It has been ‘six whole years’ since the Priest blessed the metal world with a full studio album, to paraphrase famous fan, Judas singer Lady Gaga.
Redeemer of Souls, Judas Priest’s SEVENTEENTH album, has more spurring, spirited headbangers that go back to its classic sound.
The rain in the opening seconds of Dragonaut marks the calm before the electrical storm, generated by the serious shredding from guitarists Richie Faulkner and Glenn Tipton. Singer Rob Halford shows listeners why he is truly the Metal God, with those distinctive growls and wails that have barely deteriorated even 40 years after he joined the band. Redeemer of Souls gallops like the obvious single that it is, cementing the fact that the band has lost none of its hunger to rock.
Then come the campy but necessary mythical references and calls to arms. Halls of Valhalla is a genuine peak, as its measured, anthem-like opening morphs into frenzied power chords that should spark mass hysteria if this were to open a Priest concert. Halford erupts with piercing screams that unleash impossibly inhuman horror on this Norse religion-referencing track.
The heavy waltz of Sword of Damocles is a suitable singalong for an epic fight in a fantasy land. The hilarious but energetic Metalizer, featuring more of Halford’s iconic high notes, is most likely about the skeletal, cartoonish monster depicted in the album artwork. However, Down in Flames is a bit too straightforward with its four-to-the-floor rhythm and predictable theme of a ‘blaze of glory’. Fortunately, the penultimate track Battle Cry reaches meteoric highs. With its gloriously harmonious and adventurous riffs, it ominously conjures the eternal, merciless flames of hell.
There are even some country influences on tracks like Hell and Back (which has a rare stripped down moment reminiscent of Metallica’s One with Halford’s naked vocals backed by chilly keyboards) and Crossfire (whose slightly wah-wah guitars sound like Black Velvet on steroids).
The Priest descends into the spooky, with church bells opening Secrets of the Fire. The band’s impact on bands like Dragonforce is evident here, as the heavenly guitars and vocals rise above the claustrophobic, oppressive musical setting.
Cold Blooded is a reprieve from the religious references. Halford’s deliberately steady vocals ironically sound vulnerable on this emotional opus about an all-consuming lover. This album highlight is bolstered by emphatic guitar riffs that are ripe for a segue-way into or mashup with The Green Manalishi in a live setting.
Snakebite and Bring It On are fun, mindless metal, and are left off the standard version of the album for that reason. However, the grimly-titled Tears of Blood and prowling Creatures would not have sounded too out of place on the album.
As the band members are approaching pensioner age, listeners may take the beautifully funereal Beginning of the End literally and see the end of the band as a distinct possibility. The tender bonus track Never Forget is a thank you and may even be a swansong to the fans. After hearing the strong collection of songs that is Redeemer of Souls, listeners should hope that the end is some time off.