August 7, 2014 Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls (Album review)
Celebrating forty years of existence, Judas Priest is a band who needs very little introduction. Along with bands like Saxon, Iron Maiden, and Deep Purple, the mighty Priest is directly responsible for spawning heavy metal as we know it today. Unlike Maiden and Saxon, whose stream of new releases has been fairly consistent, we haven’t seen a new Priest album since 2008’s concept album Nostradamus. Following the loss of founding guitarist K.K. Downing and amid a swirl of retirement rumors, things began to turn around only a few years ago, when a statement regarding the writing of new material was made official. Enter ex-Lauren Harris Band guitarist Richie Faulkner, add him to the classic line-up of Glen Tipton on guitars, Rob Halford on vocals, Ian Hill on bass, along with drummer Scott Travis, and what you have is a hungrier, fresher Judas Priest. Taking on the world with their new album Redeemer of Souls, one can’t help but wonder what would result after a six year gap and the replacement of the Tipton/Downing duo, one of the most famous guitar pairings in all of heavy rock music.
It turns out Rob Halford and the boys have decided to dispense with the conceptual, experimental side of their repertoire, instead opting for a more stripped down approach reminiscent of their classic period. With dedication to their multi-generational fans in mind, Redeemer of Souls begins in a big way with opening song “Dragonaut.” Those opening riffs are a statement of intent, blasting out of the speakers and resolving themselves into a deliciously good number that shows the Priest machine is far from ready to hang it up. Halford sounds strong in more mid-register octaves, boosted up by the dagger-sharp riffs and killer solos this band has been churning out since before many of their fans were even born. The title track, with its ultra-catchy chorus, stands up strong and will light it up live for sure. Judas Priest goes from strength to strength with the stellar “Halls of Valhalla.” Halford shows us the voice of the metal god is far from finished on this one.
Other highlights include “Down In Flames,” a storming NWOBHM styled number with melodic guitar leads right in line with everything fans love about this style of classic heavy metal, and the rousing “Cold Blooded.” Tempo changes and more interesting killer guitar solos really take this one home to the listener. The album has its more introspective moments with songs such as “To Hell And Back” and “Secrets of the Dead,” songs crafted with that perfect blend of finesse and balls that comes of forty years in the game doing it the Judas Priest way.
Sure they’ve diverged from the expectations of fans from time to time (think “Turbo”) but Halford and company have written a complete ass-kicker of an album with Redeemer of Souls, one that should rekindle the ardor of any fans who may have strayed from the path across the years. The deluxe version of the release features three heavy rockers and two slow burners – all songs the band felt did not fit alongside the metallic trappings of the album proper. High quality from start to finish, with Redeemer of Souls Judas Priest has raised the bar for their fellow elder statesmen in classic metal, and the world is a better place for it. CrypticRock gives this album 5 out of 5 stars.