The ruckus made in recent years about JUDAS PRIEST attempting a controversial metal opera with “Nostradamus” can be used as a frame of reference if you weren’t there for the controversy “Turbo” created for the band in 1986. The album was hung upon PRIEST as an indictment by “pure” headbangers in the same way “Load” would be upon METALLICA a decade later. “Turbo” was met by mainstream listeners with an ingratiating thumbs-up, as was MOTLEY CRUE’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” and DEF LEPPARD’s “Hysteria”, other albums by hard rock giants who took softer, more commercial stances in the same timeframe and found their way to riches. To less profitable degrees, it’s the same soft-soap stumblebum as ALCATRAZZ’s “Dangerous Games” and TYGERS OF PAN TANG’s “The Wreck-Age”.

“Turbo Lover” charged onto MTV and “Headbangers Ball”, which had already been playing the tar out of “Love Bites” and “Freewheel Burning” from “Defenders Of The Faith”. The latter were righteous JUDAS PRIEST beasts chased off to the new-order cybernetic shrill of “Tron”-inspired motorcycles. Like Tom Petty did to much better effect in the “You Got Lucky” video, the “Locked In” clip tried to make use of the apocalyptic wasteland scrummed over by Mad Max as a would-be takeover zone for punks and metal freaks. Did you catch that in-joke inside the hella-cool “Fury Road” film? Later, JUDAS PRIEST took a simpler approach by filming the band onstage during the “Fuel for Life” tour; summoning Gen X teens as purportedly unified with the authority-rebuking “Parental Guidance” video.

The problem was, the message carried less staunch than the content, since “Parental Guidance” was being sung by the Jordache brigade instead of the shredded-up Levi’s crew. Some longtime JUDAS PRIEST fans simply accepted this maddening pop carnival. However, a large percentage ran straight to MEGADETH, a band that was boisterously expressing the outrage most metalheads felt in 1986. “Rock You All Around The World”, “Reckless” and “Hot For Love” were as close to true PRIEST as could be found on “Turbo”. The future looked bleak until “Ram it Down” heavied-it-up, as if in apology for this blatant cashing in.

There is a goofy attraction to “”Turbo Lover” with Ian Hill’s one-dimensional bass hum and the faux-hydraulic screeches that give Rob Halford’s sultry panting a genuine pump. By the time K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton start asserting their guitars past the synthesizers and Terminator robot gnashing behind the corny choruses, the song does kick as much as it’s God-awful. “Locked In” carries enough of a strut to hang with, despite the twittering keys spewing a horror show over what could’ve been a rocking, sweet jam.

“Out In The Cold” strives for invention, considering John Carpenter and Alan Howarth had turned synthesizers into the epitome of cool behind their horror and hard sci-fi film scores. The intro to “Out In The Cold” is a disaster with the poorly mixed, arrhythmic drop of Dave Holland’s slow drum patters amidst the aloof keys. The song itself grows a little muscle on the heels of power chords as it shambles along its synth-baked quagmire.

We all knew this anniversary edition was coming, given all the other celebration packages preceding it. The two live discs compensate greatly, but at the end of the day, “Turbo” remains the inarguable misfire from a heavy metal juggernaut who must stand accountable for it yet again. “Turbo” was designed to soundboard the huffing excitability of The Big Eighties, particularly our growing obsession with cybernetics. The saturation of keys on the album was supposed to take JUDAS PRIEST into the future along with the rest of us, but alas, it came to a splintery thud like the bad end of a light cycle duel. If you’re buying the 150-gram-vinyl version containing only the presentation of “Turbo”, you’re a completist beyond completists.

Judas Priest
Turbo
Atlantic Records

★★★★☆

 

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