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Malice: In The Beginning

Judas Priest LA clones’ 1985 debut.

In 1982, a new US independent record label, Metal Blade, was launched with the compilation album Metal Massacre, featuring some of the best young metal bands in California. Two went on to glory – Metallica and Ratt. Others, such as the insanely brilliant Cirith Ungol, remained cult heroes. And for Malice, there was a brief moment of fame before a descent into obscurity.

Malice formed in Portland, Oregon, but it was after relocating to LA that they got their break with Metal Massacre and then signed to Atlantic. Sounds writer Sylvie Simmons nailed Malice in four words: “Judas Priest – Hollywood Chapter.” Singer James Neal screamed like Rob Halford and guitarist Jay Reynolds was a dead ringer for Priest’s KK Downing.

The band’s first album, In The Beginning, was an act of worship. As Jay Reynolds says now: “We weren’t trying to sound like Priest. But looking back, it’s almost comical.”

And yet, no matter how derivative, this is still a great old-school heavy metal record. It has big, dumbass anthems in Rockin’ With You and Stellar Masters; a moody epic in the daftly named No Haven For The Raven; pure head-banging rifferama in Air Attack and Godz Of Thunder. For Malice, it never got better than this.

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”