as it hit stores earlier this week. A digital-only version is available as well. Hit up judaspriest.com for more info, current tour dates, and other band-related updates.

About Charlie Doherty

Senior Music Editor and Culture & Society (Sports) Editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Prior writing/freelancing ventures: copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. Keep up with me on twitter.com/chucko33

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9 comments

  1. It’s too bad the remastering job is horrid. brickwalled to shit. the original sounds far better.

    • I saw people say the same thing on Amazon about the 2001 remasters. Maybe there was something wrong then but I totally disagree with such criticism now. There’s no lack of clarity or uneven balance of sound anywhere on my (new remastered) copy.

      • It may not be as obviously distorted as the first remastering, but it’s got even more of the life squeezed out of it via compression. Either way the original mastering is superior to both.

        • That might be true about the original tapes – I was like four years old when it first came out so I can’t vouch for the original master – but you must have gotten a bad copy of the remaster or should try it out on the best sound system you have (if you haven’t already). My (advance promo) copy sounds fantastic, theatrical-almost (“Love Bites”), with no compression/distortion whatsoever. And believe me, after the awful such production of Metallica’s Death Magnetic, I’d know it when I hear it.

          • You’d obviously hear the brickwall/clipping distortion, since that is what is you heard on Death Magnetic. You may not be as sensitive to the super low dynamic range, which is measurably present on the latest priest remaster. You can check for yourself at http://dr.loudness-war.info/

          • Cool resource (and thanks for that!) but no there is no clipping/distortion on my copy of DOTF. You definitely hear it on Death Magnetic, all over Lars’ drum parts. That’s why it was hard to listen to. If DOTF lacks anything dynamically, it’s overall volume (and it’s my best answer as to why that site gave it a low score). But I’m not going to judge the sound of an album by the score of such a website like that – it gave Arcade Fire’s Reflektor (which has been compared to U2’s Achtung Baby and Radiohead’s Kid A in some mediums) a bad DR score too. Anyway, that’s just my opinion. We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this.

          • Just FYI, those dynamic range (DR) scores are actual measurements, that anyone can make themselves. They show the ratio of the peak levels to the average (RMS) levels of tracks.

  2. Halford rides his motorcycle on stage when they play “Hell Bent For Leather” not “Freewheel Burning” as this article states.

    • No, he has ridden it to both songs over the years. I would know since I’ve seen JP and Halford live, and he always rode it to “Freewheel.”