The Metal Gods are finally back with another marvellous sonic storm forged in the fires of pure Heavy Metal.
Take a look at the imposing album art of the awesome Redeemer of Souls, the highly anticipated brand new album by the unbeatable English Metal Gods Judas Priest, and there’s only one word that will come to your mind: METAL. That’s it, pure Heavy Metal. No experimentations, no synths, no electronic shenanigans, nor any other non-traditional Heavy Metal stuff. Even the production of the album sounds fresher and rawer than usual, despite many people complaining about it. After six long years since the good but controversial Nostradamus, the Priest is finally back to their basics, and this time it looks like it’s for good.
First of all, Redeemer of Souls, their seventeenth studio album in over 40 years of history (an impressive milestone, by the way), perspires Heavy Metal. As aforementioned, the band “abandoned” all the experimental stuff of the past two decades and opted for a 100% direct sonority, selecting what’s best in some of their classic albums such as Painkiller, Ram It Down and Sin After Sin, blending it with some interesting elements from Halford’s solo career, and adding an extra dose of energy to all songs, which is astonishing given the fact all band members, except for Richie Faulkner, are over 50 or 60 years old. And secondly, although I miss K.K. Downing and his phenomenal razing guitar duos with Glenn Tipton, Richie is indeed a pretty decent replacement for him and this is proven with his excellent contribution to this album.
But it’s when the music actually starts that you remember why they’re called the Metal Gods: it’s impossible not to fall in love for the opening track, the fantastic Dragonaut, with its “stormy” intro, heavy riffs, straight-forward lyrics and catchy chorus (“Fire in the sky paralyzed with fear / You know you´re gonna die / Dragonaut is near”), and everything else! If this song had been recorded back in the 80’s or 90’s, it would have become one of Priest’s all-time classics without a shadow of a doubt. Then comes the title-track, Redeemer of Souls, a mix of “Dissident Aggressor” and “Hell Patrol” that is everything old Priest fans wanted to hear again. The lyrics couldn’t sound more Priest than this (“Count down coming your way / He’s the last to obey / Watch him seizing the day / Redeemer – redeemer of souls”), and I can’t wait to do some air guitar with this song when Judas Priest come to town.
Without a single second of boredom, the band keeps the energy level really high with the epic Halls of Valhalla (or maybe I should say “VALHALLAAAAAA!”), which I’m sure will become a fan-favourite especially due to its lyrics and chorus and will also sound superb when played live, followed by Sword of Damocles, another mighty track with a great initial riff blended with heavy and melodic drumming (with Mr. Scott Travis sounding as awesome as usual). Moreover, even after 40 years I’m still impressed with how metallic and captivating Halford’s voice always sounds, and it’s a pure delight to follow him declaiming the lyrics for this song so intensely. The next track, March of the Damned, has a very Hard Rock sonority with highlights to another great work done by Richie and Glenn, while Down in Flames can be considered the most “Halford” song of the entire album (it could have easily been part of his latest solo album Made of Metal).
Then we have another of the top songs of the album, Hell & Back, with a beautiful smooth intro followed by Ian Hill’s strong bass lines, more excellent heavy riffs perfect for that slow headbanging while having a cold beer, and an awesome fast ending; and Cold Blooded, which despite it’s nice rhythm, lacks more feeling an ends up being just an average song. And what can I say about a song called Metalizer? It’s as heavy as it can be, from the riffs to the drumming, from Halford’s voice to the strong chorus, with lots of similarities to “Demonizer” and “Hellrider” from Angel of Retribution.
I simply love the fact that Redeemer of souls doesn’t have only 9 or 10 songs and basically no intros or bridges, because there’s still a lot more to come. Crossfire seems to be some kind of tribute to Dio and Black Sabbath, with its intro and many other parts sounding like “I” from the excellent album Dehumanizer; while Secrets of the Dead is a slow and dark tune, one of the most melodic of the entire album, with its nice guitar solos and interesting narration in the middle enhancing its overall quality.
And lastly, the final two songs of the regular version of the album showcase a truly inspired band and leave us fans avid for more Priest: the mighty Battle Cry, with its epic guitar intro followed by pure Heavy Metal riffs and vocals, has one of those rising chorus tailored to be sung at full force by all fans at their live performances (and Halford might not reach the same notes from the past, but he’s still the Metal God); and the passionate ballad Beginning of the End, with its melancholic intro, has a really nice touch of some very old Priest classics like “Last Rose of Summer” and “Before the Dawn” highlights to Halford’s voice once again, closing the album in a very pleasant way. And don’t miss the deluxe edition, which comes with five extra brand new tracks by the Metal Gods to make things even better.
In summary, the beautiful name of the album, just like the band did many times in the past as in Sad Wings of Destiny (the most beautiful name ever), Angel of Retribution and Defenders of the Faith, together with Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton and Scott Travis kicking some serious ass and the fiery and metallic album art, make Redeemer of Souls a must-have album for any fan of good music – second to none I should say if compared to most releases from any band in the past 10 or 15 years. I hate comparing what a band is currently doing with what they did in the past as I understand time goes by and people inevitably change, but in this case it’s amazing how the Metal Gods were able to “go back in time” without sounding cheesy, repetitive or outdated. Judas Priest might be celebrating 40 years of their debut album Rocka Rolla, released in 1974, but it looks like it’s the fans who are being presented with another great album forged in the fires of true Heavy Metal.
Best moments of the album: Dragonaut, Halls of Valhalla, Sword of Damocles, Hell & Back and Battle Cry.
Worst moments of the album: Cold Blooded might not be bad, but it ends up being the only song not as powerful as the rest of the album.
Released in 2014 Epic Records/Columbia Records
1. Dragonaut 4:26
2. Redeemer of Souls 3:58
3. Halls of Valhalla 6:04
4. Sword of Damocles 4:54
5. March of the Damned 3:55
6. Down in Flames 3:56
7. Hell & Back 4:46
8. Cold Blooded 5:25
9. Metalizer 4:37
10. Crossfire 3:51
11. Secrets of the Dead 5:41
12. Battle Cry 5:18
13. Beginning of the End 5:07
Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
14. Snakebite 3:14
15. Tears Of Blood 4:19
16. Creatures 4:25
17. Bring It On 3:18
18. Never Forget 6:25
Rob Halford – vocals
Glenn Tipton – guitar
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums