With Fight, Halford is adding social consciousness to heavy metal

April 15, 1994|By J. Doug Gill | J. Doug Gill,Special to The Sun

Before Rob Halford's new band, Fight, had released so much as a single, the lead singer's smoothly shaven head was plastered across the pages of nearly every American music magazine, usually under a banner headline proclaiming a rebirth of heavy metal.

The ravenous U.S. pop press is like that; the anointing of a legend is a time-honored tradition. But so is the drowning of said legend in the critical backwash that normally follows.

However, five months in on the umpteenth leg of Fight's current club tour, the flood of questions that surrounded Halford's departure into uncharted solo waters has turned into a tidal wave of adulation.

Why? Among the recording artists who have shaped the evolution of heavy metal over the last 20-odd years, only a few are willing to break new ground. Rob Halford is one of them.

"Fight wasn't formed to set any trends," Halford graciously disagrees over the phone from a Charleston, S.C., tour stop. "We got together because it was important for me to find out more things about myself. And I found that I'm harder, stronger, louder and faster."

For anyone familiar with Halford's former band, Judas Priest, and their repertoire of such sledgehammer hits as "You've Got Another Thing Coming' " and "Livin' After Midnight," experiencing a more aggressive Halford can be likened to cuddling a pit bull: Only the strongest of souls should attempt the encounter.

"That image is left over from my Priest days," Halford laughs at the analogy. "Fight doesn't worry about image. We just go out there and give it all we can."

An example of Fight's "give-it-all" attitude can be found on their current album, "War of Words," which in spite of a dark and brutal sound, has nestled in nicely on rock radio play lists -- a

factor, Halford explains, that didn't figure in his decision to leave Judas Priest.

"I'm obviously not going to complain about the reception the album has received," he states in an excitable, British accent, "but commercial acceptance was never a priority. Credibility and the ability to feel good about what you're doing, they were my goals for Fight from the beginning."

While the Judas Priest image and the radio-readiness of their material may be fading, die-hard fans busy mourning may miss the side of Halford that's been most revitalized by his career upheaval: becoming a serious songwriter.

His days with Priest were defined by songs about leather-clad tough guys with a penchant for partying, but the tunes of "War of Words" are mature and socially conscious.

Topics such as censorship ("War of Words"), the destruction of the Earth's environment ("Contortion") and the ever-growing plague of violence ("Nailed to the Gun") are explored with knowledge and savvy. Not exactly commonplace subject matter for the head-banging set.

"I was able to show my stuff lyrically in ways that I couldn't with Priest," Halford says proudly. "And since writing this record felt so good, I'm excited about what could emerge for the next one."

He shouldn't have to contain his excitement much longer. Currently on tour with Anthrax, Halford and company are scheduled to leave the road in mid-May. Then it's straight into "writing/recording mode," with plans for a new Fight release by early 1995.

Apparently, and just like the scrappy resilience implied by his band's name, Rob Halford and Fight intend to slug it out until the final bell.

"Or, as long as I can continue to provoke and make people think," he concludes. "That is, as long as I can continue to grow and stretch out musically at the same time."

Fight 'Words'

To hear excerpts from Fight's new album, "War of Words," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6238 after you hear the greeting.

Anthrax and Fight

When: Tonight at 8, doors open at 7.

Where: Camden Yards Concert Hall (formerly Hammerjacks Concert Hall), 1102 S. Howard St.

Tickets: $17

Call: (410) 659-ROCK

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