Judas Priest


Written by: RUB on 04/04/2018 18:11:28

Few have managed to do what these British (steel) heavy metal legends have. Dating back to the early ‘70s, Judas Priest has pretty much tried it all; toured the world a couple of times, been in court due to supposedly heinous subliminal messages in their lyrics, and of course released one classic heavy metal album after another. When they announced their farewell tour back in 2010, probably few, if anyone, had expected the band to release a new album in 2018. But here we are, 18 albums down the road and the question now is: is the newest outing, “Firepower”, just another mediocre record, as has been the trend with ‘Priest’s most recent output, or could it perhaps rise above and be the best album they’ve written in ages? Let’s take a look.

Things are off to a heavy and well-composed start with the first three songs, two of which have been aired prior to the album’s release (the two singles “Firepower” and “Lightning Strikes”), the latter of which was issued with an official music video before the release date. Both tracks are fast, fierce and powerful, but still manage to stay catchy and fresh — just like you want your ‘Priest to be. Halford’s voice is still as charismatic as it has been ever since he joined the band back in 1973, which definitely helps elevate every single song on here to the next level. By the fourth track, “Never the Heroes”, things are slowed down a bit, which actually happens several times later on the album as well, in songs like “Rising from Ruins” and “Spectre”. This produces a good dynamic and flow to the record and ensures that the faster tracks pack so much more power and punch. With “Children of the Sun”, this works especially well — not only because the track itself has a such a good dynamic, but also because it features a killer, groovy riff. Overall, the composition on the first half of the album is very good. Of course, there are some songs that are better than others, but not a single one of the disappoints per se.

The second part of “Firepower” contains the most filler in my book. But even when ‘Priest is at its most average, the band is still pretty decent, and certainly above most other artists. Take for example “Rising from Ruins”; apart from the chorus, the song is a rather sterile affair, but when the chorus does arrive, it is just so catchy that I still sing along to it several listens in. The same goes for “Traitors Gate”, which isn’t a bad track at all — but when you compare it to the power house that is the first couple of songs on this album, it just somehow fades in comparison. But again, you have an interesting chorus in it, with a sort of off-beat drum-and-lyrics section capturing your attention. Sometimes it’s all about the small details, as is the case with second last song, “Lone Wolf”, which caught me completely off guard, given that ‘Priest almost manages to spit out a sludge or stoner metal piece, albeit still mixed with their take on classic heavy metal. The riff that rings out in the first three quarters of the composition is like something off a Corrosion of Conformity song or perhaps even a more polished take on some of Crowbar’s riffs. And this is where “Firepower” succeeds to do what the last two albums (at least) failed to. The majority of songs are just so good and different that it makes you wonder whether ‘Priest is even done for good this time, and has me already looking forward to the possible follow-up.

One negative aspect has to be mentioned, though: the album almost clocks in at one hour, and that is simply too long when dealing with this genre, given how hard, or even impossible it is to write a record without any filler material and still stretch past the one-hour mark. Therefore, ‘Priest could’ve easily cut out two or three of the less interesting tracks, in order that the album would finish at around 40 minutes. For instance, this could perhaps have been the pretty forgetful ballad “Sea of Red”, which closes the album and makes the youthful energy and intensity that kicked the album off seem like a distant memory. With that said though, Judas Priest has still managed to write one hell of record, which I honestly hadn’t expected them to, taking the dullness of their latest albums into account, and I am therefore not afraid to call this their best and most complete work in at least a decade — maybe even two.

Download: Lightning Strikes, Firepower, Children of the Sun, Evil Never Dies, No Surrender, Lone Wolf
For the fans of: Blind Guardian, Halloween, Saxon, Iron Maiden
Listen: Facebook

Release date 09.03.2018
Columbia Records

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