To many of their American fans, Judas Priest's fifth album, Hell Bent for Leather, has become synonymous both with the group's adoption of a leather-and-studs wardrobe (a byproduct of singer Rob Halford's then still closeted gay lifestyle) and with crystallizing the more concise and versatile heavy rock songwriting that would be repeatedly polished to a platinum sheen by the early '80s. Funny thing is, Priest fans everywhere but the U.S. felt the very same ways about Priest's Killing Machine LP, which is not at all surprising once one realizes they are in fact the same album, by and large. As the story goes, Columbia Records' U.S. office objected to the original title's violent connotations and insisted on using the far more sexually charged, homoerotic alternative -- making this possibly the first and last occasion in history in which Europe chose violence over sex and America sex over violence, instead of the other way 'round. Anyway, other than the album titles and the addition of Priest's cover of Fleetwood Mac's "The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)" to the U.S. track listing, both editions were otherwise virtually identical, down to the cover art and remaining song sequencing. Which brings us back to the aforementioned laser-focused but diverse songs contained within. On the one hand, high-powered juggernauts like "Delivering the Goods," "Running Wild," and "Hell Bent for Leather" kept the Priest metal machine firing on all cylinders; on the other, infectious numbers like "Rock Forever," "Take on the World," and "Burnin' Up" crossed new thresholds of rock radio accessibility; and, having broken through the "ballad barrier" with Stained Class' "Beyond the Realms of Death," the band now felt emboldened to push well beyond it with ever more broadly appealing new offerings like "Evening Star" and "Before the Dawn." These are the real reasons, above all else, why Killing Machine/Hell Bent for Leather was such a pivotal album in Judas Priest's career, and remains a favorite among fans across the world, no matter what title is attached to it. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia
- Format: Vinyl
- Genre: Rock
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Meta Artist: Judas Priest