Judas Priest/ Redeemer Of Souls (2014, Epic)
Judas Priest rules! Does that statement sound ridiculous in 2014? Such was the severity of the impact that this band had on me as a lad in the '80s. I have followed the band intently, regardless of changing tastes or fortunes, be it theirs or mine!
Their first album in six years is also their first without K.K. Downing on guitar. He left in 2011, just prior to their “farewell” Epitaph Tour. Richie Faulkner did that tour and seems to fit in well enough. Halford sings in a lower register than he did during Priest's heyday, and while his five octave screams no longer shatter windows he remains one of the greatest vocalists on the planet. I cut the guy some slack and so should you; he has been releasing albums for 40 years now.
Halls Of Valhalla and Battle Cry are steeped in the vein of Painkiller. Lots of double bass drumming and charging choruses. Sword Of Damocles hints at Priest's Prog-Rock/Proto-Metal side for a second. I wish that the band would delve into that long forgotten sound again.
March of The Damned is classic Priest. While it is midtempo, it still sort of leans forward rather than plod like all post-Grunge Metal bands do when they “groove”. Priest could groove hard as Hell when they wanted to, and this song is a prime example of that.
Metalizer is great latter-day Priest (think Painkiller and beyond). This album has the loudest bass of any Priest album, ever. I often credit Priest's mid-range flavored '80s mixes with my disdain for thudding bass in music. I've often wondered if Priest's bass-challenged sound was an influence on The White Stripes' bass free aesthetic.
Crossfire is among the bluesiest Priest songs ever recorded. Think of it as Zeppelin meets Cream and you wouldn't be too far off. It does kick into more traditional Priest fare, so fret not, Metal dudes.
Production-wise, this is a clean, modern sounding album. This is it's biggest drawback. Priest always sounded big and warm and heavy, not processed and clean like the last few albums have. The drums thankfully sound like drums and not like cannons or drum machines, which has been the case at times in recent years. I miss that roaring Marshall stack sound.
I bought the 2 disc Deluxe Edition, which contains 5 bonus tracks. The band supposedly did this because they claim the songs on disc two didn't fit in with the rest of the album. I am just pissed that both discs total 83 minutes. I could almost fit it on one disc for the car. Snake Bite is akin to the more commercial '80s Priest, sounding like it could be a leftover from Turbo. Creatures is another cool vintage sounding Priest tune. Never Forget is so cheesy, that one I can see shuffling to the end of a bonus disc. Heck, I would have shuffled it into the can, never to be heard from again.
That qualm aside, Redeemer Of Souls is a fine Heavy Metal album made more impressive when you consider that the band released their debut album 40 years ago. This is an unbelievable feat for any band, let alone a Heavy Metal band.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I found the packaging leaving a lot to be desired. The album cover artwork is cheesy. These guys used to have great dustjacket artwork, but for the past quarter century their covers have pretty much sucked. The cover has a foil wrap and the band logo and album title are embossed, which is way cool.
What really disappoints me is the lack of hubs. Wallet-style tri-fold sleeves do not work for compact discs. There is no way that you can safely slide the discs in and out repeatedly without scratching them. This is lame. I ended up burning a copy for the car, and this packaging nearly guarantees that I will never take the real discs out to play again. Sad. Bands and labels need to stop punishing folks who actually pay for music with cost-saves like this. At least give us a paper or plastic sleeve for the discs if you insist on this practice.