This will come as an unwelcome surprise to Angry Metal folks everywhere, but the new Halford album Made of Metal isn’t angry and is only partly made of metal. Despite the deceptive title, Halford‘s third solo album is a diverse but confusing mix of awkward, mostly flawed metal anthems, cheesy love songs with a metallic edge and poppy bubble gum metal/rock. Amid this confusion, only a few quality metal moments can be found. With all due respect to one of the founding fathers of heavy metal and a living legend to many (myself included), the results here are wildly inconsistent and just flat out disappointing.
Made of Metal starts out great with lead track “Undisputed” sounding like something off Resurrection. There’s heavy riffing, smoking solo work, a great metal gallop and Halford’s metal snarl in fine form. However, when the chorus arrives, it’s so damn awkward, it utterly derails the song. It’s just so painfully phrased and ill-conceived that it consigns an otherwise decent Halford number to the scrap heap. Follow-up “Fire and Ice” also starts out well and sounds like something off Ram It Down, until the chorus comes in and the pure cheesiness of it undercuts the momentum badly. This distressing pattern continues with the title track, which sports one of the worst choruses I’ve heard in a long time, coupled with horrifically bad synthesized vocals (think “Turbo Lover,” but worse). The fact that it’s a song NASCAR doesn’t help one bit either (other songs deal with equally regrettable subjects like boxing and bullfighting).
Fortunately, the next three songs are better and more metallic. Halford even attempts a country-western themed metal number on “Till the Day I Die,” which actually works, and is the album highlight (a bad sign for a “metal” album). Unfortunately, the cheese returns with “We Own the Night,” and to a lesser extent with “Heartless.” Both are tepid, forgettable candy-coated metal numbers. Of all the light-metal balladry, only “Twenty-Five Years” truly works because Mr. Halford really pours his emotions into it, making it feel sincere and genuine.
The rest of Made of Metal continues to walk the line between songs sounding like weak outakes from Halford/Judas Priest/Fight (“Hell Razor,” “Matador” and “The Mower”) and songs that make you scratch your head like “Thunder and Lightning,” which could be on a subpar Great White album, and “I know We Stand a Chance,” which is a grade C love song. The only constants throughout Made of Metal are Halford’s ageless pipes and painfully cheeseball lyrics.
It’s clear Mr. Halford wanted to step outside his normal musical territory and try something different and I totally respect him for that. In fact, this seems a more personal album for him, since a lot of the songs deal with love and relationships. However, he creates certain expectations by choosing the title Made of Metal and making the first single “The Mower,” which sounds like a leftover from War of Words (and is the only track featuring his legendary screams). Both choices seem like disingenuous and cynical marketing, since the majority of the album is comprised of mellow, radio-ready pseudo-metal.
After a metal career beyond compare, Mr. Halford is entitled to the benefit of the doubt and he can release any type album he wants and it won’t change his icon status. However, as much as I may wish otherwise, this is not up the standards of his past work in either heaviness or quality. There are four, maybe five decent songs here, and none are classics by any means. Don’t be fooled by the marketing. Made of Metal seriously lacks mettle.