21 August 2014

Judas Priest - Redeemer Of Souls

Without doubt one of the biggest metal bands of all time as well as a big influence for countless metal bands from thrash to trad, Judas Priest are back with their latest album. This is their 17th studio album and the first without longtime guitarist KK Downing who left the band in 2011 as well as the first with KK's replacement, Richie Faulkner. It's also their third album with Rob Halford since his return to the band once he got the ok-ish groove metal (Fight) and crap industrial (2wo) out of his system.

Previously, I'd never given Priest much thought. Sure they'd influenced a lot of my fave bands but I'd never really bothered much with their material, not even after borrowing my uncle's copy of "Stained Class" on vinyl (Cheers, Tony!), not even after picking up a two disc "Best Of" from a junkshop. What got me on board was the on-a-whim purchase of their album 'Painkiller' (Blog for that album should be on the same page as this one). I guess you could say I'm catching up on bands I should've got into when I first started listening to metal. I think another thing that put me off was the way the rock press at the time portrayed them as a sort of archaic relic from the 80's, where it was all studs, denim and leather. Way too archaic next to DM's, camo trousers and black tees! 90's teen, me! I never did have the 'Charles Manson Longsleeve' though, maybe I should rectify that...

Anyway, back to the album. What does it sound like? Let's find out...

It's basically an update of the sound of their heyday - 80's arena-metal that's guarenteed to get fists pumping in the air, heads banging furiously, and lighters up during the slow bits. According to interviews, 'experimentation' was kept to a minimum and it was back to classic Judas Priest metal. And you know what? Good. Whilst it's good to experiment and go left-field, sometimes it's best to just sticking to what you're good at. Mind, this album isn't as good as their classic material, but neither is it all out shite either.

The first track is 'Dragonaut' and it does not start off well. The sounds of a storm, a riff that sounds like an 80's cast-off coupled with a whammy-bar effect that is supposed to sound like a motorbike herald the start of this song. Already, you can picture this song live - no mosh-pits but fist-banging. Lyrical themes seem to be about the usual Priest fare, all metal and fire and stuff. The song itself though is good. Not too bad an opening but it's a very 80's opening. After this, were onto the title track 'Redeemer Of Souls'. This one is a bit better, with a bouncy rhythm which sounds like "Hell Patrol" off the 'Painkiller' album. "Halls Of Valhalla" follows and after one of those 'fade in' intros, the song kicks off proper - an almighty scream; VALHALLAAAAAAAAA!!! It's the first time this album that Rob hits the high notes. And time is catching up with him. So far, he's stuck to his mid-range vocals and we're only a few songs in. Mind, it is a canny song so I guess it's ok.

"Sword Of Damocles" starts off like Iron Maiden. Stuff about deceivers, it's a slow number, not that there is iny problem with that, in fact - it makes a change. Something to take the heat off, even momentarilly can end up being a blessed relief. Things get interesting midway when an almost acoustic passage opens up and Halford decides to do a bit of falsetto singing. It's quite a change for him. It doesn't last long though and then we're back to heaviness! "March Of The Damned" is next and it's a stomper! Some solid headbanging material right here and I can imagine it would be a fine spectacle when played live. In some Enormodome, no doubt. MARRRRRRRCH OF THE DAMNED!!! "Down In Flames" is up next and although it's a good song, verse riffs sound very similar to "Hot Rockin'". Going down in flames in a blaze of glory? This could have made it onto the soundtrack of one of those shitty plane movies that came out in the wake of "Top Gun".

Luring us into a false sense of security is "Hell & Back". A nice cleaning opening in which Rob gets ready to bear his soul soon gives way to the best drum and bass intro since "Wraithchild" by Iron Maiden (Although "Fear Of Napalm" by Terrorizer comes close). Nice guitar solo as well. "Cold Blooded" seemed to slip by under my radar, this track just didn't land at all. "Metalizer" is much better though. Detailing some shit that's gonna go down, it's basically telling you to kiss your ass goodbye. The solo is great as well. Seems the new guy is more than a worthy replacement of KK. "Crossfire" starts off with a snakey riff before giving way to another grindy rhythm. "Secrets Of The Dead" has a clean guitar intro with howling winds and a bell toll. Seriously. But then it gets more interesting, thank fuck. Coming close to power ballad territory, it's not too bad a song, especially with the Gregorian Chanting towards the end.

And now, we have the last two songs. Mind, the special edition has more songs but I'm not reviewing that one. "Battle Cry" sounds ominous enough with it's twin lead intro before it all kicks off, it's a decent enough song. "Beginning Of The End" is a typical end-of-the-album slowy, designed to relax us after the initial onslaught. It's ok. Not the best of it's ilk but it could have been much worse.

Well, there you go. The new Judas Priest album. Boy, it could have been so much better. Whilst the production was great, the fact is a) there was too much filler on there and b) Halford's voice is not that it was. Although he kept to a mid-range for his vocals, they sounded quite flat on here. I daresay that'll be Father Time catching up with him. Hopefully the next one will have a bit more of a kick to it.

Chris J.

6.5/10 - Now I can see where you were going, but not quite there.

Top Track: Redeemer Of Souls.

This album is available on iTunes, Amazon (click) and Spotify (Click).

Sorry, I cannot find any videos - live or otherwise - of any of the songs from this album...

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