Shortly after the slight success Staind Class, Judas Priest released Hell Bent for Leather (Killing Machine was the UK title) in 1979. This album ensured them a spot as “metal gods’’ as their popularity continued to increase in the UK, the US, and even in other countries such as Japan. In addition to this rise in popularity, Judas Priest relinquished their gothic and medieval look and started wearing black studded leather and would bring Harley Davidson motorcycles on stage. This greatly influenced the heavy metal look as so many other bands after them would wear studded leather and/or have an obsession with motorbikes. Moreover, their sound was altered as well. This album has a very upbeat sound that’s almost more like hardrock than metal. It is visible that Priest is trying something new to appeal more to the mainstream masses. Does it succeed" For most people and/ or Priest fans, yes. For me, no.
Rob Halford: Lead vocals
K.K Downing: Lead guitar
Glenn Tipton: Lead guitar
Ian Hill: Bass
Lez Binks: Drums
1) Delivering the Goods: The opening track starts off with an “on/ off” riff that is comparable to turning a light on and off. That’s the best way I can describe it. Then after a little lick the main riff kicks in. It is a nice solid riff that perfectly announces, “This is the new Judas Priest”. The lyrics, also, are more in your face and rocking and less dark and mysterious. “ Feeling like we’re ready to kick tonight. No hesitating, bodies aching, ready for some action satisfaction alright”. After the chorus, which is quite heavy, there is a decent solo followed by a nice buildup that leads back to the verse. The song ends with a little drum solo thing. A great song to kick off the album but unfortunately not all songs are as good. 4.5/5
2) Rock forever: This song begins with a bluesy intro that leads into a rock verse with Rob singing about how rock lightens him up and makes him happy and what not. The beginning of the song seems kinda weak but the chorus is good and makes up for it. Especially Rob’s scream. After the second chorus there is a vocal harmony followed by an insanely high scream that leads into a solo. The song ends after a last chorus. A decent song but there’s too much rock and not enough metal. Not that that’s bad it’s just that… this is Judas Priest. 3.5/5.
3) Evening Star: Starts off with a slow intro with Rob singing about how he follows a star to guide him. Cheesy lyrics, bad riffs that are not catchy, and average vocals can be attributed to this song. The chorus sounds like neither rock nor metal nor anything remotely associated to Judas Priest. It kinda sounds like something out of a bad musical or a song from a kid’s movie. In addition the chorus is repeated too many times. Skip this song. 1.5/5.
4) Hell Bent for Leather: The title track (US) starts with a few chords and some drumming in the back round. Then the famous riff comes in and after a bit of drumming Rob comes in with the verse. The whole song is catchy but the best part is the pre chorus where Rob sings, “Wheels, a glint of steel and a flash of light. Screams, from a streak of fire as he strikes”. After the second chorus there’s a little part where Rob sings, “There’s many who tried to prove that they’re faster but they didn’t last and they died as they tried”, followed by a cool but short little solo. The song ends after a last chorus. A fun song that is very catchy. 4/5.
5) Take on the World: Kicks off with a drum intro followed by the rest of the band. This song is slow and has a similar feel to an anthem. The problem is the lyrics. They are SO bad and cheesy.
“You got to leave your seat, you gotta get up upon your feet,
You're gonna move ya to the rhythm till you never can stop.
We got the power, we got the music, and you bet that you can use it,
We're gonna take rock-bottom, we're gonna take it to the top.
Put yourself in our hands, so our voices can be heard,
And together we will take on all the world.”
In addition, the melody that Rob chooses to sing in sounds like this song is in a kid’s movie, a really bad kid’s movie. The instrumentals are weak as well, with the exception of the drums that keep a steady catchy beat. A terrible song. 1/5.
6) Burning up: Starts off quietly with a few sound effects. Then, a high-energy riff that is almost funky comes in. The instrumentals are quite good but the lyrics are weak. “We’ve got to make love, the time is right. We’ve got to make love tonight”. After the second chorus there is a slower section with more poor lyrics, which brings us to a solo. The song ends after a last chorus. A good song with a funky feel. That’s pretty experimental right there. 4/5.
7) The Green Manalishi (with the Two-Pronged Crown): This song is a cover from Fleetwood Mac. Starts with a little drum playing followed by a very melodic riff. The verse is heavy but simple. The lyrics in this song luckily are not bad because they were written by Peter Green and not Rob Halford. Unfortunately, I do not know what they are about. I believe it is something about love or the perfect chick or something like that. After the second chorus we are treated to an excellent solo. I think Priest wrote their own solo for the song because I couldn’t see Fleetwood Mac doing solos like that; they are too metal of solos. The song ends after a last chorus and a little melodic part. A very melodic and catchy song. Judas Priests cover is excellent. 5/5.
8) Killing Machine: The title track (UK) starts with some weird riff followed by Rob singing about him being a hit man. The verse isn’t too catchy and it sounds kinda boring but the chorus is a bit heavier. Overall this song is pretty insipid and generic. Rob doesn’t even display his vocal prowess. Not too great of a song. 2.5/5
9) Running Wild: Starts with the verse riff being played without the drums or bass. Then, Rob screams “Alright”. And the drums and bass kick in. Rob eventually starts singing about how he’s so crazy and how he kicks everyone’s ass. Yes, that is what the song is about. Pretty lame, I know. The riffs are pretty heavy despite their simplicity like many other Priest riffs. Another bad part about this song is that there is no good solo. An average song. 3/5.
10) Before the Dawn: This song is a ballad. Starts off with a slow chord progression being played note for note. Then Rob starts singing. If I’m not mistaken there are no drums in this song and possibly no bass. It seems like a fairly average ballad. Then you hear the lyrics and you realize it is a bit worse than average. For example, “It's been a lifetime since I found someone since I found someone who would stay. I've waited too long, and now you're leaving. Oh please don't take it all away”. There is a decent guitar melody towards the end of the song but it’s not enough to save the song. A not so convincing ballad. 2.5/5.
11) Evil Fantasies: Kicks off with a rock riff that continues into the verse. The lyrics are, as the title suggests, about evil fantasies. In other words the lyrics, as usual, are not great at all. The verse isn’t catchy, and neither is the chorus. This song would be horrible if it weren’t for the middle section, which is catchy and heavy. Yet, it is only an E power chord being played at a certain rhythm. Simple but catchy is the Priest formula. A bad song and a weak closer despite the good middle section. 2/5.
For fans of British Steel and the really mainstream Judas Priest albums, this is a must have. Yet, I didn’t like it because it had too many commercial and superfluous elements such as the more hard rock and less metal sound. Also, with the exception of The Green Manalishi and the US title track, there are no good solos. In addition the album seems to go down the drain after track seven; it becomes repetitive and trite. This could have been quite a decent album if the last four tracks were even just a bit better and if the tracks that I rated less than two were never recorded. Despite all this, this was an important period of Judas Priest’s career. It was when they became extremely famous and were acknowledged as one of the best metal bands out there. Also, although this album came out more than twenty-five years ago, Rob Halford still brings the Harley on stage during the song Hell Bent for Leather to this day. In conclusion there are some great ideas on this album and even some great songs but the abundance of weak or average tracks brings the score down a whole lot.
Recommended tracks: Delivering the Goods, Hell Bent for Leather, The Green Manalishi.
Final rating: 3/5.