The Metal Gods are firing on all cylinders with their majestic new album of pure and highly inspired Heavy Metal.
When British Heavy Metal legends Judas Priest announced they were just about to release their 18th studio record, the magnificent Firepower, I already knew it was going to be an epic album. Not only it’s the first studio album since their 1988 release Ram It Down to be produced by Tom Allom and the first ever with the always precise and competent Andy Sneap as co-producer, but the entire band (Rob Halford on vocals, Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner on the guitars, Ian Hill on bass and Scott Travis on drums) is absolutely on fire throughout the album’s almost one hour of the purest form of “British steel” that will beautifully and powerfully pierce your ears and control your mind, compelling you to bang your head nonstop and raise your horns to the iconic Metal Gods. By the way, the amazing album art, created by Chilean artist Claudio Bergamin, breathes scorching fire like an enraged dragon, fully in line with the unparalleled history of one of the most formidable bands in heavy music.
Although their 2014 opus Redeemer of Souls was already fantastic, showcasing a veteran band at the top of their form, the metallic extravaganza found in Firepower is so majestic and inspiring that not even the terrible news of Glenn Tipton being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which unfortunately for all lovers of true metal music won’t allow him to tour as much as before with the band (being replaced by Andy Sneap during the upcoming Firepower 2018 World Tour), could ruin the magic crafted by the band in Firepower, and Glenn in his most humble “the show must go on” mode had a few nice words to say about his situation, encouraging the band to continue with the tour. “I want everyone to know that it’s vital that the Judas Priest tour go ahead and that I am not leaving the band – it’s simply that my role has changed. I don’t rule out the chance to go on stage as and when I feel able to blast out some Priest! So at some point in the not too distant future I’m really looking forward to seeing all of our wonderful metal maniacs once again”, said one of the greatest guitarists in the history of Heavy Metal.
Getting back to the album, five seconds are all that the mighty Judas Priest need to explode our senses with their incomparable metal music in the title-track Firepower, where Glenn and Richie begin their flammable riff-fest before the Metal God Rob Halford comes crushing with his unique metallic vocals. Put differently, the band offers us a high-octane, electrifying and straightforward 80’s-style version of themselves for our absolute delectation. And without wasting a single second the Metal Gods fire another superb hymn titled Lightning Strike, a mid-tempo, rumbling composition led by the always precise Scott Travis, with the rip-roaring way Halford declaims the lyrics being beyond thrilling (“I’ll bring you the head of the demon / I’m peeling the skin from his face / The life that you lead is inhuman / Its cause and effects a disgrace / You’re sowing the seeds of a nightmare from hell / Your prayers and your demons are tolling the bell / Walking through fire, fate’s in my hands / Waiting for lightning to strike / Man on a wire, bearing the brand / Waiting for lightning to strike / Lightning to strike”). Then darker riffs by Glenn and Richie permeate the air while Halford tells a somber story in Evil Never Dies, a sonic masterpiece perfect for hitting the road that will urge you to bang your head and scream together with Halford every single time you listen to its flawless lines.
Slowing down the pace a bit, but still sounding vibrant and epic, Never the Heroes brings forward lyrics about the fortunes of war and all the darkness that fills the heart of a soldier (“We were fearless but so afraid / Though in our hearts we still felt pain / We’re on fire but on a leash / We only ever wanted peace”), with the solos by both Glenn and Richie being a thing of beauty. Needless to say, this battle hymn will sound stunningly powerful when played live. Following such touching song we have Necromancer, a solid display of Heavy Metal infused with Stygian elements and nuances (mainly due to the nature of the song), closer to the band’s sonority from the albums Angel of Retribution and Redeemer of Souls; and Children of the Sun, another song to sing along with Halford & Co., presenting a headbanging rhythm led by Scott with his steady beats and the simple but effective bass lines by Ian Hill. As usual, the band’s guitar duo does an amazing job with their crisp solos, enhancing the song’s punch considerably.
Their metal feast goes on with a gentle piano bridge named Guardians, warming our ears and minds up for the powerful Rising from Ruins, displaying an elegant sonority where Halford has a titanic performance, stealing the spotlight with his deep and passionate vocals, not to mention how Scott keeps the music flowing smoothly with his classic beats. And what to say about the next tune, aggressively titled Flame Thrower? When I first saw the name of the song I was more than sure it was going to be ass-kicking, and guess what? It is indeed a true rockin’ extravaganza ignited by the slashing guitars by Glenn and Richie, in a blend of their own music from albums like British Steel and Ram It Down mixed with Halford’s solo career. Also uniting old school and modern Judas Priest, the quintet delivers the gripping Spectre, where Richie adds a touch of modernity to the band’s trademark sound with his guitar while Halford once again impersonates a “dark poet of metal”. Then a melancholic intro quickly morphs into a flammable and adventurous metal hymn entitled Traitors Gate, showcasing all elements we learned to love from NWOBHM, and, as a consequence, being tailored for admirers of the more epic side of the band. Furthermore, the guitars by Glenn and Richie are in total sync with Scott’s beats and especially with Halford’s potent roars and high-pitched screams, making it a true exhibit of classic metal.
The last batch of songs in Firepower is quite interesting, as if the band decided not to release them as bonus tracks of a deluxe edition of the album despite their uniqueness, but instead they added them to the regular version of it as a gift to all metal maniacs who have been supporting the band since their inception. No Surrender is straightforward Rock N’ Roll infused with Heavy Metal nuances highly inspired by the band’s own 80’s musicality, or in other words, if this was part of British Steel, Defenders of the Faith or Screaming for Vengeance it would have been a metal classic today. Hence, can you feel their guitars penetrating deep inside your heart? Then the superb Lone Wolf feels like they wanted to pay a stylish tribute do Black Sabbath, Pantera and Down all at once in a fusion of top-notch Heavy Metal with the dementia and aggression of Stoner and Doom Metal. Even the usually quiet Ian Hill delivers some thunder through his bass, with Richie and Glenn stealing the spotlight with the heaviest riffs of the entire album while Halford is simply astounding on vocals. And last but not least, how about a touching and majestic ballad titled Sea of Red, closing this grandiose album in great fashion, with Halford’s voice sounding even more impactful together with the fiery guitars by Richie and Glenn? And don’t forget to pay very good attention to the lyrics as they’re simple but very potent.
In summary, Judas Priest are all fired up in Firepower, delivering everything we love and expect in their classic and always incendiary Heavy Metal, therefore proving once again they’re not called the Metal Gods in vain. There are several retailers where you can purchase this masterpiece of old school and contemporary metal perfectly united, such as iTunes, Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart, providing you the most exciting soundtrack for anything you need to do in life. After such brilliant job done in Firepower, let’s hope now that Glenn can somehow overcome Parkinson’s disease, and that we can see him sooner than anyone can expect on stage with the rest of the band, firing some of their biggest classic together with the new combustible songs from the new album, because that’s where a talented and hardworking guitar god like him should always be.
Best moments of the album: Firepower, Lightning Strike, Evil Never Dies, No Surrender and Lone Wolf.
Worst moments of the album: None.
Released in 2018 Epic Records
1. Firepower 3:27
2. Lightning Strike 3:29
3. Evil Never Dies 4:23
4. Never the Heroes 4:23
5. Necromancer 3:33
6. Children of the Sun 4:00
7. Guardians 1:06
8. Rising from Ruins 5:23
9. Flame Thrower 4:34
10. Spectre 4:24
11. Traitors Gate 5:34
12. No Surrender 2:54
13. Lone Wolf 5:09
14. Sea of Red 5:51
Rob Halford – vocals
Glenn Tipton – guitar
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums