By Michael Popke
Rob Halford recorded a holiday album in 2009, which must have freed the Judas Priest vocalist from the old-school metal chains that held him back for years. How else to explain the slide guitar on the Southern rocker “Till the Day I Die,” one of the standout songs on “Halford IV-Made of Metal”? Or the Auto-Tuned vocals on the NASCAR-themed title track? Or “Fire and Ice,” the closest the Metal God has come to a love song in who knows how long? He even acknowledges his own vulnerability in the slow-burn epic “Twenty-Five Years.”
Of course, there’s plenty of routine Halford material here, too – including “Undisputed,” “Speed of Sound” and “Hell Razor.” Backed by a crack band that includes the lethal guitar duo of Roy Z and Metal Mike Chlasciak, Halford proves why he’s still the godfather of metal anthems.
At age 59, he now sings in a more-natural voice (save for the “Painkiller”-era banshee unleashed on the album’s heaviest cut, “The Mower”), but who’s complaining?