First thing’s first: I did not have particularly high hopes for Judas Priest’s first album post-KK Downing. How could they carry on without such a vital element of their sound? Priest found an answer in relative newcomer Richie Faulkner. Having impressed many with his arrangement on Christopher Lee’s Charlemagne: the Omens of Death, I found myself with a glimmer of hope for the metal titan’s first album in 6 years. I was not disappointed. The relatively lacklustre title track aside (which a friend pointed out to me is essentially a rewrite of Painkiller favourite ‘Hell Patrol’), Redeemer of Souls is easily one of the best heavy metal records of the year. The almighty Priest has made a spectacular return, reminding everyone why they are undisputed legends of the genre.
The album starts strong with ‘Dragonaut’, a typical Priest epic with a distinct Painkiller feel. Since that was their last truly great album, this is far from a bad place to start. In fact, the rest of the album appears to be inspired by all the greatest moments in Priest history, even recalling elements of their much-lauded 70s material (see: ‘Crossfire’). I was worried I would be disappoint by Rob Halford’s vocal performance, having been unmoved by the monotone ‘March of the Damned’, but I was proven wrong in the best possible way. Halford’s phenomenal range is on full display throughout the album; with ‘Halls of Valhalla’ featuring a thunderous ascending vocal scream which defies belief. Richie Faulkner is no mere fill-in either, receiving co-writing credits on all 13 tracks. It shows too, as the band sounds more ferocious than they have in over a decade. ‘Sword of Damocles’ possesses the sort of grandiosity that would make Manowar blush, and deserves a place next to all the greatest Priest classics.
Redeemer of Souls isn’t quite all killer-no filler, with the aforementioned title track proving little more than a passable rewrite. Elsewhere, ‘March of the Damned’ has Halford sounding legitimately old on record, perhaps for the first time ever. The plodding riff is gargantuan, but The Metal God comes off sounding more like latter-day Ozzy Osbourne than the air-raid siren we know and love. ‘Metalizer’, perhaps ironically, is the least convincing song on the album. Attempting to recapture the sheer speed of Painkiller, Priest has come up with a riff which no amount of enthusiasm can save. These are minor nick-picks, though, on an otherwise show-stopping display of fist-pumping heavy metal. If listening to this doesn’t make you feel like a warrior about to go into battle, I’m afraid you have no soul. Closing with the speed metal tenacity of ‘Battle Cry’ and the Epic ballad ‘Beginning of the End’, The Metal God can be assured I stand at the ready.