ARTIST: Judas Priest
TITLE: Hell Bent for Leather (Killing Machine in the UK)
YEAR RELEASED: 1978 (1979 in the US in case you were wondering)
CHART ACTION: #128 US, #32 UK
SINGLES: Take on the World (#14 UK), Evening Star (#53 UK), Rock Forever
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Delivering the Goods, Hell Bent for Leather, The Green Manalishi (with the Two-Pronged Crown)
LINEUP: Rob Halford, KK Downing, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill, Les Binks
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Having broken through a bit in the US, Priest goes all-in, establishing a look and tightening and polishing up their sound.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: How do you review and album that you’ve known and loved forever? Well, you try to listen to things you haven’t heard before when you were mindlessly headbanging.
While not a huge chart success in the US, this was the breakthrough in terms of sound and approach. The Priest were now a tight, taut, heavy metal machine ready to rock the world. While there’s still some darkness and some deviance (especially on side two), here the band reins in any prog-rock aspersions and delivers tight, concise songs. (OK, some are over four minutes, but still that’s mostly some solos going on).
There are a couple of mis-steps. “Take on the World” is just a football chant that’s kind of a rip on “We Will Rock You”. It, of course, was a big hit in the UK. “Before the Dawn” is a ballad that’s, well, their best single ballad, but that’s not saying much. And “Evil Fantasies” seems a bit sparse.
The Priest were now primed and ready for their breakthrough. It would just be a matter of time.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: Columbia Records in the US didn’t like the Killing Machine title, so they had to come up with another. They chose the single track that is symbolic of the Priest, especially at live shows.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. The US version added the cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Green Manalishi”. Sorry Brits. Also, there is an outtake and a live cut appended, but not from these sessions. Why?
GRADE: A-: I love this record. But it has a couple of flaws Stained Class didn’t. Still, crank it.