Monday, 5 November 2012

CD Review: Hell Bent For Leather, by Judas Priest (1978)

On Hell Bent For Leather, also known by its British release title Killing Machine, Judas Priest start experimenting with a more commercial sound. The heaviness still dominates, but there is an undeniable move towards shorter, simpler tunes, and radio-friendlier fare.

Hell Bent For Leather, the band's fifth studio offering, also suffers from a pervasive malnourishment of ideas. Seven of the eleven tracks do not make it past 3 minutes and 30 seconds in length, with many presenting a single idea, playing with it ever so briefly, and abandoning it. This being the second album released by the band in 1978 (the other being the more excellent Stained Class), and overall the fifth album in five years in an era when bands were expected to generate an annual album, there is a suspicion that Hell Bent For Leather contains quite a few out-takes, good themes that were never provided the necessary attention to grow up into full-fledged songs.

Still, there are a couple of gems worth savouring. Album opener Delivering The Goods is razor sharp, a terrific riff finding an exuberant groove celebrating dual guitar work with overcharged amps. And title track Hell Bent For Leather is a brilliant assault at full speed, with an inspired and inspirational solo providing the trailing smoke from Rob Halford's spitting vocals. The tragedy is that the track comes and goes in 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Brevity is sometimes a blessing, but a track this rich with potential cries out for oxygen to develop into a more mature epic.

Take On The World is a simplistic droning anthem, but tracks like Rock Forever and The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown) land on the right side of the brawn equation, infusing the album with good quality metal.

Hell Bent For Leather only just begins the search for a more popular sound. The album survives generally intact, the band's metal heart winning this round against the call of the wallet.


Robert Halford - Vocals
Glenn Tipton - Guitar
K.K. Downing - Guitar
Ian Hill - Bass
Les Binks - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Delivering The Goods - 9
2. Rock Forever - 8
3. Evening Star - 7
4. Hell Bent For Leather - 10
5. Take On The World - 6
6. Burnin' Up - 7
7. The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown) - 8
8. Killing Machine - 7
9. Running Wild - 7
10. Before The Dawn - 8
11. Evil Fantasies - 7

Average: 7.64

Produced by James Guthrie.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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