Judas Priest - Defenders of the Faith

You know you are in for a rough day when your sub-conscious sets off its own internal alarm clock and wakes you up with the words to “The Sentinel” ringing in your head: “Sworn to avenge, condemn to hell!” By the time I was stumbling out of the house my inner iPod was playing “Heavy Duty.” As I got in the car and hit the road I moved on to “Freewheel Burning.” Sigh. Monday. Another week Defending the Faith.

I gave in and dialed up “Defenders of the Faith” on the real-world iPod. I guess someone is trying to tell me I should be talking about Judas Priest today. As always seems to be the case while driving, I eventually made my way over to “British Steel”, but my love affair with the Priest began with “Defenders of the Faith”, so let’s talk about that.

1984, aside from being a rather Orwellian year, was also the year that I would come to discover two of my all time favorite metal bands: Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Up until this point I was listening to Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Black Sabbath and Ozzy. I had never heard anything quite as heavy as “Defenders of the Faith” and “Powerslave” (yes, there was Venom, Metallica and Slayer, but I would not come to find them until the next year.) Back then these two albums seemed ridiculously heavy and actually took a little while to grow on me.

“Defenders of the Faith” was another of those Columbia House purchases that defined my early musical tastes. I bought the album without knowing any of the songs; I saw the cover, looking like some sort of crazy Japanese anime monster, and decided I had to have it. The first time I played the album I was less than impressed by “Freewheel Burning.” It was so heavy. It took me a little while, but eventually I would “get” Priest and Maiden. I seem to recall at the time there was a supposed rivalry between Priest and Maiden (or maybe between their fans) because they were the top British metal bands. I never understood choosing one side or the other (particularly when it came to the Metallica/Megadeth feud) and so listened to both equally.

Now, 28 years later(!), I am of course very fond of each and every song on “Defenders of the Faith.” I have put so much mileage on all of these songs that they are like welcome old friends. “Freewheel Burning” and “The Sentinel” of course get a lot of attention from this album (if you have not heard it, Machine Head does a killer cover of “The Sentinel” as a bonus track from last year’s “Unto the Locust.”) And of course “Eat me Alive” was singled out by Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) for objectionable content. I do not expect most metal kids today know anything about the PMRC; you are welcome, we killed that bullshit dead.

It does not really make sense to say “my favorite tracks” since I like them all, but I feel I need to mention that I was also a big fan of “Rock Hard Ride Free”, “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” and “Night Comes Down.” Just now, as the first notes of “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” started to play, I flashed back to sitting at my dad’s old kit computer playing very, very early Dungeons & Dragons style games that mostly consisted of text and “#” and “$” characters on the screen representing things of interest. Wow, switching genre references here, I have to say what a long, strange trip it has been. That was certainly a lifetime ago, yet these songs have been a part of me all that time.

Some people will swear by “British Steel”, “Stained Class” or “Screaming for Vengeance.” Those are all great albums, but for me it always comes back to “Defenders of the Faith.”

Here is a live version of “The Sentinel.” Based on the stage gear this looks like it was filmed during the tour for “Turbo.” Wow, I forgot Rob used to have hair.