Review Summary: Halford proves that not every solo artist is deserving of the sophomore slump tag, and Crucible is crucial proof of that.
When a former iconic member of one of the most widely hailed heavy metal bands decides to go solo, people normally focus on the possibly negative outcomes rather than the positive. Now, despite not knowing anything about Resurrection
around the time of its release until virtually a decade afterwards (I have only been a Priest/Halford fan since 2009), I can still understand the hype surrounding the record. I've said this before, but the fact that it's consistently referred to as one of this century's most important metal records is unsurprising to say the least. It basically defines the traditional values of heavy metal, and is further proof why Halford is so respected even to this day.
So, can the same be said for the 2002 follow-up, Crucible
? You bet.
The difficult sophomore plague, it seems, hadn't applied to Halford back when his second debut album was released. Matter of fact, I think he was like a kid in a candy shop when discovering he could bring more of the good stuff without coming across as over-excited or flamboyant about it all. Put simply, Crucible
is just as good as Resurrection
, but in different ways and stylings. Whereas Resurrection
was a practical homage to the more classic stylings of metal, Crucible
attempts to stray from this with a more modernised, versatile approach. The proof is most likely in the heavier, darker tones of songs like the title track, "One Will" and "Handing Out Bullets", guitar work more than living up to the standards set by the best Priest records. A lot of songs here demonstrate a more groove-laden, slow-burning songwriting ethic which emphasise heaviness rather than atmosphere. That said, it's also the reason why the album's first half is more accessible and memorable than the second. Not to say that the second half is worse in any way, but if there's ever a section of Crucible
that produces the album's best highlights, it's surely from the title track through "Crystal". Nonetheless, the musicianship is generally consistent and adapts to different metal styles as effortlessly as possible.
Halford's vocal approach on Crucible
is also different in comparison to Resurrection
. Here he seems to adopt a darker, more menacing tone which means that for the majority of the record, lower pitch is favoured and the higher-pitched shrills, very prominent on Resurrection
, are given less attention. But this isn't a bad thing at all, because Halford demonstrates here that he can strongly adapt his voice to numerous styles. For example, on the title track, you wouldn't want him to sound high-pitched, because of the heavier, more antagonistic songwriting and its accompanying musical performance which ultimately seeks to prioritise darker themes. Even better examples can be found in the album's outstanding highlights, the one-two strike of "Betrayal" and "Handing Out Bullets". The former marks a return to Halford's higher-pitched vocal delivery, whereas the latter is further proof that Halford's voice can perfectly match the heaviest riff he has been known to work with. Both songs are as long as each other (or short, given that the run-time for each is little over three minutes), but it's not just a case of delivering the goods: each band member gives the impression that they are enjoying what they do, and the blazing solo section is concrete evidence of that.
is different in both tone and concept compared to its predecessor, it is more of an evolution than a change in direction. It affects everything about Halford's solo material of course, but in much more of a positive way than a negative one. That said, the sophomore slump in no way applies to this record, because of its excellence and willingness to stay relevant.