Sunday, July 13, 2014

Judas Priest - Redeemer of Souls

Where to begin with this review? I mean, come on, it's Judas Priest. The Metal Gods. This band defined heavy metal for the generations that followed. There's no question that this band single-handedly took what Sabbath started and refined it to create heavy metal as we know it. It actually pains me to write this review because Judas Priest was my first metal band back with the release of Unleashed in the East. I blew my the speakers on my parent's console stereo while losing my voice trying to emulate Rob's vocals on The Green Manalishi at 13 when my voice was changing, facing possible damage to my young tender vocal chords. This was music like I've never heard...a young metal head had been born!

If you look at it, this band has only had a few periods where they had consistently quality albums. The 70s were the period where the band produced some the finest metal the world has ever known. The 80s were loaded with radio friendly songs due to the band having commercial success. Painkiller in 1990 is lauded as setting the bar for future Priest releases. The 90s and into the early 2000s...well, we won't even go there. In 2003 Rob Halford returned to the fold and it seemed all would be right with the world. After one okay album and one absolute catastrophe 2014 brings us a new Judas Priest album, Redeemer of Souls. The hype leading up to this album was the band making statements of this being the heaviest they've done in years. The teasers released were even decent enough for me to be cautiously optimistic. Sadly, the finished product is not what I expected at all. Instead we have an album that is inconsistent with a few songs being good but most being mediocre at best.

So let's start with what's good about this album. The band starts off good with "Dragonaut." The title is silly but the song is pretty good. The song has a nice riff in the beginning and has high energy. It is a decent album opener. Actually the only other high energy song on the album worthy of being an opener would have been "Battle Cry." The title track is also a song that can be catchy at times and is one of the songs that got my hopes up for this album. "Sword of Damocles" has a really cool 70s vibe in the opening riffs, a catchy chorus, and is actually a pretty cool song. The solos on these songs are good as Ritchie Faulkner is a worthy replacement for K.K. Downing as far as solos go. Another song that just screams 70s Priest is "Crossfire." This song could have been on Sin After Sin...maybe only as filler but it still could have been on there. That bluesy riffing has always worked with Priest and it still does after all these years. Even Rob hits some high notes, which is rare on this album. His voice is competent since he's always had a good tenor and baritone to his voice. This is the best song on the album and the best song the band has written in a long time.

Well, that's it folks. The rest of the album is just plain mediocre. "Halls of Valhalla" shows the band over reaching as they did on Nostradamus. It may have been a better song if they shaved about two to three minutes from it but at six minutes long it becomes redundant. Same with "Secrets of the Dead." In fact that song sounds like a leftover from Nostradamus. "March of the Damned" sounds so safe and Halford's vocals are so monotone he actually sounds like Ozzy in places. "Hell & Back" is just awful. It begins like a ballad and although it picks up the pace a bit, it just doesn't keep me interested. Instead it plods along with no balls or direction. The chorus isn't even that catchy. "Metalizer" is the worst offender because you can tell the band is trying way to hard to be heavy and it just doesn't come off the way it should have. Not sure if it was the production or what but it just doesn't work. The riffing is just chugging riffs that sound like they could be heavy but instead they just plod along. It's speedy in places but not enough to save it. The solos are the only thing that's good about this song.

I'm torn because this could have been a better album. There is proof on this very album that this band still has some chops and can still write catchy tunes. I'm not sure what they were trying to do with some of these songs but sometimes the "let's try to be heavy again just to be heavy" doesn't work. Instead it comes off as old men trying to capture some of their former glory. It's embarrassing. Some claim this is the best they've done since Painkiller, and they are right. But what is that really saying? It's the best of their worst? I'm not sure what the future holds for this band. I really wanted to love this album but there's so little to love.


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