Concert Review – Judas Priest (Casino Rama, Rama, ON, 10/07/2014)

The Metal Gods descended from the sky to assault all of us with their magnificent Heavy Metal in a land far, far away.

INTRODUCTION: The Lost Civilization of Casino Rama

Judas-Priest-Redeemer-of-Souls-Tour-2014If you want to stay away from any type of civilization in this world, I suggest you go to a place called Casino Rama, located around two and a half ENDLESS hours from Toronto. In theory it should be a lot faster than that, but if you take into account the 5pm traffic to leave the city on a Tuesday (right in the middle of the week, by the way) and an annoying dose of heavy rain, the hassle of getting there is horribly extended and becomes a real torture. Who the hell decided Casino Rama on a tuesday night were the best venue and date for Judas Priest to perform in Ontario? I swear to God, Odin, Buddha and any other deity that I’ll NEVER return to that place again if not for Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. No other band can make me go there again, not even Slayer or Megadeth.

Not only that, I truly hate Heavy Metal concerts with pre-assigned seats. Why not leaving the floor section without those fuckin’ chairs? Just create a general floor area, and whoever wants to sit down while Judas Priest are playing Hell Bent For Leather (if that’s humanly possible), simply take one of the seats at the back. As simple as that, but it seems the very “knowledgeable” organizers were expecting Judas Priest to be as smooth as Kenny G or any other shit like that. Anyway, let’s try to always look on the bright side of life: at least the venue was nice and clean, parking was free, and the sound quality was beyond perfect. And of course, if you’re addicted to gambling, that’s also a good place to be.

OPENING ACT: Steel Panther

IMG_2955When the opening act are Hard Rock/Glam Metal jesters STEEL PANTHER, you know it’s going to be a memorable night. Although they’re truly funny even with 99.9% of their sexist jokes being really stupid, I believe their superb skills as musicians are what make them so awesome to watch, especially vocalist Michael Starr. In my opinion, he’s a much better singer than all hard rockers from the 80’s. Well, maybe only singer Ralph Saenz (ex-L.A. Guns) can be compared to him. Got it?

Their setlist might have been a little shorter than usual, but still full of classics such as Asian Hooker, Gold-Digging Whore, and Death To All But Metal, plus some songs from their new album All You Can Eat like the good Gloryhole, all perfectly complemented by their jokes about the age of the attendees (especially those screaming ladies in their 40’s and 50’s), their debate about Michael Starr being a fat version of Bret Michaels or a skinny version of Vince Neil, among many other “pearls of wisdom”. There couldn’t have been a better warm-up than that for the Metal Gods.

Before I talk about the Priest, I just wanted to say that it might be really cool and a huge honour for Russ Parrish to be on the road with the Metal God Rob Halford once again, even if they’re in different bands now. If you don’t get it, click HERE and you’ll understand why I mentioned that.

Band members
Michael Starr – lead vocals
Satchel – lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars
Lexxi Foxxx – bass guitar
Stix Zadinia – drums, percussion, piano

JUDAS PRIEST

IMG_2973It was around 9:30pm when Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton & Co. hit the Casino Rama stage for another flawless performance. Right after Black Sabbath’s War Pigs and the intro for Priest’s own new song Battle Cry, thunders roared, the curtain was dropped and there they were with the excellent new song Dragonaut assaulting our bodies and souls with the purest Heavy Metal in the whole universe. What can I say about those guys that hasn’t been said yet? Rob Halford is not human: he is and will always be the METAL GOD, with his unique voice being absolutely perfect for both heavy stuff and smoother ballads; Scott and Glenn were as precise and heavy as usual; Richie injected some new oxygen to the band and proves with each concert why he was an amazing choice to replace K. K. Downing; and for the first time in my life, due to the sound quality of the venue, I could listen to Ian Hill’s bass lines.

Perhaps the most curious detail of their performance at Casino Rama (and during this whole tour so far) is the total absence of any songs from the masterpiece Painkiller, including its title-track, as well as other classics like “Electric Eye” and “Rapid Fire”, from the setlist. Instead, they opted for other types of classics, a little bit more underground but just as great as any of those songs, such as Devil’s Child, Jawbreaker, Love Bites, and Defenders of the Faith (which could have been complemented with “Heavy Duty” right before it like in the studio album, but that was awesome anyway), kind of celebrating 30 years of their classic album Defenders of the Faith.

And as we’re talking about the mighty Judas Priest, there’s a lot more to enjoy than “just” their unparalleled Heavy Metal: each and every song had a different background, with highlights to the fun and exciting images of the cult movie Nosferatu (1922) during Love Bites; Halford’s famous “robot walk” during Metal Gods; their badass Harley-Davidson in Hell Bent For Leather; and Halford letting the crowd sing Breaking the Law on their own, just like he did with his solo band during his Rock In Rio III concert in 1999.

IMG_2967One thing I truly loved during this concert was the fact that all new songs from Redeemer Of Souls sounded awesome live and were perfectly blended with their old classics, especially the magnificent Halls Of Valhalla. What an outstanding performance by the whole band during this powerful song, especially, of course, Mr. Rob Halford. Just as I mentioned in my review of the new album in regards to this song, “… which I’m sure will become a fan-favourite especially due to its lyrics and chorus and will also sound superb when played live”, and I was totally right!

The encore, with anthems like You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ and Living After Midnight, was a sonic orgasm to all Heavy Metal lovers that attended the show, but in my opinion the most memorable moment of their entire performance happened a little before that, when they played the all-time classic Beyond The Realms Of Death. Honestly, Rob Halford almost made me cry so beautiful and emotive his performance was. It was one of those moments you know why you love heavy music so much, and fully understand why he is entitled the Metal God.

I must admit the long and boring journey back from Casino Rama to Toronto on the same night (I got home at around 2am) was a lot easier thanks to the adrenaline running through my veins after such a stunning concert by the Priest. Although the band members are visibly aging (Rob, Glenn and Ian are all in their mid-60’s already), does that mean it’s the “beginning of the end” for the band? I don’t think so. As far as I could see, they’re better than ever, very excited to craft new powerful music, and playing their old classics with so much passion they look like they’re just starting their careers. And, of course, I cannot wait to see the Metal Gods kicking some serious ass live again with their unique jaw-dropping Heavy Metal. JUDAS FUCKIN’ PRIEST!

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Glenn Tipton – guitar
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums

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Album Review – Judas Priest / Redeemer of Souls (2014)

The Metal Gods are finally back with another marvellous sonic storm forged in the fires of pure Heavy Metal.

Rating1

Redeemer-of-souls-album-cover-art-1280Take 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.

Judas PriestWithout 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.

Judas Priest With Special Guests Black Label Society & Thin Lizzy In ConcertIn 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

Track listing
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

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Glenn Tipton – guitar
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums