Point of Entry will always be one of those “other” Judas Priest albums. It wasn’t a ground breaker and wasn’t a massive seller. It will always just be “the album that came after British Steel” or “the one that came before Screaming for Vengeance“. It did fine (500,000 US sales) and spawned a killer single called “Heading Out to the Highway”, but it didn’t make history like the other two records.
Coming after British Steel, Priest continued with producer Tom Allom and drummer Dave Holland, and it doesn’t sound like they were overly interested in taking chances. Sonically Point of Entry is a carbon copy, though with less impactful songs. In 2001, it was issued remastered by Sony with two bonus tracks.
For me, Point of Entry occupies an interesting space. Listening to it on a recent road trip took me back to 1987 or 88, when I was in the midst of seriously trying to collect “all the Priest”. From the perspective of a kid in 1988, Point of Entry was what I thought 1981 must have sounded like, though it wasn’t that long before. So Point of Entry takes me back not to the early 80s, but the late 80s. And in the late 80s, it sounded good.
Sure, I was aware that it sounded a lot like British Steel before, but without the massive landmark tracks like “Metal Gods”. But what about “Desert Plains”? Why wasn’t it as important as “Metal Gods”?
To this day, I don’t know.
Point of Entry does boast a few songs that could go toe-to-toe with any on British Steel. Certainly “Desert Plains” and “Heading Out to the Highway” can stand up to the prior album. “Highway” has one of those riffs so classic that I sometimes find myself humming it in a grocery line wondering what song was in my head. As a mid-tempo road song, it does the job. One could argue it’s just a sequel to “Living After Midnight”, but you just try and resist this one.
“Heading Out to the Highway” was made into an unintentionally funny video, mixing on-set with on-location footage in an obvious way. Worse though were the two videos that followed: “Don’t Go” and “Hot Rockin'”. “Don’t Go” features the band playing trapped inside a small room, with a door that leads various impossible locations including outer space. Fortunately the song is better: slow and plaintive, yet with that solid rocking beat and a killer guitar solo. “Hot Rockin'” is high-speed but tends to be forgotten because Priest have better material at this tempo. The video is situated in a sauna, and then a concert stage where Rob’s flaming feet light fire to his microphone, and the microphone to a couple guitars. Funny to look at, but I think it’s one of those cases where we’re laughing at the band, not with them.
“Turning Circles”, and a lot of the rest of the album, fall into various categories. This one fits alongside “Don’t Go” as a slow but hard track. “We’ve all got somethin’ wrong to say,” sings Rob in this song that seems to be about ending a relationship. The “ah ha, ah ha” break in the middle is an album highlight, and to me it sounds exactly like my bedroom in 1987.
It’s “Desert Plains” that really brings it home. There is a pulse to this song, created by Dave Holland and Ian Hill. You don’t associate those two guys with awesome rock beats often, but here it is. “Desert Plains” is an instant classic, and it’s alive with movement. From the verses, to the choruses, to Holland’s drum “sound effects” (like “wild mountain thunder”), this is a Priest classic and shall forever remain so. This side one closer should have been a video way before “Hot Rockin'”.
The second side opens with “Solar Angels”, another track with an interesting rhythm (slow drums, fast guitar chug). The song feels like it could use some more substance, but it’s still enjoyable albeit in a “Metal Gods” knock-off kind of way. Though heaviness is always celebrated, who doesn’t enjoy when Rob Halford gets sassy? That’s “You Say Yes”, an outstanding shoulda-been hit. The verses verge on punk rock as Rob spits out the words as only he can. Then the airy “what I do, what I do, what I do” middle section goes right to heaven — or my room in ’87, I’m not sure which.
Point of Entry ends on three decent but unremarkable mid-tempo tracks, which perhaps always served to weaken the album’s impressions. “All the Way” might be an attempt to rewrite “Living After Midnight”, and although it’s a cool track we all know Priest have better stuff in this vein. “Troubleshooter” might even be more of a rewrite, with that opening drum beat sounding a little familiar. But Rob’s vocals kill it. Finally “On the Run” is a screamy album closer where Rob is once again the star.
As with previous CDs in this Priest remasters series, there are two bonus tracks, one of which has nothing to do with Point of Entry. “Thunder Road” sounds a lot like Ram It Down era Priest, so you can safely assume it’s from those sessions in the late 80s. Clearly outtake quality, almost like a prototype for “Johnny B Goode”. Then there is a live version of “Desert Plains” from what sounds like the 1987 tour judging by the big echoey drums and Rob’s added screams. It’s much faster than the album cut, all but destroying the pulse of the original. Yet the song still kills! Somehow it didn’t make it onto the Priest…Live! album, which was already stuffed full.
In the late 90s, a guy sold a used copy of this on CD to me, but he left something inside. Something I wish I’d kept because it was so bizarre and funny. The back cover features five white boxes in the desert. The guy left a little white piece of note paper inside, explaining what he thought the back cover was about. “Maybe they are graves,” said part of it. I wish I could remember the rest. (I always thought the five boxes represented the five band members, with the large one in the back being Dave Holland and the drum kit.) And speaking of the cover, this album does look better on vinyl. I have vinyl for almost all the Priest up to Ram It Down, and they all look better on vinyl.
Although Point of Entry will always live in the shadows of the towering albums that came before and after, it still leaves a glow behind.