JUDAS PRIEST - Redeemer Of Souls
July 16, 2014, a year ago
Laying all my cards on the table, I was yearning for those multiple feelings that the Painkiller caused, something fresh, bright, balls-out, brash and bullying. And the metal gods have stoked the molten fires to do virtually just that on their seventeenth record. But Redeemer Of Souls is a tough pill to swallow as a whole, with the actual album clocking in at over an hour and that's without the five bonus tracks for the limited edition that are far from throwaway! Of course with every other Priest album, the band has tried to reinvent the wheel and not cookie-cutter stamp their way through the motions. Sure, the Brits have seen their share of debatable controversy with Point Of Entry (although I love the album), Turbo (you've read my Wacken "Turbo Lover" tale) and even Nostradamus. The point is, Priest are undeniably unpredictable, even if the leather and studs have seen many battles. Redeemer Of Souls will have you exhausted with the wealth, breadth and depth of the material found within.
As guitarist and producer Glenn Tipton remarks, the band's third opus since the Rob Halford rejoined kicks off with a "fucking clap of thunder," as the pounding "Dragonaut" launches with the invasion of the latest creature in the Priest repertoire, while the Metal God wields his whip and cries "welcome to my world of steel!" I will say up front, the smooth guitar rhythms by able-bodied K.K. Downing-replacement Richie Faulkner and Mr. Tipton signal yet another era in conjuring up heaviness.
The title track that greeted us in late April is up next, "Redeemer Of Souls" is a two-pronged attack from the guitar duo that ebbs and flows effortlessly. "Halls Of Valhalla" echoes from the distance in majestic style until drummer Scott Travis' steady backbone is greeted by the menacing scream "Valhalla!!!!", Halford's high-pitched prowess as much of the band's trademark as ever. The first epic attack (over six minutes) will have you echoing "The Sentinel" subconsciously, while the song surges onward and at the searing solo midpoint, the Metal God's vocal chords attack once again … just vicious!
More duelling axes kick off the charge in "Sword Of Damocles" until the cruise-control steadiness of Travis takes hold; his mastery often gets overlooked and he remains a vital component, kinda like the nuts n' bolts keeping the British armour in place. Catchy, flowing and addictive, the chorus is a stand-out sing-along. Suddenly the tune mellows as Halford's high-pitched whisper melds with the acoustics and the track hits another peak. Another example of the varied song-writing appeal the almighty Priest holds dear.
"March Of The Damned" will certainly be a staple to the live set as Halford reels his disciples in a-la "Heavy Duty" and "United", while luscious string harmonies greet us with "Down In Flames", another battle-ready bruiser that will appease those with a little grease on their hands!
The first truly mellow moment emerges as Halford motions in a sombre tone "I've been to hell and back." And bassist Ian Hill takes the spotlight on this piece of metal as "Hell & Back" punches mightily in the air, perhaps a historical look in the mirror from a band whose changed the face and style of heavy music. Touching.
"Cold Blooded" is disturbing, the tone depressing while the axes are down-tuned and yawning to match wits with Halford's serious tonality and obvious tension; you can picture him in the vocal room, the lights are dimmed, his fists clenched and spewing forth every emotion that his lungs can muster. Wow.
Meanwhile the metal maestro screams for vengeance on "Metalizer" as the band thrash wildly around him! Yeah, there is nary a dull moment on Redeemer, as the album sucks out your emotions while they themselves ravage with hearts on their sleeves.
And things only get better. Next up is a ditty filled with sultry and devilish soul, as these are the roots that inspired the roots of rock, hard rock and of course heavy metal ... blues! The tone is kinda reminiscent of something off the band's debut, Rocka Rolla, the lead break seeing Priest in casual jam mode, quite fitting as the song title "Crossfire" suggests! The speed picks up, but the underlying message is that of praise to the past while pointing to the future, refreshing to both god and disciple!
The majestic tones of "Secrets Of The Dead" resonate in a marching yet progressive tone. Passionate and epic, this is Priest firing on all cylinders and those that try to walk in their footsteps will only fall flat. Another work of art.
"Battle Cry" is storming with menace before the grand finale. "Beginning Of The End" - introduced with some fine acoustics - is almost Pink Floyd-esque in nature, while Halford's impassioned voice has you literally breaking down as "the final hour draws near". The Tipton/Faulkner team excel with varied flavours and textures as "...The End" retains the same energy and vitality. Borderline ballad, this is a much deeper vision that only Judas Priest can formulate. Truly a work of depressing beauty and the ultimate closure as the band hold our soul in the palm of their hands.