2. Lightning Strike
3. Evil Never Dies
4. Never The Heroes
6. Children of the Sun
8. Rising From Ruins
9. Flame Thrower
11. Traitors Gate
12. No Surrender
13. Lone Wolf
14. Sea of Red
Reviewed by Casper of Rohan
The words are scarcely at hand and barely manifest themselves on the canvass before me, as the realisation strikes like a Screaming For Vengeance inbound metal eagle that this is, indeed Judas Priest. To be amongst those asked to provide opinion before release is always humbling, but this band and this album demand an entirely different reverence altogether. Dissimilar to the emotions elicited by Redeemer of Souls, Nostradamus and even Angel of Retribution. Perhaps it is the thought of almost half a century exactly that Judas Priest have been at the top of the metal tree or even the consideration of eighteen studio albums that provides an air of foreboding and distinct privilege.
Then the realisation strikes me that it matters not a jot what words I may assemble here in hope to portray what is churning inside, because those letters cannot, no matter how carefully arranged, make manifest the feelings stirring within a of a fan of fifty years.
That babble may seem superfluous until you play this recording and experience precisely the same emotional rollercoaster of gob smacked exuberance and head bowing reverence to the mighty ones, Judas Priest. This album is truly humbling and genuinely representative of the bands incredible skill and determination to make their half century, equally as exciting as any years prior.
Firepower opens with a screeching worthy of avian raid from above and develops into the perfect track bearing the most apt of titles as it shreds, tears and stomps any doubts you may have lingering as to whether Judas Priest will still be delivering the goods. This track sets the scene to perfection because as Lightning Strike and Evil Never Dies power forth from your media, and provide the same level of raw ferocity, you are already safe in the knowledge that you are experiencing a milestone recording from those who have inspired countless thousands over half a century.
As the tracks alter marginally in pace and style I realise that this collection is a masterclass in the assembly of every thrilling element that collectively makes up that NWOBHM sound. Never The Heroes reduces the pace and assumes a slightly Teutonic metal feel but this one will be hurled back from crowds for decades to come and, yet again reminds us of what influence this band have the finest of bands the world over. The production skills of Andy Sneap coupled with the experience of Tom Allom, have resulted in a perfectly weighted collection.
Turn you stereo up and watch all around helpless but to mosh in time at the will of the Necromancer. Oh, we know who is well and truly, still in charge.
The malevolent stomp of Children of the Sun, the beautiful piano introduction to Guardians (yes, don’t panic. You’re still in the right review) and the screaming bass pelting and riff ridden Rising From Ruins all serve to demonstrate that Ian Hill, Glenn Tipton, Scott Travis and the brilliant Richie Faulkner carry the legacy of Judas Priest with ferocious determination and contemporary appeal. Sadly, Glenn will not be performing live with the band due to illness, but if this were to be his final installment with Judas Priest, what a masterpiece to celebrate his incredible journey with the band. Hats off and horns up to Glenn but hope remains true that Parkinson’s will not bring about a finale in the studio.
Flamethrower hooks you with licks, vocals, beat and harmonic deviations before soaring solos blister your face and Rob Halford provides a performance that challenges the youngest and most capable voice to keep up. Keep up and maintain that reverberant, roaring range? Forget it. This is Rob Halford and none will ever come close to his incredible capabilities. Yep…still. And I think we were uttering something similar before 1970.
Spectre is a journey all its own bursting with thrilling elements and lyrical appeal before our sombre shuffle through Traitors Gate is rewarded at the other site with a furious instant metal classic and perhaps modern, long serving fan favourite.
No Surrender serves as a pounding anthem for the metal faithful the world over, reminding in sensational style, exactly why we have loved this sound for so very long with no surrender. Lone Wolf eases back the pace and sidles forth with malevolent indifference, so don’t get in its way, lest it become interested in your demise. The riffs ebb and flow, hurling you side to side in delighted glee before the screeching solo brings your blood back to the boil in excited anticipation. Damn, rally? The penultimate track and still getting goose bumps. Acoustic mariachi plucks our path into the final offering and before long the magnificence of Rob Halford’s voice is celebrated as the timeless, unstoppable force that it truly is. An example of sequencing genius, because the track has you paused in reverence during the opening sequence, to the works created by this band but as the track evolves, you find your chest swelled, bursting with pride that you are privy to the majesty of Judas Priest.
This is as short a summary as I have ever offered, but more would be mere gilding of the lily. This is Judas Priest in 2018. With all considered and weighed with respect to circumstances sad, sombre and with a seemingly endless supply of those willing to criticise, I am left with one final sentence. This is the culmination of almost fifty years mastery and skill, crammed into an album of pure Priest perfection.
You can pre-order Firepower on itunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/firepower/1325585022