Judge Victor Valdivia is not exactly a Metal God. It might be more accurate to refer to him as a Styrofoam Schmendrick.
"Let's get ready to rumble, and let the fight begin."—Rob Halford, 1993.
Fight: War of Words compiles various live recordings and videos related to the thrash-metal outfit Fight, formed by Judas Priest singer Rob Halford in 1992. But even the most avid Halford fans will find this release trying.
Facts of the Case
When singer Rob Halford formed Fight in 1992, it signaled his departure from legendary heavy metal band Judas Priest. Though Fight would only release two albums and break up in 1996, the band would remain popular with Halford fans. Now, over a decade later, Halford has released Fight: War of Words, which includes videos, a concert performance from 1993, and a documentary. In concert, the band performs:
• "Into the Pit"
For nearly twenty years Rob Halford was the lead singer of Judas Priest and was instrumental in helping that band become one of the biggest and most influential heavy metal bands in history. Authors of such metal classics as "Breakin' the Law" and "You've Got Another Thing Comin'," the men of Priest were stadium-filling megastars and would be cited as a significant influence by bands as diverse as Metallica, Guns N' Roses, and the Smashing Pumpkins. Though their look and music was original, it was Halford who was the key member. His voice is phenomenal, operatic and pitch-perfect in a way that no other metal singer had been before or since.
But after nearly two decades, Halford felt Priest had become staid and rigid. He left the band in 1992, citing his need to explore different musical ventures. Fight would be the first of those ventures, releasing its debut album, titled War of Words, the next year. While it certainly doesn't sound like Priest, that doesn't mean it's entirely successful. Musically, apart from Halford's vocals, it's fairly generic thrash metal, not badly played but not memorable either. Priest's unique sound, created by the twin guitars of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing, was sleek and precise, almost mechanical. The result was a band that was massively influential, but never imitated. Fight, on the other hand, is simply formulaic and sometimes downright derivative. "Immortal Sin" sounds like Alice in Chains, while "Kill It" could have been released by Pantera. Only "Little Crazy," a slow bluesy song that almost sounds like ZZ Top, is a radical departure for Halford, who had never sung in this style before. The band even stooped to aping Priest; at one point in the concert film, guitarists Brian Tilse and Russ Parish trade guitar leads in the exact same style as Tipton and Downing, right down to the stage moves. At a time when bands as diverse as Megadeth, Slayer, and Sepultura were redefining and pushing the boundaries of metal, Fight's routine, imitative style was simply second-rate at best. The band's music didn't even show off Halford's remarkable voice to advantage, the way the best Priest songs did. It's not surprising that Fight never really caught on with audiences the way Judas Priest did, and though the band released one more album in 1995, they broke up shortly afterwards. Halford would continue to release solo recordings until rejoining Priest in 2003.
Now that Halford is back singing for Judas Priest, he has chosen to reissue material from his solo years. His years in Priest and his outstanding vocal talent mean that he commands a loyal audience for anything he does. Even fans of Fight, however, may be disappointed and frustrated by this DVD. For one thing the documentary is barely 16 minutes long. Consisting primarily of sound bites from various TV interviews and some footage from the band's rehearsals, it's not particularly revealing or insightful. What's more, the concert is difficult to enjoy. Though the audio is taken from a concert in Paris, the video images are taken from no less than six different shows, ranging from Munich to Portland. Furthermore, they don't just differ from song to song; they actually change in the middle of songs. So within any given song, the visuals will suddenly change completely, from the band members' clothes to the stage set to the lighting. The result is jumpy and irritating. Artists will sometimes pick and choose songs from different shows for live recordings, to ensure that each song gets the best performance. But here, since the audio is all from the same concert, the editing doesn't seem to be done for any good reason.
As if that wasn't bad enough, neither the video nor audio are great. Displayed in full screen, the footage is fuzzy, grainy, and sometimes out of focus. The net effect is like a bunch of video bootlegs edited together. None of the shots are particularly close to the stage, and some appear to be taken from the balcony. The Dolby 5.1 mix is curiously tinny, with almost all of the action coming from the front two speakers and none from the back or the subwoofer. Although Fight is a loud band, this mix won't even wake people in the same room.
For extras, fans can view the three videos the band made for the War of Words album: "Nailed to the Gun" (3:45), "Little Crazy" (3:55), and "Immortal Sin" (4:45). Though the videos are fascinating to see, the video quality is awful, riddled with so much grain and fuzz as to be almost unwatchable. There's also "Mutations Live 1993" (12:31), a set of three songs recorded live at Sony's New York City studios: "Into the Pit," "Nailed to the Gun," and a version of Priest's "Freewheel Burning." These look and sound comparable to the concert, but are free of the pointless editing that marred that show. Finally, the disc is rounded out by a trailer for the Halford Live at Rock in Rio III DVD (1:16). Some versions of this release also include a bonus CD, a re-mastered and remixed version of the War of Words album that has some minor differences from the original '92 mix.
Fight is ultimately a footnote in Rob Halford's career. But even so, this DVD, if done well, could have helped many to reassess their music. The subpar presentation will only barely please hardcore Halford fans and alienate anyone else. Newcomers who want to discover Rob Halford's music would be better served with any of Judas Priest's DVDs.
Because of substandard video and audio quality, Fight: War of Words is found guilty of breakin' the law.
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