Judas Priest has been around for 44 years. That’s insane. Bands aren’t around that long. Usually they like… choke on vomit, or get fat and lazy, or turn into some weird lounge act and then they play at the Emerald Queen Casino. Not Judas Priest. They have been destroying arenas across the Earth and still sell out massive crowds. I think they’re one of the few bands where you could see three generations of metalheads all rocking out to Painkiller live.
Redeemer of Souls is their 15th studio album. I’m not counting the Tim “Ripper” Owens albums. And it’s a step back to their roots after the hifalutin rock opera that was Nostradamus. While it’s not as balls out as, say, Screaming for Vengeance, it’s still a solid album and a great addition to 2014’s metal lineup.
The first track on the album, Dragonaut, is not a cover of the Sleep song of the same name. I found out of about this when a bar I frequent had a specialty drink called the Dragonaut. It’s a white Russian but they use a chai-infused vodka, the drink, not the song. So I asked if it was in prep for the new album and they got confused and said “only if it’s a cover of Sleep’s song.”
Anyway, Judas Priest’s version of Dragonaut starts with stormy sounds, dropping into a great guitar riff and the solid drumming you expect from a late-80’s era Priest track. The guitar solo is technical, tight, and does the awesome cut from one guitarist’s style to the other, one of my favorite moves in metal.
The title track has a bit of a One Shot at Glory vibe to it in terms of rhythm. Halford stays in a comfortable range for vocals on this track, sounding a bit similar to his work on Angel of Retribution or even Nostradamus. I guess after so many years of bombing out crazy screams for Painkiller or Screaming for Vengeance, your vocal chords might not be as pliable.
This is the debut album for their new guitarist, Richie Faulkner. Formerly of a few bands, including a stint with Christopher Lee, he’s a great addition to the band and fills out the sound nicely. Oh he played guitar on Steve Harris’s daughter’s band. I saw her open for Maiden in their Somewhere Back in Time tour. I don’t know how to follow up that statement.
VALHALLLLLLLLAAAAAAAAA. Halford attempts a couple screams on this track, and they’re alright, but it does sound a little… off. However, there is no better pairing than metal and Vikings. The dueling guitars in the intro definitely give me the impression this song could have the band synchronized guitar dancing. Kind of like in Breakin the Law, or pretty much every other Priest song ever. Also, Valhalla is where I belong. Or Valhalska.
Crossfire is a weird departure. A psychedelic-ish sounding track, it starts off with a bit of a Jimi Hendrix vibe before dropping into a rollicking blues track. It definitely stands out from the rest of the album, which might not be the best thing. I’d be interested to hear more blues rock from Priest, but maybe not in the middle of great tracks like March of the Damned or Sword of Damocles.
The album does close out with a ballad, which is cool if you like ballads. Beginning of the End covers what it is to be old or something, which I guess after 44 years they might be experts on the subject. Anyway, it’s a bit of a slow close to an otherwise fast Judas Priest album.
Overall, Redeemer of Souls might not have quite the same punch as Priest’s earlier work, but they still manage to put together a full album of good, solid metal. It’s a bit more guitar heavy than previous albums, but the solo work is great and I’m glad to hear it in there. I could do without the ballad, but that’s me. I’m not a fan of ballads.