Judas Priest – Redeemer Of Souls – Album Review

JudasPriestRedeemerSouls

I’m actually a little surprised to find myself writing this review because, to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting I was going to be that motivated based on the pre-release teasers that were put out ahead of the release date. It wasn’t that they were intrinsically “bad”, but from what I remember, nothing grabbed my ear, aside from thinking the production wasn’t that sharp. However, the CD release has now found a happy home in my iTunes rotation and today I am fired up to give you my thoughts!

As any good metal fan knows, Judas Priest are as close to the roots of true Heavy Metal as you can get. Formed in 1970 (though with some roots reaching back into ’69), this band is nearly as old as I am, and that is REALLY OLD… crazy to even think of a band existing and cranking it out for this long. Yes, that really is 44 years. Carving a unique niche, with their twin-guitar attack from the very start, today this doesn’t seem that special, but in the 70’s it was, trust me. Aside from perhaps Wishbone Ash, the idea of using two guitarists in dual-lead roles wasn’t something that had been seen in the very early 70’s and Priest took that and ran with it, cranking overdrive upon harmony and breaking ground on a genre that has survived for better or worse four and a half decades and counting.

The 2011-2012 world tour was declared to be the last for the band, and it was stated that the band would retire at the end of the scheduled dates. This was further reinforced with the departure of KK Downing in 2011 and many thought that the Epitaph tour really would be the end of the road, despite the recruitment of new blood in the shape of Richie Faulkner to take over the empty guitar slot to allow the band to complete the tour. There will always be resistance to change when it comes to any iconic band, and Priest have this in capital letters, so Richie had some really big shoes to fill, but anyone that has seen the Epitaph DVD will be hard pushed to say anything other than good things about Faulkner’s playing and overall fit in the band.

I have to say that I have grown rather tired of bands declaring they are retiring, and Priest have played that card no differently, with the release of “Redeemer Of Souls” bring them to a tally of 17 studio albums, and now have announced a 20-date tour of the USA… Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy this is the situation, but the farewell tour syndrome really is getting rather long in the tooth.

So, what do we get with Redeemer Of Souls? Well, the previous release was a long six years ago, in the shape of the Nostradamus concept album, that to be honest met with a pretty mixed reception, most reviews scoring a rather tame 5/10. Of course, that record will have it’s advocates, so don’t bother showering me with messages telling me it’s your favorite Priest release – I’m simply relaying what the consensus opinion was of that record. The one sad fact is that Nostradamus was KK Downing’s last record with the band, so that was rather a tame closing chapter. Here, we have the recording debut of Richie Faulkner and a step-up indeed. My subjective impression is the production is better than the pre-release teasers, so maybe they were early mixes, which, if true, rather questions the point of releasing them, because if there are many folks like me, they had a rather more negative effect than positive. The regular album delivers a total of thirteen tracks and, if that’s not enough new Priest for you, shell out for the deluxe edition that adds another five tracks to the count on a second CD.

The CD opens with “Dragonaut” which powers into a pretty standard Priest power-riff driven, mid-paced number, which for some reason seems to remind me of Ozzy, but in a good way. It’s not my favorite number by any stretch, but does a decent job of getting this off and running. Next up “Redeemer Of Souls” powers forward and just sounds so much more together than I remember from the teaser release. Rob Halford is in fine voice and personally I’m hard pushed to say I am missing KK Downing at all – Richie Faulkner I believe delivers all the solo parts mixed to the left, while Glenn Tipton is mixed speaker-right, and both get equal billing and do a fine job. Following “Redeemer” we have “Halls Of Vahalla” and at this point I am getting into this nicely, and the neat harmony bridge section that kicks in at around 3:30 into the track is very tasty.

Skipping forward, track 6, “Down In Flames” seems to remind me of every Judas Priest album there has ever been, while “Cold Blooded” which follows seems to get into my head every time I hear it, and is another showcase for Rob Halford’s classic vocal delivery. Track 9, “Metalizer” – there’s a classic Priest song title if there ever was – delivers a decent slice of power metal. The next track has a definite blues vibe to the riff and reminds me of Deep Purple when they turned on the heavy. Very nice. Jumping ahead again, track 12, “Battle Cry” is my favorite number from the entire CD. Great vocal melody and nice pacey riff that rocks out. The regular CD closes out with “Beginning Of The End”, which is another signature Priest type-track, this time being a slow bluesy number, which again reminds us why Halford is such an iconic singer.

I’m not going to extend this review by much more by covering the tracks on the extra disk that comes with the deluxe edition, except to say they are worth the additional couple of $. In for a penny, in for a pound I say, and in this case all five of the tracks included are worth shelling out for.

So, closing thoughts? No, there aren’t any fireworks here, or any radical departure from the truth that has been and still is Judas Priest. This is a really good thing in my opinion. What we have is a really solid album from the masters of heavy metal. And let’s not loose sight of the contribution from Richie Faulkner here, or more accurately the fact that this is largely a non-event (and I mean that in absolutely the best possible way!). We have business as usual, in-context player that just fits in, and none of that “hey, look at the new boy here” stuff that sometimes goes on. Equally Richie is given every opportunity to show what he’s got going on and it’s all good. All round I score this a healthy 8/10.

– Neil Waterman

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