Judas Priest - Invincible Shield

Judas Priest – Invincible Shield (Album Review)

Judas Priest 2024

Fifty-four years running, the Heavy Metal institution known as Judas Priest is about to release their twentieth studio album on March 8, 2024. This would be a monumental occasion for any band, but with Priest we are talking about one of the foundational forces that along with Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, defined and created the entire genre.  Calling it Invincible Shield, the new material blasts onto planet Earth courtesy of Sony Music / Epic Records, and sees the band once again tapping Andy Sneap for the production job. How will these steely vets fare this far into their sterling career?

Once again, the Metal God, known also by his mortal name Rob Halford, mans the mic as he has done since rejoining the fold in 2003. He is joined by founding Guitarist Glenn Tipton and his cohort on the six-string, Richie Faulkner. As usual, bass duties are handled by another one of the founding members, Ian Hill, while the drum kit is manned by Scott Travis (Racer X, Thin Lizzy, Fight). Working well together, Invincible Shield stands as the third straight album with this lineup.

Pressing play on the album, the listener is greeted by opening triumvirate “Panic Attack,” “The Serpent and the King,” and the title track. The first two have made the rounds as lead singles, and both sound incredibly fresh and convincing. Don’t be fooled by the synth-laden intro – a fine start with an ’80s feel – this is a straight-ahead rocker that shows Halford’s voice shedding the decades for a much more youthful howl. Guitar tone is king on “The Serpent and the King,” with Halford singing the verses near the higher end of his range, at times sounding a bit like Bobby Blitz of Overkill. A bit of Thrash here, with lovely guitar solos interspersed throughout.

For this scribe, the strongest song on the album is the title-track. “Invincible Shield” has it all and make no mistake – this is the “Painkiller” of the 2000s. Sure, it might not be quite as ferocious as the 1990 banger, and it definitely boasts a super-melodic bridge and singalong chorus. The kinetic energy is there. This is full-on Judas f**king Priest, and the breakdown following the twin harmony, silky soloing about halfway through is pure Heavy Metal glory. If a mosh pit was ever going to break out at a Priest show, it would be during that section. This is one of the best Judas Priest songs written in decades.

The middle section of the album vibes a bit different, as is common with Judas Priest albums. After the far more pedestrian “Devil In Disguise,” the Queensrÿche-like opening salvo of “Gates of Hell” stirs up plenty of excitement. Twin guitar harmonies to savor between the ears, and a very robust Rock-n-Roll number unfolds. A very singable chorus ensues, almost Glam Rock in its presentation, which will stay in the listener’s head.

Moving along, “As God Is My Witness” is another banger, once more mixing a very tough verse section with a hyper-melodic chorus. Razor sharp guitars proliferate alongside smooth solos. Priest is shelling the listener with quality riffing and monster songwriting. “Crown of Horns” is a tiny bit ineffective, campy, and while it does possess a catchy chorus, it does not quite stack up with the rest of the album.

There are very few lows, all told, and Invincible Shield makes a massive statement as a result. The call/response effect on the chorus of “Sons of Thunder” gives this one a serious set of balls amid the sterling leads and magnificent voice of Halford. This one is another amazing tune to be cherished. “Vicious Circle” boasts some excellent riffing and yet another amazing chorus, with even more satisfying twin-guitar harmonies to boot.

Without a doubt, defying the odds of time and age, Judas Priest has turned out a walloping thoroughbred of an album that boasts an old-school, timeless Heavy Metal sound. Above all, it’s got the ‘songs’ – seven elite humdingers right off the bat that can hang with any of their classics, and for that Cryptic Rock gives Invincible Shield 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Judas Priest - Invincible Shield art
Judas Priest – Invincible Shield / Sony Music (2024)

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