It is mostly the attitude that is the difference maker between the albums. While "Screaming For Vengeance" is aggressive, "Defenders of The Faith" takes it to the next level, both when it comes to Rob's vocal performance, the Downing-Tipton shredding, and even Dave Holland sounds more pissed off this time around, in a good way. Just the fact that the album opens up with "Freewheel Burning" is like walking through the door and giving the party host a big slap, a action that is chocking, and could end in two ways, either a slap back at you, or a good laugh. I can definitely imagine that "Freewheel Burning" scared away some people when they first listened to it, while others went buck wild.
There is another thing that separates this album from its predecessor, the fact that it misses a super hit, a la "Breaking The Law" or "You've Got Another Thing Comin'". I guess "Eat Me Alive" is the most famous song in this album, but it was never released as single, nor was it even close to reach the same fame among fans. However, it is not something that bothers me, since fame and number of singles sold does not instantly makes it a good song (exhibit A: "Living After Midnight").
"Eat Me Alive" did however get famous for being a very naughty song, qualifying in as one of the fifteen songs that the Parents Music Resource Center found to be the most offensive, known as the filthy fifteen. Despite its negativity, It was seen as an honor that the song was seen as filthy, mostly thanks to its pornographic lyrics. The best part of this song though (besides the awesome solos and the simple, but super effective chorus), is that it follows "Love Bites". It fits so good that it made me chuckle.
Still, there is nothing in this album that beats "The Sentinel", a song that I first thought, and I am being dead serious, was a Machine Head song. The band made a cover of this song as bonus for their album "Unto The Locust", and it was so good and convincing that I thought it was a original piece, only to find out years later that it was not. The thing that shocks me though, is even if I loved the Machine Head version, the Judas Priest version is even better. It is the dirtier production, the screeching guitar work, and most importantly, the insane vocals from the Metal God that makes "The Sentinel" so epic and hair rising that it is ridiculous. Oh, and the chorus is so god damn catchy, I cannot help myself, I must sing it every time I hear it. Sworn to avenge, condemned to hell, tempt not the blade, all fear the Sentinel.
The first half of this album is extremely good, but unfortunately, the second half cannot quite catch up. From "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll" and onwards, the quality slips, and the speed and aggression that the first part had built up is almost completely gone. I guess that "Heavy Duty" and the title track is quite good as chanting tracks, but they are both short (and quite frankly, should have been one song instead of two) and they end the album in an interesting, but disappointing way. Such a shame that the band did not keep their momentum, because they were like a runaway train, only to be slowed down by a sudden cow on the tracks.
Even with the slightly disappointing ending, "Defenders of The Faith" still stands tall as a great follow up to its legendary predecessor. The band is clearly on a roll, spitting out awesome melodies, riffs, and solos so we almost drown in them. The album is as fierce and tough as its kick ass cover, and I truly believe that this is how Judas Priest should act. Because even if the band can do a lot of styles and be very versatile, it is often that they are at their best when they go full on Hulk mode. Nonetheless, "Defenders of The Faith" is a great album, but it lacks the knockout punch to floor me completely.
Songs worthy of recognition: The Sentinel, Freewheel Burning, Eat Me Alive
Rating: 8/10 Heavy Duties