Mixed reactions to "Nostradamus" notwithstanding, most longtime head bangers were pleased as pineapple punch to have Metal God Rob Halford back steering the ship of JUDAS PRIEST. "Angel of Retribution" was proof that the voltage levels remained high and though the quintet weren't writing all-time classics, they were certainly churning out anthem-level material. As for Halford's namesake project, "Resurrection" and "Crucible" came with sharpened blades and inferno heat. So why bother bringing up the past anyway? Because it reminds us of what Rob Halford is capable when the gloves drop and he comes out fighting. That is what makes a mediocre album in "Made of Metal" even more disappointing.
"Made of Metal" is the kind of album on which some long time fans will try to convince — if not completely delude — themselves into thinking that what Rob has done may not rival that of his past work, but is some sort of notable artistic achievement in its own right. That is, until you've made it through the album twice and on the third listen return to reality and accept that he's simply made an unexciting, largely colorless album that has its moments, but will ultimately end up in the great heavy metal bargain bin in the sky.
It isn't that it's all bad either; it's just that there are very few places that would be considered by the most objective fan to be "good." A couple of songs, including "Speed of Sound" and "Undisputed", are respected metal tunes, although the chorus of the latter is a too cluttered to be catchy. "Like there is no Tomorrow" is noteworthy for its better-than-average amount of metallic oomph and a rather epic chorus. There are several "almost" tracks as well. By that I mean those that keep hope alive for a while before murdering it with an overly polished and bland chorus ("Fire and Ice"), a tepid refrain on a song that begins with a horrendous electronic vocal effect straight out of a 1986, a quasi-experimental b-sides collection (the title track), or an embarrassingly bad pop-based chorus ("We Own the Night") that leaves one shaking the head in disappointment. Forget about "Heartless", "Hell Razor", and "Thunder and Lightning" too, unless you're a second-tier kind of guy or gal.
Continuing to toss "Made of Metal" tracks out of a moving car window like empty beer bottles is enough to make any HALFORD fan feel a twinge of guilt. But there is just no getting around the fact that while a song with the countrified twang of "Till the Day I Die" may be better than it sounds, it is still is not worth the time, "I Know We Stand A Chance" is an awful ballad, which makes a so-so power balled called "Twenty-Five Years" seem pretty strong. "Matador" tries to be colorful with its Spanish guitar flavors, but is little more than a humdrum rock song masquerading as metal. At least "The Mower" has a certain Birmingham machine shop clang and a sinister aura to it.
Writing about "Made of Metal" is actually worse than listening to it, based on high expectations that most will carry with them prior to hitting the "play" button. What is most unfortunate is that "mediocre" for some albums can be acceptable given one's mood at the time, but "mediocre" for an album on which Rob Halford performs is injurious to the heart and soul.