Defenders of the Faith Special 30th Anniversary
3/21/2015 - Review by: T. Ray Verteramo
Skeptics have scoffed the re-issue as a cheap financial move. But, their latest release, "Redeemer of Souls," which was less than a year ago, did very well. Anyone who understands Metal understands that "Defenders of the Faith" is truly a work to celebrate by a band that's worth a thousand-gun salute.
There is much to be said for a band who have deified themselves…and no one argues.
When thousands of us first tore off the plastic on "Defenders" vinyl in1984, we all went for a wild, ruthless ride on the back of the "The Sentinel" that never ceased. From the first thrumming engine chord of "Freewheel Burning" to the deliciously controversial "Eat Me Alive," to the battle cry that was banned from the radio for three days after 9/11, "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll," to the haunting power ballad, "When the Night Comes Down," all the way until Rob Halford led us all to chant that we are "Defenders of the Faith," Judas Priest hasn't hit the brakes and neither have we. So, to the naysayers, you can kiss our big, buckled, leather boots.
The 2015 re-issue is a 3-disk package containing a re-mastery of the masterpiece and a full length live recording at the Long Beach Arena, California on May 5th, 1984. The overwrap design, itself, seems to be very well intended but poorly executed. At first glance, all you can see is an awkward "floating head" of the album's mascot, "The Sentinel," in cliché blackness, which just looks strange. However, if one takes a closer look, the rest of the artwork is very slightly etched. Unfortunately, too slightly, as when I mean "closer look", I mean you need to hold it up to a very certain light and hit it just right to be able to see it. Once the black sleeve is pulled off, one anticipates a re-design of the original album cover, but alas that is not the case. So, the initial impression does not so much say, re-issue or celebration, as it says, "another version of the same, just add black." This extremely subliminal print is also found on the inside of the first bi-fold, where you'll find the revision of the metal monster in deep vampiric crimsons and shadows. But again, it is so faint, it is difficult to "ooh" and "aah" what you can barely see, which is a shame because at a certain angle, it is very striking.
The booklet is appropriately retro, red on black, block print, classic 80's, with an energetic intro from the band telling the story behind the original recording (and how it almost didn't happen), some live photos from the epic near-riot show in Madison Square Garden that year, and a testament by journalist, Bryon Reesman. Nice, but not flooring.
Listening to the original disk and the re-master back-to-back, the most noticeable distinction is some of the original reverb was cleaned. But, for some inexplicable reason, the re-issue's vocals are pushed further back from the guitars – it's like painting over a Giger with a gray wash. The background has a little less sizzle, but other than that, much like the packaging, there is very little difference unless you're looking for it.
Again: Nice, but not flooring…until you hear the live recording.
Oooooh yes. Yes yes yes yes yes! This is pearl in the weirdly packaged clam.
What makes a live album worth listening to is the experience. When the sounds trigger the rush and the visuals of being before the stage with the smells, and the singing, and the screaming, with the ground trembling and your bones splitting and your ears ringing, that is how one knows it was done right – and this was done right. They delivered all the goods: "Electric Eye," "You Got Another Thing Comin'," "Victim of Changes," "Hell Bent For Leather," and "Breaking the Law," along with Defenders' classics. KK, Tipton, Hill, Holland, and Halford kicked it up and delivered such a show that night and you can feel it in your spine for hours in the agony of silence when it ends.
This is why they call themselves gods and no one contests them. And that is why this re-issue is worth a place in your collection.
Listen to the original "Defenders of the Faith" for that full-bodied metal flavor. Go online or through the archives for the eye-candy. But, it would be a crime and shame to miss out on the rock-n-rumble in Priest's temple. Happy anniversary, indeed.
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