Produced by Roy Z. Executive producer, A&R: John Baxter. Mixed by Bill Cooper, Roy Z and Joe Floyd.
“Crucible was created in room 303 of the Park Manor from 6 writing sessions held during March ’01 through August ’01. The exception to the just-noted is ‘Trail of tears’ which was written in the band’s Los Angeles rehearsal room a couple of days before formal tracking commenced — November 1, 2001.”
Released on Metal Is Records, 2002.
Judas Priest were formed in the Midlands, in Birmingham, England in 1969 and to date have sold over 50 million albums, and released 16 studio albums. And remarkably I don’t own a single one. I’m not really sure why, either. I used to listen to them on Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show, and at my school friend Dave’s house. I listen to them now from time to time on Planet Rock.
I suspect it may have been the name. Having come from a good Christian household, I may have found the name ‘Judas Priest’ a little off-putting; were these names being used in mocking sense? ‘Judas’: the apostle who betrayed Jesus; and ‘priest’: a member of the clergy. Were they portraying themselves as representatives of a caste who betray the Christ? Well, clearly the answer is NO. I can see that now, but the 13 year old me wasn’t quite so certain, so I stuck to more wholesome bands like Slayer, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost and Morbid Angel. I kid you not!
I first picked up this album when there was a Fopp record store in St Andrews. One lunchtime I wandered in and twenty minutes later wandered out again with two Halford CDs. The other was Resurrection (2000).
From its first spin I have loved this album. Fifteen tracks of balls-to-the-wall metal. (To be honest, I actually have no idea what that phrase actually means. It sounds hard and metal, though, doesn’t it.)
The album opens gently with “Park Manor”, the metal band equivalent of an orchestra tuning up before a symphony, then segues seamlessly into the title track, “Crucible”: killer riffs, blast-beat kick drums, bassy production, face-ripping vocals.
Something that I really admire about this album is how heavy it sounds, but also how melodic. These are beautifully written metal songs. And while there is no way this side of a throat-altering operation that I could ever sing like Mr Halford, I do love to sing along to the songs on this album.
There are songs like “Heart of darkness” that are so simple you want to kick yourself for not having written them yourself. But sung by anyone else.. they just wouldn’t sound right somehow. “Heart of darkness” is a cracking song, by the way. One of my favourite on the album.
As I’m listening to the album now, I’ve just reached track 10 “Wrath of God” and there hasn’t been a weak track yet. And then this song blasts through my speakers, like a freight train through my living room wall. It’s relentless. It has all the energy and enthusiasm of an album’s opening track and yet here it comes towards the end of the album. It’s symbolic of Halford’s undiminished enthusiasm for his craft. This isn’t just a filler album, something to keep the money pouring into the coffers. This is the real deal. Passionately made heavy metal. And I for one am thankful for it.
As the album draws to a close the pace slows a little with two beautiful songs “Sun” and “Trail of tears”, but still perfectly heavy. The version of the album I have comes with two bonus tracks. The first “She” slows things down much further, and could rightfully be called a ballad. It’s a song, I believe, that Halford wrote about his mother. The lyrics are beautiful and touching.
She sang to me before I breathed
Alive inside she gave me life
There aren’t too many metal songs that bring tears to my eyes, but this is definitely one of them.
This is a beautifully written album. I really have nothing to compare it with, in terms of Halford’s other work (other than his previous Halford LP) so I’ve no idea really how it rates against his work in Priest, for example. But perhaps that’s a good thing. I rather like that I can appreciate this for what it is, standing on its own merits. And it is certainly an album that merits praise.
Since I first stumbled on it, in that long- and sadly closed branch of Fopp on a driech lunchtime afternoon in St Andrews, this has been an album that I’ve returned to again and again, and I will again for quite some time.
Review score: 100%