June 23, 2008

Music CD/DVD Review: Fight - Into the Pit

I was never a really big Judas Priest fan, of course you could blame that on my late entry into music fandom. This is a fact that has changed over the past decade, I still cannot be considered anywhere near a big fan, but I am a fan, recognizing their place amongst the top bands that have influenced so many bands of the years (up their with Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden). The album that gave me the first inkling that I could be a Priest fan was 1990's Painkiller, that is a great metal album, period. Two years after that Rob Halford announced that he was leaving the band, wanting to do something else in the music world. That "something else" turned out to be Fight, a band that was distinctly different from Priest, while still living up to the standards that Halford had set during his 19 years with his prior band. This box set collects all three Fight releases, remixed and remastered, along with a DVD featuring one of their early appearances.

The big question for fans is going to be whether or not they really need this set. That is a question that each of you will need to answer for yourself. My answer is yes; you do need it. It is a nicely packaged set, featuring great sounding remastered audio, plus that concert disk. The audio quality is a definite step up from the original CDs. So, if you have those early disks, this is a very nice upgrade. For those of you who don't have any Fight, this is the perfect way to get it all. If you are a metal fan, you owe it to yourself to own these disks, Fight turned out some strong music during their short tenure.

In 1993, just one year removed from his departure from Judas Priest, Fight's debut release, War of Words hit store shelves. It proved to be one of the best metal albums of the year, somewhat overshadowed by the continuing dominance of the grunge scene.

The band's line-up consisted of Halford, Brian Tilse and Russ Parrish on guitars, Jay Jay on bass, and Scott Travis behind the drum kit. The music was heavy, riff driven, and considerably more raw than Priest material. The songs here have a stripped down to the bare essentials feel to them, with an almost punk-like aggression throughout. Halford seems to experiment more with his voice here, expanding his range from his traditional highs all the way down to a death metal like growl. He sounds phenomenal, and those riffs behind him? Wow, the first time I heard the band I fell in love.

I remember the first time I heard Fight, it was MTV's Headbanger's Ball. The band was in the studio performing. They played "Into the Pit," "Nailed to the Gun," and "A Little Crazy." They may have played others, but those are what I remember, and it was so freaking heavy, my young mind was instantly hooked. You know, there is nothing quite like a heavy riff to get the blood flowing, and this album did it.

This remixed and remastered version of War of Words is just what the the fan needs. The music sounds rejuvenated, with new life breathed into it. Among my favorite songs include "Nailed to the Gun," "Kill It," "Vicious," "For All Eternity," and "A Little Crazy." Aw, what the hell, there isn't a stinker on the entire album.

The second disk in the set was originally released in 1994 and bears the title Mutations. It is just what the title implies, rather than a new collection of songs, it is split between live cuts and remixes. I had hoped for more new material following the great War of Words, but this is still a nice release.

The first half has performances of songs "Into the Pit," "Nailed to the Gun," "A Little Crazy" featuring a big crowd sing-along, and the Judas Priest classic "Freewheel Burning." The second half has some decent remixes that adds an industrial edge to the already heavy cuts. Among the most successful remixes are "Kill It (Dutch Death Mix)," "Immortal Sin (Tolerance Mix)," and I like the drawn out groove intro to "A Little Crazy (Straight Jacket Mix)."

This disk also includes a couple of mixes I do not recall hearing before. First is "Culture of Corruption Mix," a remix of "War of Words." I did not really care for this remix, but am not complaining. The second is "Lost Faith Mix," a remix of "Kill It." The instrument part of the mix is all right, but I don't like how the vocals are processed and pushed to the background.

Disk three is the band's second and final album of new material, A Small Deadly Space, released in 1995. When I first heard it, I felt it paled in comparison to War of Words, however, over the years I have to like it a lot more, but it still trails behind that first release when I have a hankering for some Fight.

This album features one line-up change, Russ Parrish left and was replaced by Mark Chaussee. Another big difference is Rob Halford shares song writing duties. On War of Words, Rob wrote everything, this time Fight is more of a band and less of a solo project. This is more of a collaborative effort. The results include song structures that are a bit more complex, yet still retain that sheer heaviness of the first album. There is also more work with different tunings. A Small Deadly Space has a deeper sound as they work with a lot of detunings.

A Small Deadly Space features such strong tunes as "Legacy of Hate," "Mouthpiece," "I Am Alive," and "Human Crate." There is also something to be said for the final ballad "In a World of My Own Making." Quite frankly, when I said of War of Words that there wasn't a stinker in the bunch, the same could also be said here. While I think it is a slightly weaker album, it is hard to find an outright bad song. That says a lot.

I am going to need your help, as whenever I hear it my mind goes blank. The opening of the title track sounds just like some other song, but for the life of me, I cannot place it. When you hear the song, please tell me where I have heard it before.

Disk four is titled Fight - Live in Phoenix. This footage dates back to August of 1993, one month prior to the release of War of Words. This night was the second live performance of Halford and Fight; it was shot with two cameras in the cramped quarters of a small club in Arizona. The video is rough and a little grainy and the audio is raw sounding stereo mix. This combination gives the concert a fantastic intimate feel as the band absolutely rips it up for a set that runs for nearly an hour.

The set list is the War of Words track list, front to back. The entire album played in order to an enthusiastic crowd. The set did conclude with a non-album track, "Light Comes Out of Black," which was originally recorded by Halford and members of Pantera in 1992 for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, it appeared on the film's soundtrack release.

Fight's performance is very good. They perform with reckless abandon, great aggression, and worked like a well-oiled machine. I can only imagine what it must have been like to have been in the crowd.

This DVD also includes some more Fight footage. There is a 1993 commercial for the War of Words album release, footage from the Amsterdam studio they recorded at, video from the album's release party, and footage of Rob bungee jumping in Australia. Closing out the added material is the video made for "Blowout in the Radio Room," from A Small Deadly Space. This additional footage totals roughly 15-minutes.

Bottomline. You couldn't ask for a better collection of Fight tunes (well, they could have added the K5 demo release that came out last year, but that's okay). Four disks filled with Fight excellence. However you want to slice it, this is first-rate, high quality metal. It stands apart from Judas Priest, and should also be remembered for the classic material that it is. So, what are you waiting for? Go get it!

Highly Recommended.


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