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Judas Priest - Sin After Sin, Stained Class, Hell Bent For Leather, Unleashed In The East
The second wave of four Priest reissues sticks a big sword in the band's best albums. If the band were formative through the first two, it is on Sin After Sin, Stained Class, Hell Bent For Leather and Unleashed In The East where the silver gleamed, the riffs rifled, and Halford was at his high-flying' best. But too bad it went over everyone's heads, the band writing too smart for a fledgling genre, absolutely vanquishing the competition with early speed, pre-thrash, intellectual doom, arcane religious thoughts, and sylvan production values. The deal here is that all are remastered (makes no difference), each (except the live corker) offer lyrics (some seem wrong or if not, newly embarrassing!), rare photos, compact though efficient remarks from the band, and most importantly, bonus tracks. Like the first wave, these rarities pretty much blow, save for all those Unleashed beauties that were offered on the Japanese version. The ancient Gun cover is kinda nice, but Fight For Your Life is merely a chop blocky early version of Rock Hard, Ride Free and Fire Burns Below is seven minutes of turgid boredom. But each studio album has a live nugget as well (again, two of them out of temporal context), and the original albums are pristine, lip-smacking metal perfection. Four more to come, after which you can line them all up with their special jigsaw puzzle spines in a collector's box. Yummy.
Rating 9.5, 10, 10, 9.5
Grave Digger - The Grave Digger
Grave Digger are back with another lusty mead-swilling pack of metal morsels, this dimwittedly-monikered album capturing a resplendent metal vibe that mercilessly squeezes out all power metal clichˇs while managing to sit in that camp, or more accurately, refocus it on the values that gave it that dumb "power" tag in the first place. No concept album this time, other than the fact that Edgar Allan Poe as subject matter got away from Chris and half the album concerns the dark, depressed, penniless, mooching, often ill, womanizing-when-he-got-a-chance waif. No, the operative here is a no-nonsense growling grind, Chris' inaccurate vocals bringing volatility to the proceedings, his backing band, a clear sense of trench-warfare metal honour these power metal goofs can't even hear let alone reproduce. Note: significant revamp: guitarist Uwe Lulis is gone, replaced by Rage's lead-headed riff monster Manni Schmidt, who anchors each song so the very ground vibrates with the force of a thousand drunken lederhosened Germans at Oktoberfest.
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