Sunday, 3 August 2014

Judas Priest's 'Redeemer of Souls' - Album Review

Despite the Epitaph tour (and subsequent live DVD) was supposed to be their farewell, it does not look as if Judas Priest are going away any time soon. Buoyed by the success of the tour, and the new-found energy supplied by new guitarist Richie Faulkner (Voodoo Six; Lauren Harris), the legendary heavy metal band went into the studio to record a new album. The result of this is Redeemer of Souls and the album contains a collection of songs that spiritually come from all eras of the band's history. Their last studio album, 2008's sprawling double concept album Nostradamus, seemed to confuse as many people as it won over. The orchestral interludes and slower songs were not what fans of the Priest expected, although there is still plenty to be enjoyed there. Fans of the more traditional elements of the band's sound will be pleased with Redeemer of Souls however, as the band have gone back to the more song-orientated approach that made them famous. There are plenty of big guitar riffs on here and Faulker has worked well with fellow guitarist Glenn Titpon to keep the Priest sound alive, despite the departure of one of it's key parts. This is the band's first album without founding member K. K. Downing and, of course, his absence is felt. Faulkner more than steps up to the plate however and I am sure that fans will enjoy his playing style and his contributions to the songwriting here. As far as the rest of the band go, they all deliver as you would expect. Frontman Rob Halford still posses a strong voice, even if he cannot quite wail as effectively as he used to. Still, he manages to hit a few high-octane screams throughout the course of the album, but nothing compared to what most modern power metal singers can do with ease. The rhythm section of bassist Ian Hill and drummer Scott Travis are solid without ever really standing out. Hill has always taken a back seat with Priest, but I am surprised that Travis did not let rip a little more throughout this album. His performance on Priest albums past, particularly 1990's Painkiller, has always been excellent but here he seems uncharacteristically restrained. Still, the production does not help in this respect, as the drums are oddly low in the mix. Overall, the album sounds pretty good, but I do wish the drums had more punch and were higher in the overall mix.

The album gets off to a very strong start with Dragonaut. It is a really solid mid-paced metal rhomp with some chugging guitar riffs and some razor sharp vocals from Halford. This is classic Priest and the snarling chorus has a lot of bite to it. While the riffs are fairly standard, there is an excellent guitar solo mid-way through the song that has plenty of shredding and melody to it. The second half of it even has a great neo-classical vibe! The title track is up next and this continues on in the same vein. The main riff throughout the verses is very catchy, as is the chorus. There is a very 1980s vibe about this song with some slow double bass drum rolls from Travis and very subtle effects on Halford's vocals during the choruses to enhance the melodies. This is the song the band released on Youtube before the album's main release to wet people's appetites and it seemed to be mostly quite well received. It is another really solid metal song that fits nicely in the Priest canon. Halls of Valhalla steps up the quality and what we have is a really epic, masterful metal number. Tipton and Faulkner's riffing is tight and heavy, and Halford delivers his best performance on the album with quite a few excellent screams. There is definitely a heavy Painkiller on this song as it has a more modern sound to it with the tight, dual guitar riffs and banshee screams. The guitar work throughout this song is really excellent with some great Iron Maiden-esque dual guitar lead sections mixed in well with the pummelling riffs. Towards the end, the song slows down with some really heavy, doomy riffs before eventually building back up again and breaking into an excellent guitar solo. Sword of Damocles is easily my favourite song on the album. It has a theatrical vibe similar to the heavier moments from Nostradamus, but it also contains the hefty dose of power metal. The chorus is something that could have come straight off a Blind Guardian album, and the main guitar leads that drive the song have that folky tint to them that characterise the genre. This is a truly fantastic song, and if it is not included in the setlist for their upcoming US Tour, then it will be a travesty! The next highlight is the simple and catchy Down in Flames. This is probably the sort of song that Tipton would write in his sleep, but the driving bass line and headbanging riff is just what the doctor ordered on a new Priest album and chorus is a really catchy one. Halfords vocals above a short dual guitar part mid-way through the song are really solid, and the guitar solo is enjoyable.

Hell & Back has a similar vibe to the opening two numbers on the album, but it is a little slower and heavier. The guitar work is very simple but the chugging power chords create an ominous feeling and Halford used the more evil end of his vocal range to create quite a bit of emotion on this relatively simple tune. Metalizer is the next highlight. It is a much faster song with some almost thrashy guitar patterns backed up by some good double bass drumming. It would be even better if the drums were more prominent though! Halford uses some excellent elongated notes in the chorus which sound great over the fast guitars. There are certainly better songs on the album, but this song's muscular riffing and almost bone-headed energy definitely has something appealing about it. Classic metal for the old school fans! Crossfire harks back to the band's early days with a focus on bluesy guitar patterns and some effect-laden bass playing that sounds like something from an early Black Sabbath album. The song's main riff has sounds like something Jimi Hendrix might have written if he wanted to move in a heavier direction and the guitar solos have just enough wah on them to sound a little like they have come from a Thin Lizzy album. There are lots of old school sounds going on throughout this song, and it works really well to tie them all together into a coherent piece of music. The next highlight is Battle Cry which is another Painkiller throwback. It contains my favourite riff on the album, as the guitar pattern during the chorus really is fantastic! The verses have a good amount of energy to them but the choruses, backed up by that excellent riff, are worth the price of admission alone. This is another of the album's songs that really stands out to me, and a really fast guitar solo is the icing on the cake. The album comes to an end in a slightly strange way with the slow and moody ballad Beginning of the End. Again, it has the bluesy elements of their earliest material, but there is something very dark about this number. After an album as full-on as this one, this song works really well to add a reflective coda to the end. It is a surprisingly strong song too, and actually is a very fitting closing number. Overall, Redeemer of Souls is an extremely solid album from a band that has done so much for the metal genre over the years. Last year, Black Sabbath's 13 was the must-have classic metal release, and this year Redeemer if Souls have that accolade!

The album was released on 14th July 2014 via Columbia Records. Below is the band's promotional sound clip for Redeemer of Souls.

No comments:

Post a Comment