Halford delivers. I know a lot of fans were concerned. After the hard-hitting Fight album, Rob Halford went in a more industrial/electronic direction with Two, and his conservative metal fans were disappointed. He made it up to them by hand-picking a band to back him up in the band Halford for its first album, Resurrection. Resurrection was hailed by metal fans around the world as a return to what made Rob a Metal God. The riffs were strong, the songs were classic, and Rob’s vocals were as powerful as ever. On their second studio album, Halford keeps the same foundation, but builds in new directions to avoid covering the same ground again and again.

Crucible is hard, darker, and more moody than Resurrection , borrowing from Fight the way the first album built on the Judas Priest legacy. Some tracks are quite heavy, such as “Handing Out Bullets” with its rapid-fire delivery, and “Hearts Of Darkness,” with its creative use of overdubbing, where Rob harmonizes with himself in two different octaves. This is not to say that Priest fans will not find something of interest here. The gladiatorial “One Will” would be at home on several classic Priest albums. At the other end of the spectrum, tracks like Sun showcase the melodic virtuosity of the entire band.

Rob has surrounded himself with outstanding musicians in this new band. The twin guitar attacks of Pat Lachman and Mike Chlasciak sound complex and effortless at the same time. Ray Riendeau’s bass lines rip through the room on song after song, while Bobby Jarzombek plays some of the tightest drums I have heard in years. While Rob’s vocals may be what will attract people to a Halford album, the rest of the band keeps people coming back for more. Handling the production duties, Roy Z. pushed the band in new and different directions. Being a talented guitarist and singer himself (Tribe Of Gypsies), he helped the band traverse the various metal subgenres throughout this album.

Halford avoided recording the same album again, and they also avoided selling out to the new-style fusion metal that is getting airplay these days. Instead, they recorded an album that stretched the band musically while still staying true to their own visions. In doing so, I think they have created an album with several songs that could be significant as singles — “Betrayal” has had me singing along with it since I first listened to the album and the anti-Meth treatise “Crystal” has a hook that just leave you alone. If you were ever a metal fan, you need to pick up Crucible. If you think you might be a metal fan, this album will give you a good chance to find out. And if you hurry, you might be able to get one of the first copies that include two bonus tracks — “She” and “Fugitive” — both excellent additions to an already outstanding album.

Sanctuary Records: http://www.sanctuaryrecordsgroup.com • Halford: http://www.robhalford.com

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