"War of Words" was quite a straight forward heavy metal record, offering few surprises, and the same goes with its cover. Now, would you guys say that this album cover says traditional heavy metal? Of course not, it looks more like some blackened doom album, or a less gruesome Slayer cover. So my natural instinct takes over and says that this is gonna be a muddy album, but it is easy to judge a album by its cover, so I ignored it, and pushed the play button.
"A Small Deadly Space" is certainly a more complex album than "War of Words". It is a album that is riskier in a lot of ways, even if this type of sound was pretty standard back in the convoluted 90's. The choruses here are not just utterings of the song's title (like it was on its predecessor), which diversifies the experience in a good way. But while the variety here is quite nice, I feel like the band had a hard time in creating a true core to it all, a foundation to rely on. Maybe that was the main reason to why the band split up just months after this was released, that Rob was not satisfied with how this was heading. The connection just was not there.
This album takes a lot of inspiration from Pantera, and while "War of Words" also did it, "A Small Deadly Space" makes it the main element, applying it to almost every song in this album. This also means that the Judas Priest vein is close to gone. No speed metal, very few screams, just groovy, heavy mauling. Personally, it is kind of odd to hear this from the Metal God, and I feel like it limits his performance quite a bit. Rob simply does not get to flex his wings in this small space (pun intended). I even hear a little Megadeth in "Gretna Greene", which is kind of interesting.
The production here is pretty gritty, which is perfect since it reflects the music pretty well. I enjoyed the fact that the bass got a lot of attention here, giving the music a heavier touch. Otherwise it is not so much I can say about the instrumentation since it is once again nothing really special. The guys does a professional job, but fail to implement a personal touch to the music. Halford is once again the man who gets most of the spotlight, but as I previously stated, the music is not really suiting him all too well, dragging his performance down as well. Overall, nothing to complain about, but nothing that is worthy of extra recognition. Well, maybe the final song of the record, "In A World of My Making", has some of the best performances in it, a fragile Rob and some nice, mellow guitar work gives the album a nice ending.
The song quality is fairly average though, with a couple of nice songs sprinkled here and there. Beside the already mentioned "In A World of My Making", we also got "Legacy of Hate", "Beneath The Violence", and "Gretna Greene" as the highlights of the album. However, they do not affect the overall feeling of the album too much, the fact that it is just like its predecessor, a bit sluggish. It feels a lot slower than it should, and I find it hard to endure all of the 48 minutes without losing focus. It is the wow factor that is missing, leaving me untouched and dry as a bone from no head banging. Not a lot of emotion going on when this record is played.
If you are a bit claustrophobic, both when it comes to spaces and music, "A Small Deadly Space" might not be for you. Despite its versatility, it sound very constricted, not finding enough room to expand its horizons. This marked the end for Fight, and while the band has been some what of a fan favourite over the years, I cannot say that I enjoyed my experience with this band. Sure, the music is not all too bad, but it never truly shines, it is just there, doing what it is supposed to do. In the end, I found "War of Words" and "A Small Deadly Space" to be quite equal, two albums that shares the same amount of positives and negatives. Fight as a whole is decent, and you should check them out if you are a fan of Rob Halford, but if I were you, I would set my expectations fairly low. After all, this is not Judas Priest 2.0.
Songs worthy of recognition: In A World of My Making, Legacy of Hate, Gretna Greene
Rating: 5,5/10 Mouthpieces