A mixed bag of results for Judas Priest and an album which is a fine comeback, but isn’t the heavy affair it really needed to be.
Written by: Dangerzone
ARTIST: Judas Priest
ALBUM: Redeemer Of Souls
LABEL: Epic Records
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Rob Halford – vocals * Glenn Tipton – guitar * Richie Faulkner – guitar * Ian Hill – bass * Scott Travis – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Dragonaut * 02 Redeemer Of Souls * 03 Halls Of Valhalla * 04 Sword Of Damocles * 05 March Of The Damned * 06 Down In Flames * 07 Hell & Black * 08 Cold Blooded * 09 Metalizer * 10 Crossfire * 11 Secrets Of The Dead * 12 Battle Cry * 13 Beginning Of The End
WEBLINKS: Site Link
It only seems like yesterday that ‘Nostradamus’ was released to much mockery and disdain from not only those here at GDM, but Judas Priest fans around the globe, all left wanting from Priest’s bloated and boring epic. Amazingly that was six years ago and in that time Priest lost original guitarist K.K. Downing and replaced him with forced clone Richie Faulkner, whose introduction didn’t cause as much of a fuss as expected.
Priest’s ‘Epitaph’ tour in 2011/12 was supposedly their final act as a live act, (totally false of course) and after much waiting ‘Redeemer Of Souls’ is their first statement without Downing. The question for me was would Priest miss him as much as they did Halford in the ‘Ripper’ Owens years? After all the songwriting on those albums was well below par. To Judas Priest’s credit they recognized the disaster that was ‘Nostradamus’ and have returned to their familiar brand of metal here, but is it vintage Priest? That’s a hard question to answer.
The direction of the album isn’t exactly consistent, with Priest utilizing styles from each of their four decades of metal, making this almost a retrospective album. It’s a minor issue however and from the opening bars of ‘Dragonaut’ it’s clear the emphasis is on basic heavy metal, in the usual Priest manner. The guitars sound muffled, not as powerful as they should be, but it’s still an effective opener and it’s in keeping with 2005’s ‘Angel Of Retribution’ overall.
The title track has come in for some criticism and it’s not unwarranted, a mid-paced straggler with a stock hook and half-heartedly chugging riffs with no sense of menace. ‘Halls Of Valhalla’ picks up the pace, a solid blast which has the ‘Painkiller’ era tone, but not quite as venomous. Again the guitars are buried in the mix and leave Halford exposed as far too dominant.
The Manowar fantasy lyrics continue on ‘Sword of Damocles’ which also feels like a standard cut, nothing overwhelming to speak of musically, just Priest by numbers. There’s an 80’s tinge to ‘March Of The Damned’ with the chorus sounding akin to ‘Never Satisfied’ all the way back from 1974. The guitar solo doesn’t hit the mark either and the dynamics of Tipton/Downing are definitely missed.
‘Down in Flames’ could be Saxon, with a more melodic edge to the harmonies and guitar work. It’s more hard rock than metal and one of the more standout tracks. It could even be passed off as AOR if you’re feeling particularly bold, but certainly not in the ‘Turbo’ sense.
The grinding ‘Hell And Back’ has 70’s throwback elements that bring ‘Stained Class’ to mind. You have to concentrate to envision it though. It’s there however and it sounds more convincing than the normal heavy metal tracks. The sped up sections near the end really ram this point home, showing Judas Priest are still in touch with their origins.
‘Cold Blooded’ incorporates both the 80’s and early 90’s and is essentially melodic rock, being versed in territory that brings 1985 Dokken to mind. That might sound offputting, but Priest excels at this, showing yet another facet to their songwriting. No guesses are needed as to the content of ‘Metalizer’, fast and aggressive naturally. This one again recalls ‘Painkiller’ but is spoiled by the garage like production, given it the feel of being a rushed and unfinished demo.
There’s a blues touch to ‘Crossfire’, another stab at the bands early work in the 70’s and once again better than the metal quota they have to meet. Melodically it could almost be ‘Love You To Death’ from ‘Ram It Down’ also, making for a unique combination of styles. The epic metal of ‘Secrets Of The Dead’ doesn’t quite fire on all cylinders, plodding along with minimal effect, almost reaching Iron Maiden dullness.
Atoning for this is ‘Battle Cry’ and some much needed speed metal, but never approaching the ferocity that epitomized ‘Painkiller’ which clearly is what they’re emulating here. The guitar work is dare I say ordinary and this is when you certainly notice the absence of Downing. ‘Beginning Of The End’ is a morose end to the album, a ballad which evokes the ‘Sad Wings Of Destiny’ ‘gothic’ era and sounds equally as haunting in its own way.
A mixed bag of results for Judas Priest and an album which is a fine comeback, but isn’t the heavy affair it really needed to be. It’s miles ahead of ‘Nostradamus’ yet doesn’t have the impact I’d hoped for. Considering how late in their career this is it’s hard to complain about new music from Priest, but the production hinders songs which could have benefitted from a clearer and equally balanced job.
Regardless of the negative factors it’s still Judas Priest and unabashed heavy metal, something you have to take when you can get it. Whether it’s their final album remains to be seen, but it does nothing to upset the Priest legend, even if it’s far from their best.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)