Thursday, July 24, 2014

Judas Priest - Redeemer Of Souls - The Pride Of Metal

Judas Priest gives a shit. They show up, they suit up, and they bring it - 40 years later they are still delivering the goods. Redeemer Of Souls is a proud testament to a band that has never rested on its laurels, and while I hope it's not their last, if it were it would be a grand way in which to go.

There's a great set of bookends happening here - frontman of frontmen Rob Halford pours his soul into every moment in an effort to prove he is still the king, and he's joined by new kid on the block Richie Faulkner, who proves his mettle by faithfully filling the metal shoes of one of the genre's legends, the now departed K.K. Downing. As one man is approaching the end of a long and unquestionably brilliant career, another has appeared to carry the torch into the future. This is a passing on of a tremendous legacy, and both men have done their best, and it's damned glorious.

There's two litmus tests I apply to any new record that must be measured by the past, and Redeemer Of Souls passes both with flying colors. First thing I do is to play a few tracks from the new record interspersed with tracks from that against which it is being measured. For this I picked my favorite studio record by the Priest, Hell Bent For Leather - what I find is also the answer to the second test, which is to think to myself what I would have thought if you had played this new album for me back in 1980, what would I have had to say about it?

If you had played this album for me back in 1980, I would have been pretty amazed. Glenn Tipton is still the best musical director in the genre, the riffs and solos are sharp as razors, and sonically this record is superior to much of the new metal that I hear - there's no muddiness, and the arrangements and production are state of the art. Rob Halford is still the Metal God - he's got no real competition as the king of classic metal. The passing of Ronnie James Dio, and the addled condition of Ozzy Osbourne has left a clear champion, and Halford has done a magnificent job of staying well, hearty, and hail. Certainly his upper range is not where it was in 1980, but that is a physical impossibility when one has been expertly exercising their vocal cord in world class conditions for 40 years. His phrasing is superb, his writing is strong, and his lyrical content is still the very definition of the genre.

I'll resist going through the song list - suffice to say that the level of quality is amazingly consistent, and with the band at its best, you should know what you're getting. Even the five song setlist that comprise the bonus disc shine. I'm guessing that these tunes didn't quite fit as well thematically with the body of the entree, and were seen as a bit too commercial, but musically and melodically this band's filler is better than the competition's greatest hits as often as not.

Judas Priest has followed the advice of the old maxim - never let the third act be boring. If you had fallen onto a desert island in 1980, and were rescued just in time to hear Redeemer Of Souls, you'd think you hadn't missed a thing. Some things in life can be counted on, and one of these things is the defender's of the faith, Judas Priest.

Halford, Tipton, and Ian Hill have served their legend well through a great many decades, albums, and tours. Scott Travis has sat upon the drum throne for 25 years, and he's hitting a hard and with as much mind-blowing precision as ever. Richie Faulkner does the near miraculous and while I grant his greatness, I don't find myself missing the ever wonderful K.K. Downing - I hope we hear music from Downing soon, but Richie has done an incredible job in both the writing and in his astounding guitar playing across the whole of this awesome record.

This is going to make for one hell of a tour, one that I can't wait to see, and hear.

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