Priest are back with what is arguably the best record since the early 90s. Just a complete and perfect representation of what you expect from Judas Priest.
The album opens with one of the thickest sounding guitar tones I have heard on a metal record in a long time. 'Firepower' instantly harks back to the visceral energy of their fan favourite album 'Painkiller'. Rob Halford still showing he is an undeniable force of nature as a metal singer. At 66 years of age he sounds as brilliant as he has ever sounded. The Metal God has aged well.
We segway seamlessly into the heavy shuffle of 'Lightning to Strike', a ballsy straight ahead metal tune that does what it needs to and bounces along to a close in just over 3 minutes.
'Evil Never Dies' highlights the tropes we come to expect from Priest. Driving twin guitars, high octane vocals and a blistering chorus. Halford shows off his signature screams in this song and it becomes a quintessential track on the album. Ticking any and all boxes a Priest fan may have. Sure to be an amazing live addition.
The 'Turbo Lover' style intro on 'Never the Heroes' is a welcome change of pace. This more mid tempo song leaves Halford to once again show off the versatility in his virtuoso voice. This cut has my favourite chorus on the entire record. Enormous and melodic. It is perfect.
The tight rhythmic playing of the guitars is highlighted in 'Necromancer'. This song is absolute riff central and a clear showcase for the guitar talent on the record. The trading solos later in the song also re-enforce that showcase.
Six tracks in and I feel Priest are trying to give me a nod to every album they have done. I can hear sounds from their entire career present in this record. 'Children of the Sun' would fit in perfectly on 70s groundbreaker, 'Sad Wings of Destiny'. It is a bluesier straight up rock song aided by mammoth metal distortion. So it has a voice of its own because of that.
An interlude titled 'Guardians' that flows into 'Rising From Ruins' is like a successor to 'The Hellion/Electric Eye'. Another mid paced track that keeps the pace of the album interesting. It has a lengthy play time at just under an hour. So the pacing is an important factor to me.
'Flamethrower' is almost a thrash song, it wouldn't be out of place on 'Peace Sells'. One thing I think is notable about Priest is that they have no aspersions about what kind of band they are, no pretensions. Any other band singing the words “You're on the run, from the stun of the flamethrower” would just make my ears cringe until they melted. Fortunately for Priest they are pioneers of the metal genre and do it with pure fun and excitement for the genre. It never seems contrived to hear them spout lyrical metal cliches.
It's a point I come back to, but the only thing stopping this from being a rock album is the monster guitar tones. 'Spectre' is very reminiscent of 'Victim of Changes' to the point riff with soaring vocals across the top. It also has the most stunning display of guitar work between Tipton and Faulkner. A Priest trademark for sure.
'Traitors Gate' is a powerhouse of a song. A quicker paced domineering shuffle. Riff central and some of Halford's finest moments on the record.
Bombastic is certainly a word synonymous with Judas Priest. Rob Halford ever the showman shows off his bravado in 'No Surrender'. The vocal harmonies are ablaze in this song and it really adds to make the song mammoth in comparison to other tracks on the record. Another song I feel will be immense to witness live.
The sultry and laid back vibe of 'Lone Wolf' invites you initially and then tears down your auditory defences with the main riff. Dirty and bluesy in approach it is yet a new avenue this album aims to take you down and succeeds in doing so.
Album closer 'Sea of Red' opens with a stunning acoustic passage and we hear an isolated vocal from Halford similar to 'Angel' from 2005s Angel of Retribution. He yet again highlights why he is held in such high regard as a singer and the frontman of one of metals pioneers. Effortlessly pouring the vibrato and emotion to every note he hits. A metal ballad that closes the album in complete style.
Judas Priest have a consistency I don't think many bands with a 40 year career can match. Firepower is an absolute classic that I am sure will see its place in their discography in years to come. It is quintessential Priest.
If you are a Priest fan, there is absolutely everything to get excited about here. It is a fresh listen and a mammoth achievement for a band 40 years in to their career.
As always, buy the record!
Lightning to Strike
Evil Never Dies
Never the Heroes
Children of The Sun
Rise From Ruins
Sea of Red
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