JUDAS PRIEST – Redeemer Of Souls

Redeemer Of SoulsBack in 1990, Judas Priest released Painkiller. Fresh from a minor fiasco with the half arsed Ram It Down (1988), they had decided to make their heaviest, hardest and fastest record of their career and with that they succeed. I’m a big Judas Priest fan, but I have always found Painkiller somewhat overrated, but the fact is that the album was a tremendous success and today it is looked upon as one the band’s best releases ever. When we wrote 1992, Judas Priest were huge and that’s why it came as a big surprise / shock that lead singer Rob Halford decided to leave the band to concentrate on his side project Fight (that also included Priest – drummer Scott Travis and guitarist Russ Parrish, today more known as Sachtel in Steel Panther), a more modern sounding and looking band than Priest, Pantera were a band they drew a lot of influence from. Fight made two albums before splitting up and Halford started another project – Two – a despicable useless industrial band that included future Marilyn Manson / Rob Zombie guitarist John 5 that almost bedraggled Halford’s good name. Priest, with the home bound Travis back on drums, released two miserable records with singer Tim “Ripper” Owens, Jugulator (1997) and Demolition (2001) before the inevitable happened. Priest were on an all time low, playing clubs and not selling any records and Halford did the same, now with this own band Halford. With his solo career, Rob Halford had found his way back to heavy metal again and his two solo albums sounded so much like Judas Priest that it was obvious that something was missing in his life. So they reunited in 2005 nd released the great Angel Of Retribution, an album that had the sound of a classic Priest album. The band toured and played big places again and even though the band’s last effort, the double Nostradamus (2008) put the Priest fans in two camps, one who loved the album and one that, well, didn’t, Priest were still an attraction and could headline Festivals everywhere. With that, everything should be hunky dory in the Priest camp, one would assume. That’s why it came as another shock when original guitarist and one of the main song writers, K.K. Downing in 2011 said he had enough and left the band. To be honest, I thought that that was the final blow for the band and that Priest would call it a day. Luckily enough the band decided that they would keep on going. They only had to find a replacement for K.K…..

Enter: Richie Faulkner. Now, replacing a guy like K.K. is not the easiest task in the world, there were some big shoes to fill, no doubt. Faulkner was hardly a hot-shot name, his biggest claim to fame was as a guitarist in Lauren Harris’ (daughter of Iron Maiden – Steve) band, so the guy was pretty much an unknown to most people. His trial by fire was a huge world tour in 2010 and I got to see the band headline Sweden Rock Festival in 2011. The good news was that if you closed your eyes, you couldn’t hear that K.K. was replaced. Fact is, young Faulkner – the guy is almost half Halford, guitarist Glenn Tipton and bassist Ian Hill’s age – even looks like younger version of Downing so he fitted in great visually as well. But, the biggest challenge is to write new music together and record a record. Priest’s songs were always credited Tipton / Downing / Halford and with the new album in my hands I can determine that Faulkner has a writing credit on all the songs. Cool! Now, a new Priest album always comes with great expectations and with a new guy writing with Rob and Glenn, they have their eyes on them more than ever. I can only admit that it was with great excitement – and a bit of fear as well – that I pushed play and let opener “Dragonaut” punch my jaw. A sigh of relief. The song is killer – a real killer. It’s a “Freewheel Burning” type of song and I can’t see any fan being disappointed by it. The title track comes next and it’s as good as its title is cool – a classic, melodic metal tune. “Halls Of Valhalla” takes Priest into Viking territory, a new theme for them. But they master it gracefully and the song, a mix of the sound of Angel Of Retribution and Defenders Of The Faith, is awesome! “Down In Flames” is classic Priest metal stuff and “Hell And Back” mixes the classic Priest stuff with some cool Led Zeppelin riffing. When it comes to song titles, Priest has a tendency to go Spinal Tap on us once in a while (Monsters Of Rock, Heavy Metal, Leather Rebel, I’m A Rocker) and on “Metalizer” they go there again. It’s an ok song, but nothing really special, it sounds like an outtake from Painkiller. “Crossfire” brings Priest back to their seventies, a time when they were heavily influenced by Black Sabbath and this has all that, but with a huge Zeppelin influence. For us who loves Priest’s slow, dark and heavy songs, they provide us with “Secrets Of The Dead” – a really awesome song. “Battle Cry” goes back to their razor-sharp metal and the song is a cocksure mix of “Jawbreaker” and “Freewheel Burning” – how can a song like that be anything but resplendent? The album ends with the epic metal ballad “Beginning Of The End”, a song that leaves you wanting more.

If you buy the deluxe edition – which you have done, of course – more is exactly what you get. Five more songs. Usually when there’s a bonus disc or bonus tracks, we get some live tracks or some demos that never should have seen the light of day, but Priest gives us a nice five originals. The first track “Snakebite” takes us back to Priest’s 70’s both in sound and production, very rootsy. “Tears Of Blood” is a heavy metal-track in the vein of their 80’s stuff and “Creatures” follows in the same line. “Bring It On” is a standard hard rock tune and there’s filler warning on it, but Priest manages to get away with it. But best of all is “Never Forget”, a big, heavy ballad with a melody to die for. Really, Judas Priest should write more of those. To sum it up, let’s start with K.K. I don’t know if Faulkner had any specific guidelines when they wrote and recorded this album, but it sounds like a classic Judas Priest album and Faulkner does an amazing job, both as a player and as a song writer, so I guess K.K. isn’t really missed. If not anything else, Faulkner might be an injection for this band, because this album is Priest’s best effort since the underrated Turbo (1986). I liked the album the first time I heard it, but it keeps growing on me. The only complaint I have is about the quantity of the songs. If you get the deluxe edition, there are 18 songs to sink your teeth into and in all honesty, that is a bit much to digest. The fact that most of the songs are really good, the smartest thing to do would be to release two separate albums with a year or so in between them. But that’s just a bagatelle. The fact is, Priest has released one helluva record that stands up really well against their classic albums, Halford’s voice – a voice that has been faltering lately – sounds intact and strong and if you’re lucky, you just might catch the Priest live in action once more. Hell is still bent for leather!

Jon Wilmenius (8/10)

Tracklist:

1. Dragonaut
2. Redeemer Of Souls
3. Halls Of Valhalla
4. Sword Of Damocles
5. March Of The Damned
6. Down In Flames
7. Hell And Back
8. Cold Blooded
9. Metalizer
10. Crossfire
11. Secrets Of The Dead
12. Battle Cry
13. Beginning Of The End

Deluxe edition bonus tracks:

1. Snakebite
2. Tears of Blood
3. Creatures
4. Bring It On
5. Never Forget

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6 comments on “JUDAS PRIEST – Redeemer Of Souls

    • Awseome! Do we agree on the songs as well? Can’t remember which songs were your favourites from your review.

      • I think we only have a couple differences. To be honest I like every song now, I like them all a lot! I rated it a 5 and you a 4 (on a scale of 5 that is) and that’s basically our major difference on it.

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