The driving riffs, the razor-sharp dual guitar harmonies, the unholy shrieking of fantastical lyrical themes, the studded black leather and chains – Judas Priest is responsible for heavy metal as we know it today, plain and simple. Fellow Britons Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath may have invented and popularized the style, but the Priest distilled and sharpened it, shedding their predecessors’ prominent blues and bluegrass elements to achieve a purified metallic product.
Formed in 1970 in Birmingham, the same city to birth the mighty Sabbath, Judas Priest have since sold over 50 million albums worldwide and are considered to be one of the greatest heavy metal groups of all time.
Following the mixed reception of 2008’s experimental double-album Nostradamus, Redeemer of Souls signals the band returning to the basics. Despite being the band’s first release without founding guitarist K.K. Downing, the album plays like a tasty blast from the past, accurately described by guitarist Glenn Tipton as “18 tracks of pure Priest metal.”
The incredible album artwork featuring an angelic biker donned in leather is a perfect complement to the metallic tales of fantasy contained within. A tired thematic trend? Perhaps. But let’s not forget that it was Priest’s trend to begin with. And in all honesty, they still pull it off better than most.
The first disc kicks off with “Dragonaut,” and it becomes immediately apparent that 84 minutes of “pure Priest metal” is precisely what’s in store. The title tracks, “Halls of Valhalla,” “March of the Damned,” “Down in Flames,” and “Metalizer” follow suit with powerful rhythms and technical dual guitar leads galore. However, the exquisite softer tracks “Cold Blooded,” “Secrets of the Dead,” and “Beginning of the End” are among the album’s best, with the latter being the record’s only predominantly acoustic track. As is to be expected, Rob Halford’s voice shines throughout every song, yet again reaffirming his position as one of the greatest heavy metal vocalists of all time.
The Deluxe Edition features a second disc with five additional songs. Glenn Tipton explains “”The reason they are not on the album is because the 13 that we chose are very consistent with what we wanted to do, which was release an undisputable heavy metal album. The others, they are not lightweight by any chance, but they’ve got a different feel, a different texture.” These second disc has an especially early 1980’s feel about it. Leaning more towards hard rock than the technical metal of the first disc, these five tracks could have just as easily been outtakes from the British Steel or Screaming for Vengeance days.
The album concludes on an optimistic note with the (mostly) acoustic “Never Forget,” stating “we’ll play until the end, it’s not over, not over my friends.”
While Redeemer of Souls offers nothing new, it is undoubtedly a solid metal album that nicely compliments a three-plus decade career of true genre pioneers.
In today’s age of online streaming services, Redeemer of Souls’ initial sales figures were quite incredible, especially for a band who reached their pinnacle of popularity over 20 years ago. The album earned Judas Priest their highest charting position in the United States, debuting at number 6 on the Billboard 200 chart and selling over 32,000 copies in its first week of release. As has always been customary with Priest, the album art alone is well worth obtaining a physical copy of the album.
While glossy, the production manages to maintain the sheer energy of the songs, and Rob Halford’s voice sounds as powerful as it did 20 years ago. Standout tracks include “March of the Damned,” “Down in Flames,” “Battle Cry,” “Bring it On,” and “Never Forget.” Though unlikely to convert a substantial generation of younger fans, Redeemer possesses all the elements of a classic Priest offering, and is sure to make a nice addition to any self-respecting metalhead’s collection.
In early May of this year, guitarist Glenn Tipton stated in an interview with Eddie Trunk that the band are eager to get back on the road, and that “we probably won’t go over the top on production like we’ve done before; the strength will be in the music.” It has since been confirmed that Judas Priest will be embarking on a 20 date U.S. tour throughout October and November of 2014.
Reviewer: Gavin Hargrove
IRC: Lilen Pautasso
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