The over-riding question which immediately springs to mind – as it inevitably does with any act with a pedigree stretching back some 45 years, plus a back catalogue which is one of the most iconic and influential in heavy metal – is “are Judas Priest still relevant today?”. It is a question which could equally be applied to any act with such an established place in the heavy metal pantheon: I mean, it was most definitely was one when it was announced that the classic line-up of Black Sabbath was to re-unite for what turned out to last year’s iconic ’13’ opus…
… And it is a question which the Priest have most definitely answered in the affirmative with this, their first album in five years and the first since the departure of KK Downing (in 2011) left bassist Ian Hill as the sole remaining founder member of the Midlands behemoths. Because, apart from a few glitches and fillers, ‘Redeemer Of Souls’ not only is one of the best pure heavy metal albums you will hear this year (or this decade) but also quite possibly represents another pinnacle in the career of the band who perhaps quite rightly can be regarded as one of the last guardians of the originating flame of the genre.
The fact that the album kicks in at more than an hour in length should be an immediate indicator of the band’s intent – as is Rob Halford’s menacing, snarling opening “welcome to my world of steel”, as ‘Dragonaut’ grounds and pounds its way out of your speakers and into both your consciousness and subconsciousness with equally bombastic, brutal effect, proving that the metal gods are still very much atop their podium victorium – and not likely to relinquish it for quite some time.
The title track has a slightly less aggressive edge, more charactistic perhaps of the band’s late-80s ‘populist’ sound, but nonetheless possesses more than enough spit and venom to poison even the most immune of metallic hearts, while ‘Halls Of Valhalla’ is, quite simply, a huge, epic slice of behemothic metal brilliance that easily would give anything produced by such Viking invaders as Amon Amarth as severe beating…
The influence of new guitarist Richie Faulkner is extremely obvious, as he seems to have simultaneously re-invigorated the band and given them a more focussed approach, while at the same time have slipped seamlessly into Downing’s former role as Glenn Tipton’s sparring partner, as the guitar duels which we enjoyed on Priest’s early albums are again brought to the fore – especially on the likes of the magnificent ‘March Of The Damned’.
Yes, there are a few fillers, especially in the second half of the album, but when a a man in his 60s can still spit lyrics like “the leather gets scuffed as it’s worn” and “where I’m going to will serve me well” then you know that if growing old disgracefully means producing mean-ass no-excuses pure fucking heavy metal as you do so, well, bring it on mofos, ‘cos veterans can still teach you young bucks a thing or three…
Dragonaut / Redeemer Of Souls / Halls Of Valhalla / Sword Of Damocles / March Of The Damned / Down In Flames / Hell & Back / Cold Blooded / Metalizer / Crossfire / Secrets Of The Dead / Battle Cry / Beginning Of The End
Recommended listening: Halls Of Valhalla