Judas Priest are a band that need little introduction, they are one of the finest of British metal bands of all time and have inspired generations of metal heads throughout the decades. Classic albums like ‘British Steel’ ‘Screaming For Vengeance’ & ‘Painkiller’ are some of the most renowned metal albums of all time, but later priest records seem to fall on deaf ears with little or no praise. Running up to the album it was known that Andy Steap would be producing. Later announced to be their current touring member due to the tragic news of Glenn Tipton’s touring retirement due to Parkinson’s disease. Andy is best known for his work with Megadeth on their incredible record ‘endgame’ in the late noughties. He has a great ability to take what made these bands great and really focus in on their ‘classic sound’ and firepower is no different. The production stands out a mile on this record, everything is tight and well spaced. Andy does extremely well to get the old school metal sound that gave priest there fame in their 80’s yet make it sound like a crisp modern metal record.
On to the record now, and as we know Judas Priest’s opening tracks like ‘Painkiller’ ‘The Hellion / Electric Eye’ & even more recently ‘dragonaut’ are some of the best in their catalogue and are frequently played live. However with all of the competition the first track ‘Firepower’ roars through the speakers leaving little doubt that priest aren’t messing around anymore. The song opens with a classic priest riff with what can only be described as a stunning metal tone, as the riff continues Rob Halford enters the scene, a man that has never shown a weak vocal performance and this certainly lives up to that statement. Using his trademark high pitched savaging vocals lines, he roars through the huge arena sounded chorus wailing ‘firepower, Petrifies’. An incredible opening track that peaks your interest immediately and completely set’s the feel and tone of what is too come. The record continues on to the most familiar song ‘Lightning Strike’. Being that this was the first single to be released it took many metal fans by surprise and very much had people anticipated for the release of the full album with many stating ‘Priest is back’. It again rips through the speakers with a guitar riff that completely screams classic priest, for me this is an instant classic and should be in priest setlist’s from now until the end of days.
‘Evil Never dies’ is up next and this is where the chuggy riffage comes into play, as the song stomps through the chorus is the absolute highlight as I cannot get enough of Halfords’s ripping vocal lines. Onto to the next song and the first ‘ballad’ of the album ‘Never the Hero’s’, this is the first song to take a break from hitting you straight in the face with riffs and rather openings with a small melodic lead guitar intro, and leads into the first slower verse of the record. The deep rich tones of the guitars chorus pedal works well with a less ‘metal’ sounding Halford whose vocals really push through because of it. ‘Necromancer’ then brings back the original tone of the album, opening with a riff straight out of the ‘NWOBHM’ (New wave of British heavy metal) priest know exactly what made them great and is really showing the fans that they are back with passion. The song eventually leads through into breakdown riff with is the lead up to an incredible dual panned guitar solo, although the original guitar duo are no longer present with KK downing quitting the band in previous years, you couldn’t tell the difference.
Sadly the flawless run of songs had to end and unfortunately ‘Children of the sun’ is the song to do that, even though it’s not the worst on the album it is one of the low points for me. It’s bluesy mid tempo riffs plods along the track and has me wanting more of the previous songs. However not all is bad as half way through the song my attention has peaked yet again, with a change of pace and a slower arpeggio guitar chord leading the breakdown. Halfords catchy melody lines leads into another flawless guitar solo which gives that song a complete overhaul, however it quickly returns back to its mid tempo ploddy self.
‘Guardians’ is the shortest track of the album and is purely instrumental. A beautiful piano melody leads through the speakers and really breaks up the album, giving you a short break of peace before your face is ripping off again. Slowly through ‘Guardians’ the piano melody fades into duelling guitars and with two massive snare hits ‘Rising from Ruins’ comes in. Like ‘Never the Hero’s’ the verses are slower, but builds up into a huge sounding chorus with Halford screaming ‘we’re standing as one / we’re carrying on / Rising from ruins’. I can’t help but feel the recent tragic news of Glenn Tipton and the unsuccessful latter day priest albums are not letting priest break and the lyrics echoes there feelings. ‘Guardians’ piano melody comes back into play but now with a roaring lead guitar sound that flows effortlessly through the track. One of the stand out moments of the album and an incredible piece of music.
‘Flame Thrower’ is the lowest point of the album and after 30 seconds I already want to skip, it seems they’ve tried to go for 70’s sounding priest but fail to gain any momentum or excitement throughout. ‘Spectre’, Traitors Gate’, ‘No surrender’ & ‘Lone Wolf’ are more great sounding songs, they all have huge riffs and a shed load of shredding. The album ends on what can only be described as Halfords highlight. ‘Sea of red’ which really lets Halfords vocals roar over melodic acoustic guitars, an operatic choir accompanies him during the final seconds of the song and underneath the guitar solo bringing a really eerie sounding ‘Ghost’ vibe to the end of the album.
As you can imagine from this review, the album is incredible and with a little chopping here and there it could easily be one of their best, being beaten only by ‘painkiller’. If this is Glenn Tipton’s final recording effort with Priest, it is one that should be renowned.