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Judas Priest Metalogy Box Set

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Tuesday, May 11, 2004 @ 11:41 AM


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It finally happened.

Yep, hell froze over--Rob is back with Priest—and they’re currently slated to co-headline Ozzfest. If history is any indication, Judas Priest may be called upon to carry the headlining burden alone on at least a few of those dates. There is even talk of a new album and tour that could come after the summer. Until that day arrives though, records need to be sold and the current mainstream enthusiasm for the original lineup needs to be capitalized on in some way. This brings us to the new multi-disc retrospective entitled Metalogy. It is essentially four discs representing a plethora of Priest material that also includes a DVD and special packaging most likely involving some form of studded leather. The majority of the songs collected for this offering have been previously released, but there are a few unreleased and live tracks sprinkled in as well.

The pervading thought the listener should have after listening to disc one of this set should concern just how great an album Sad Wings of Destiny is. In some ways, it’s easy to hear someone mention the name “Judas Priest,” and have their mental image revert automatically to the cover art for Screaming for Vengeance or Defenders of the Faith. That’s understandable because those records helped define metal for a generation. The sound was arena sized, and the tunes played like anthems among the cotton like hair of the rockers in attendance. Songs like “Never Satisfied,” “Tyrant” and “Deceiver” rock just as hard, but they are appealing in much the same way that songs from Def Leppard’s High n’ Dry stand in stark contrast to tunes on Hysteria. A live rendition of both “Diamonds and Rust” as well as “Starbreaker” have never been available on cd before, and are now present here as is slamming take on “The Green Manalishi,” which hasn’t been available previously in any form.

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The second disc primarily consists of tracks from Hell Bent For Leather and Point of Entry. The obvious selections are all represented here such as “Heading Out To The Highway” and “Hot Rockin’” and “Screaming For Vengeance.” The unreleased track here is a formidable live performance of “Grinder,” which is without a doubt not one of the band’s stronger songs, but this version is actually better than the studio cut. There are also concert recordings of four other songs that haven’t previously been available on disc. “Breaking The Law,” “Hot Rockin,’” “Hellion/Electric Eye” are all predictably stellar performances that are of a high enough quality that the listener is left to wonder what other live archived materials exist which may someday get released.

The third installment of this collection consists of particularly classic songs taken from Screaming for Vengeance and Defenders of the Faith and Turbo—possibly the three strongest albums in their repertoire. I know, I know—many Priest purists continue to not accept Turbo as classic, but… I don’t care. Again, the obvious choices are all present, but a live run through of “Love Bites” and a new song titled “Heart of a Lion” are the wildcards here. The latter is a worthy demo that makes one wonder why it was never included on disc—it really is surprisingly good. The sound quality on this track could be improved, but when you’re dealing with a demo, these types of audio deficiencies are to be expected.

The last offering is easily the weakest. It contains tunes from Ram It Down, Painkiller and a few selections from the Ripper era. Nothing contained here is new, and this disc probably could have been left off of this set without too many complaints. That being said, “Blood Red Skies” and “Touch of Evil” are the highlights. I would venture to say that if Priest plays more than one song from this disc during their stint on Ozzfest this summer, it would be a complete and total shock. It’s just hard to picture Halford tearing through Ripper era material, and it’s safe to say that none of the tunes listed here are considered genuine Priest classics. That isn’t to say the listener should toss this out the window, it just begs the question of whether or not this space could have been used for other material that the fans might enjoy more. It’s probable though that the band felt it necessary to distribute the songs as evenly as they could throughout their career so as to make it seem as though the last fifteen years or so haven’t been completely irrelevant. That being said, it is still impossible to deny that the majority of truly impressive material from this band was recorded before 1986.

What most people would consider the prize of this box set would be the DVD featuring an entire Judas Priest concert performed in Memphis, Tennessee during the “Screaming for Vengeance” Tour. The set list includes all of the staples of a classic Priest show—“Diamonds and Rust,” “Riding on the Wind” and “Victim of Changes.” The band is also depicted in all their vintage leather-clad glory. There are no real surprises here. It is what it is, which is basically Judas Priest in its prime. Watching this did cause my mind to ponder at least a few essential issues though:

1). An interview I read awhile back with some heavy metal musician contained some line where he said that he felt personally cheated by Halford’s disclosure that he was gay. This guy seemed to believe that he had been misled somehow throughout his adolescence and now felt betrayed in some way. The thing that struck me though after watching this footage was that it wasn’t as though old Rob was exactly trying to hide anything. I mean, short of taking a dude up on stage and sticking his woody in the old poop shoot, Mr. Halford did just about everything he could to resemble the lead singer from the Village People--albeit with a bit less pigment in his skin. The coolest part of that situation to me though has always been the knowledge that hardly any other person in metal could get away with being a homosexual and still have a career. It seems that the most important aspect of this issue is that gay or not, Rob is without a doubt one of the top five metal vocalists of all time, and he still commands respect within the metal community. I don’t care if he leads a dude around by a dog collar in his spare time or lives in Fruitville, the music is still the same either way. “Eat Me Alive” does take on quite a new meaning though…

2). The next prompting for rumination in my head concerned drummer Dave Holland. Exactly how fucked up is this guy? Every time a camera would focus on him, I couldn’t help but picture this guy years later trying to abuse a drooling, retarded paraplegic. There has to be a special circle of hell for that type of handicapped-related perversion. To make matters even worse, I always assumed he was at least trying to get with a wheelchair ridden girl—nope, seems old Dave is a bisexual and was convicted of perpetrating a sex act on a boy with a mental age of around eight or nine who was taking “drum” lessons from him. Don’t ask me where the fucking sticks were. Anyway, all you groupies (guys and gals) out there who thought it was cool to bone the drummer of the mighty JP back in the eighties, you can really consider yourself part of an exclusive group now! Breakin’ the Law, Breakin’ the Law!

3). The last item that I considered in detail was the plight of Ian Hill. You would hardly even know this guy was in the band if he wasn’t in the group photos that used to be plastered all over Hit Parader back in the day. As for his presence on this DVD, hell, I was practically on the screen as much as he was. Granted, I’m not screaming for more Ian Hill… I’m just wondering if there has ever been a bass player in rock more inconsequential than this one. I think they would have plugged him in underneath the stage if there had there had been proper ventilation.

Admittedly, all this description is nice, but what is ultimately important is whether or not this boxed set is worth the asking price—retail around $55 or $60 on the Internet.

Basically, what this boils down to primarily concerns what offerings from the Judas Priest catalogue are currently available in your cd case. If you’re already an ardent fan, it may not make much sense for you to repurchase a lot of material that you essentially already own even if it is remastered in all of its “aural luminosity.” There just isn’t enough quality previously unreleased material here to make it worthwhile. Yeah, the DVD is great, but it isn’t sixty bucks worth of great. It’s obvious that this retrospective has been released to coincide with Halford’s return, and Priest is doubtlessly a band that deserves the box set treatment, but this collection would have been better served to have taken out most of the material on disc four and just included another live performance from a different tour in its stead. On the other hand, if you never owned any Priest because you were too poor, ignorant or incarcerated to obtain some, then yeah, this would be worth every cent. My guess though is that most of the people interested in making this a part of their collection probably own at least a couple of albums or more of JP material to begin with and need to just decide if the extras are worth it. Sure, it looks like Rolling Stone gave this a four star rating, and Blender gave it three, but you know those fairies don’t own any metal and probably sit around saying dumb things like, “How ironic is it that Priest covered Joan Baez? That’s so cool! Have you heard the new Jet album?” My advice to the true metal fans though is to take the money you would have spent on this boxed set and buy a ticket to a Priest show somewhere this summer. What the hell… they can always title this year’s trek the “Out of the Box, Out of the Closet Tour.” Oh, by the way, you can go ahead and take your handicapped neighbor to the show—Dave was eventually convicted of a number of charges and hasn’t been with the band for quite awhile. Too bad for him though as I’m sure that incarceration will eventually mean that “he’s got another thing comin’.”

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