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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Judas Priest

Redeemer of Souls

Review by Gary Hill

Judas Priest’s last album Nostradamus really divided fans. I know I fall into the category who loved it and think that it might be their best ever. Some hated the progressive direction they took. Well, this album seems to be a response to that as it’s more of a full forward metal set. It’s the kind on thing you expect from Priest with no surprises. That is, until you really listen. There’s a depth here and there is both a reverence and return to past glories and an eye on the future. The closing song on the bonus disc seems to indicate that this might be Priest’s swansong. If so, it would be a great way to end the legacy. Personally, I’d rather hear more from them, but this is a great album and I could live with it as their parting shot.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Dragonaut
Some storm sound effects lead things off here. Then the guitar fires in and we’re off and running. There’s no messing around here. This is powerhouse heavy metal. The riffs are meaty and the hooks are catchy. The guitar solo on this starts with some very classic sounding Priest and works out to something a bit more like technical metal.
Redeemer of Souls
An anthemic metal tune, this is definitely trademark Judas Priest. The hooks are infectious and the guitar work is meaty and tasty. This is the kind of thing most people expect from Judas Priest.
Halls of Valhalla
There is a gradual building guitar introduction here. Rather than fully rising up, though, it gives way to a more riff based jam. This is screaming fast and furious. It’s more like Painkiller era Priest. The lyrics to this are based on Norse mythology. The tune has some great riffing and some classic Halford vocals. This is Priest! There are even some guitar bits that make me think of Sad Wings of Destiny a bit.
Sword of Damocles
This powers in screaming hot. This is a dynamic number. If it’s possible, I think the vocal hooks on this are even catchier than those on the earlier songs. There are some great changes and guitar parts. I love the section where they drop it to mellower, ballad-like territory. It’s definitely a throw back all the way to Sad Wings…When they power back up from there it’s powerful.
March of the Damned
There is more of a modern sound to this one. I love this song, but in some ways it feels more like something Ozzy might do than Judas Priest. Still, bands need to grow and evolve and this is solid tune. I could stand Priest doing more stuff like this. The instrumental section, though, has something more retro. The backdrop makes me think of “Metal Gods” a bit, while the guitar soloing leans toward older Priest than that.
Down in Flames
I love this song. It’s not the instant winner that some of the others are, but rather one that gets better with repeated spins. It has some classic Priest sounds, but there are other things that are more unusual. I love the little off-kilter section that shows up here and there. The guitar duel is a great touch, too. Yet it has the kind of classic Priest hook we’ve come to expect, too. This is a strong song on a strong album.
Hell & Back
Here is another that takes a little time to work into the mind. It starts with a mellow section for the first verse. Then it powers out into a jam that makes me think of Sin After Sin a little. The main song structure feels like it could fit there, but this has some screaming metal edge to it that was a bit lacking on that album, too. There are some exceptional guitar sections on this. Some of the guitar soloing on this makes me think of different periods of Priest’s history. There are things that call to mind Sad Wings…, others that seem closer to Hell Bent for Leather. The fast paced jam that takes it out in particular reminds me of something from Sad Wings of Destiny.
Cold Blooded
The metal modes on this have a more modern sound. I love the vocals on this and there are some particularly effective guitar lines and sounds. It has a nice balance between mellower and heavier sounds. This is easily recognizable as Judas Priest, but the sound is fresh. The instrumental section is both classic and smoking hot.
Metalizer
If there’s a nod to the Nostradamus album, this is it. The rather complex arrangement seems to be similar to some of the stuff on that disc. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some parts of this had been written during those sessions. This is a real screamer, though. It’s kind of a cross between Painkiller and Nostradamus. My only complaint is the lyrics which are a bit silly.
Crossfire
Here’s a surprise. The main riff driving this has an almost straight rock and roll edge in some ways. They bring some real metal to it, though. The vocal line is one of the cooler ones of the set and this song is purely on fire. It’s a real winner. It definitely has a classic Priest sound. In fact, I don’t think it would have been out of place on Hell Bent for Leather or Stained Class in a lot of ways. This is one of my favorites of the set. The thing is, it’s really hard to pick a favorite because the whole album is so strong.
Secrets of the Dead
This starts mellow and a bit spooky and forlorn. It works out to a slow, plodding metal approach for the verse. The chorus has a more accessible, polished approach. There is definitely a classic Priest vibe to this thing. The middle section features some great melodic guitar work and some Middle Eastern sounding stuff at times. It really moves into something akin to European epic metal at times. This is actually a fairly complex and diverse piece. It’s also a very effective one.
Battle Cry
This is furious and a real powerhouse. It’s got lots of energy and some smoking hot guitar lines and vocal hooks. This is another winner, but there really isn’t anything I’d consider weak here. This is anthemic and has some definite classic Priest sound to it. The guitar workout in the middle of the track is awesome. The powerhouse jam that ensues after is its equal.
Beginning of the End
From start to finish this is a mellow song. It’s not the kind of thing that’s unprecedented in the world of Priest, though. In fact, this is very familiar territory. It’s moody and quite cool, actually. I just question the positioning of it. I mean, if you look at the album as a whole (both discs) then it’s more or less an interlude. If you look at it as the closer of one of the discs, then that just seems to be a less than optimal position for it. Either way, it’s a good song that shows a different (but familiar) side of the Priest sound.
Disc 2
Snakebite
This isn’t the most Priest-like thing here. Sure, it has some definite Judas Priest elements, but parts of this are more generic than that. The vocals save it, but so does the instrumental break and guitar soloing mid-track. The bridge is good, too. Mind you, it doesn’t really need saving as it’s a pretty accessible tune. It’s just that it feels more like the metal period of Alice Cooper’s career than it does like Priest.
Tears of Blood
This is an anthemic Priest powerhouse. It’s a smoking hot number with some accessible vocal hooks and tasty guitar work.
Creatures
The main riff driving this is very heavy. There are some parts of the vocal arrangement that don’t really work that well for me, though. It’s just that parts of it feel too polished and generic. Still, this cut rocks out with some definite Priestisms at the same time. It’s got some exceptionally heavy modern metal sounds at play, too.
Bring It On
This is a pretty generic metal grind. It’s okay, but if there’s a weak point here, this is it.
Never Forget
A full on balladic treatment, I really like this a lot. It’s a bit sentimental, but it’s also powerful. The melodic guitar solo really cuts through nicely. Again, I’m just not sure of the wisdom of ending on such a mellow note. There is a bittersweet feeling to this. As Halford sings things like “Yes we know all good things come to an end / This is just farewell and not goodbye my friends / And we thank you for it all / We will never forget” and “It’s not over – not over my friends” it begs the question if it really is over and this is Priest’s final thank you to the fans. K.K. Downing retired before the last tour. One has to wonder if maybe the rest of the guys aren’t far behind. If this turns out to be the final gift from the Priest, it is a great one, well suiting its position in their catalog. I suppose in that regard, then ending with this would make perfect sense and there wouldn’t be a better way to do it.

 

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