Metal Chick of the Month – Jill Janus (September 2, 1975 – August 14, 2018)

“The dark, the dark… The darkness falls on you. The dark, the dark… The darkness swallows you.” – The Dark, by Huntress

It took me a while to think of a proper beginning to this posthumous tribute to the talented and gorgeous metal vocalist Jill Janus, frontwoman for one of the most promising metal acts of the past few years, California-based Heavy Metal squad Huntress, but as I mentioned HERE she was going to me our metal chick one day no matter what. Owner of an extremely powerful and captivating voice, delivering beautiful high-pitched screams that were capable of putting a huge and genuine smile on the face of the Metal God himself Rob Halford, Jill unfortunately committed suicide this past August 14, 2018 outside of Portland, Oregon at the age of 42, after years battling against her inner demons. In this humble tribute, let’s remember the life and career of Jill, her bands and projects, her contribution to heavy music, her fight against mental illness, and bang our heads and raise our horns to her flammable Heavy Metal, because she might be gone from this world, but her spirit undoubtedly lives on.

Born on September 2, 1975 in Catskill Mountains, a physiographic province of the larger Appalachian Mountains, located approximately 160 km north-northwest of New York City and 60 km southwest of Albany, Jill was always very reserved about her personal life, much to the impact her mental disorder had to her memories. All we know is that Jill, a huge fan of bands like Suicidal Tendencies and Lamb of God, started her musical journey as a child performing opera in Upstate New York, and that as a teenager she traveled to Europe taking on coloratura soprano roles and was awarded a scholarship to the American Musical Dramatic Academy in Manhattan. She was such an intense musician that even during her relatively short career she was able to make a significant impact on the scene, taking part of several amazing projects and bands since the beginning. For instance, Jill, who was a trained opera singer according to several sources, was not only the voice for Huntress, but also the singer for acts such as Chelsea Girls, Vexy Strut, Under the Covers and The Starbreakers, not to mention her future project that was going to be called Victory: The Rock Opera, and her time as a Playboy model and as a topless DJ, being known as either Penelope Tuesdae or simply Tuesdae in some of these endeavors.

In regards to her career with Huntress, and I might say that I personally consider Jill and Huntress to be one single entity, the band was “unofficially” founded in 2007 when Jill released two demo songs, those being Back from the Dead to Kill and Call of the Wild, to be used as “bait” for potential musicians for her band. It was in 2010 when Jill joined forces with underground Heavy Metal band Professor in Highland Park, California to finally form the Huntress we learned to admire, always true to the roots of Heavy Metal with hints of Thrash, Death and Black Metal and with Jill being responsible for the vocal duties with her breathtaking Amazonian-inspired 4-octave vocal range as well as for the lyrics, releasing right away a three-song EP titled Off with Her Head, containing the songs Off With Her Head, Hollow Hills and The Creeper. Singing about occult and obscure topics such as witchcraft, sorcery and witch hunters, Huntress then released three incendiary full-length albums in the span of four years, starting with their debut opus Spell Eater, in 2012, followed by Starbound Beast, in 2013, and finally Static, in 2015, leading the band to tour the world as a supporting act to several metal heavyweights like Lamb of God, Arch Enemy, Kreator, Amon Amarth, Killswitch Engage, Testament, Danzig, Trivium, Sabaton and Dragonforce. You can purchase all three albums directly from their BandCamp page, and remember Jill’s extraordinary voice on YouTube with the videos for the songs Sorrow, Zenith, Spell Eater and Flesh.

In an interview Jill gave to a metal webzine from Brazil called Portal do Inferno in 2014 (you can check the full interview HERE in both Brazilian Portuguese and English), she explained the band’s discography as her spiritual journey through three elements and a tribute to the Goddess in her three forms, the maiden, the mother, and the crone, with each one of her three albums representing one of those elements. Spell Eater was the maiden, sounding ferocious and raw; Starbound Beast was the mother, more thoughtful and showcasing better musicianship and songwriting; and Static was the crone, being vicious, brutal and consequently heavier and darker. During that same interview, Jill provided some details about her partnership with the one and only Lemmy Kilmister (R.I.P.), who wrote the lyrics for the excellent song I Want to Fuck You to Death from the album Starbound Beast. Jill said they were good friends, that they would meet at the Rainbow in Los Angeles for drinks, that one day she asked him to write a song for her and, voilà, Lemmy gave her two pieces of paper with the lyrics to the song, which according to Jill herself was at that time “the most romantic thing a man had ever done to her.”

Furthermore, if live performances are your cup of tea, or in other words, if you deeply need to see an artist or band playing live to know if they’re actually good, you can have a really good time watching some live footage from Jill and her Huntress on YouTube, such as their acoustic version for Blood Sisters in 2013 at the 100.3 the X studios, which by the way was the first time ever the band has done a live acoustic performance; a live version of the song Spell Eater in 2012; their performance of the song Senecide at the Tidal Wave Festival 2012 in San Francisco, California (courtesy of Capital Chaos TV); and the song The Tower live at First Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2012, on tour with Dragonforce. Hence, it’s ass-kicking performances like those that will keep the name of Jill Janus resonating in the air waves through the years.

Her contribution to other metal and rock bands and projects was also superb, with the most interesting one being the Los Angeles-based all-female supergroup The Starbreakers, comprised of Jill on vocals together with guitarists Nita Strauss (We Start Wars, Alice Cooper, Iron Maidens) and Courtney Cox (Iron Maidens, Femme Fatale), bassist Emily Ruvidich (Paradise Kitty, Misty Day), and drummer Lindsay Martin (We Start Wars, Wasi Wasi, The Aviators). Formed in 2017, the main goal of those five blonde metallers was simply to rock like there’s no tomorrow by playing songs from their metal heroes, and there are plenty of videos on YouTube for you to have a sonic blast with the girls. For example, you can check them kicking some serious ass by playing several classics such as Judas Priest’s all-time metal hymn Painkiller and Dio’s undisputed hit Holy Diver at The Viper Room, in West Hollywood on March 11, 2017, during their first ever live performance; Metallica’s roaring tune Master of Puppets also at The Viper Room in 2017; and Megadeth’s breathtaking classic Hangar 18 at Whisky A Go Go, in West Hollywood earlier this year.

All her other projects are just as fun and interesting, starting with the Chelsea Girls, an all-girl cover band formed by Jill together with Samantha Maloney (Hole, Motley Crüe), Allison Robertson (The Donnas), and Corey Parks (Nashville Pussy), with the band’s name referencing an Andy Warhol flick. She was also the vocalist (under the name Tuesdae) for Vexy Strut from 2003 to 2006, a New York-based Hard Rock band where all other band members were guys, playing music in the veins of Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses with overtly sexual and cocky lyrics; she sang along with Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction) in an acoustic project called Under the Covers for a while (and you can check some photos of the duo HERE); and last but not least, Jill and Angus Clark of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra have recently announced a “Rock n’ Roll romance of innocence and lust” named Victory: The Rock Opera, telling the tale of Victory, an internet sensation and a social media superstar whose God-like reach has given hope to the desolate and deranged. There are some demos available on their official website, but no one knows for sure what will happen with the entire project after Jill’s death. Apart from her career as a singer, as aforementioned she was also a topless DJ under the pseudonym Penelope Tuesdae, and if you’re curious to see what she was like at that time you can check some NSFW photos HERE, as well as a behind the scenes photo shoot on Vimeo. If you think Jill was ashamed of her endeavor as a topless DJ, you’re absolutely wrong. “I was living in New York City and needed cash. So I learned how to DJ, but added a gimmick to make more money. I did it topless. A few years later, I have Playboy to thank for legitimizing topless DJ’ing as a lucrative business, although I quit when Vexy Strut was formed. That was my goal all along – to get your attention as a singer and songwriter. So what – I showed you my boobs. Mission accomplished!”, said our diva in one of her interviews.

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Jill’s standpoint regarding her classical music and opera background is also very interesting, as she told Portal do inferno during the same interview mentioned  before that she was always listening to opera singers and classical music, especially Maria Callas due to her vocal richness and skills, that her classical training helped her support her metal voice, and that she was very strict separating metal from opera. The reason for that split was that she never liked Symphonic Metal, calling it “easy listening” metal, showing she was indeed a tough old school metalhead with great passion for the more straightforward, ass-kicking and no-shenanigans-nor-preservatives type of metal. As a matter of fact, just take a listen at any of the Huntress albums and you’ll notice there’s nothing there that’s not deeply rooted in old school metal and rock music, and that’s one of the reasons why she was so loved by several icons like Lemmy and Halford.

When asked about being a female artist in an environment mostly dominated by men, she said she loved being the only girl on tour, calling the rest of the band and all other bands as her brothers, who used to take good care of her. She was also asked to give some advice to any female metal singers starting their careers, and her answer to that was quite direct: she said any girl should go after her vocal coach Melissa Cross, who has already worked with tons of other amazing vocalists such as Randy Blythe (Lamb of God) and Angela Gossow, former singer for Arch Enemy, due to the exceptional job she does with singers, warming them up, training them, teaching them how to take good care of their voices, among other awesome tips and activities. She also said during that same interview she was never afraid of using her sexuality and sex appeal to draw her listeners “close to the flame”, as she considered herself a witch and a pagan, becoming very natural for her to be nude. I have to admit being naked was something so natural and easy for her it was far from being something dirty or porn, but simply the way she found to better connect to her inner self and to nature itself.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to write a tribute to Jill now without talking about her recent death on August 14 this year (check this video summarizing this sad event HERE). She had always been very open over the years about her mental illness in the form of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder and alcoholism, which resulted in several struggles throughout her life. Also diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2015 while the band was working on Static, she was able to win that personal battle after undergoing a hysterectomy, being declared cancer-free later. In an interview to Revolver, she described how the schizoaffective disorder evolved into full schizophrenia, which affected her in her 20’s and continued until her death. She said “I was suicidal constantly. I was very suicidal early on in my life. Then in my mid-20’s, it shifted to full-blown mania, where I can’t really remember much of my 20’s. I can’t remember anybody from high school, either. I lost my long-term memory and can’t remember names, faces, or even places. We’ll be at a venue on tour and Blake will be, like, ‘We’ve played here two times before,’ but I’ll have no recollection.” Jill told Psychology Today in a 2015 interview that she attempted suicide for the first time at the age of 16 “with a pair of scissors. I was getting mandatory counseling at school but didn’t see a psychiatrist until I was 20,” she said. “I was then diagnosed manic-depressive and participated in a medical study at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.” She was eventually diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, telling Psychology Today “I’ve always seen and heard things others couldn’t. Many visions or dreams would manifest into reality, which my family and friends described as my ‘psychic ability.’ This caused more drama at school, being called a ‘freak’ and getting beaten up. When I was 17, the visions and encounters with ‘other-worldly creatures’ was almost a daily occurrence.”

Some of the most interesting and peculiar parts of her interview with Psychology Today are a very good depiction of how serious any type of mental illness can be, impacting not only the life of the person suffering from it but also everyone else living around this person. For instance, one of the ways that her mental illness manifested was that she created different “characters” or “identities” and was eventually diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder. Dissociative identity disorder is characterized as having two or more distinct personality states. People often forget parts of their life as they cannot recall experiences from one personality state when they are in a distinct, separate personality state. She described these different “characters” this way: “As a child, I had a very active imagination and would pretend to be characters I created. This seems normal for a kid, but then I started seeing these characters and they’d take over my body. It felt like being possessed like in the movies. I could shed it easily as a child, but when I hit my 20’s, it became very difficult to shake it.” She complemented by saying “I spent 10 years as ‘Penelope Tuesday,’ the persona I initially created to conceal my true identity as I worked the NYC nightlife scene. I cannot remember much of my life during those years, except through stories from my friends and family. I was manic, fiercely ambitious and slept very little. I was not drinking or abusing drugs during my time in New York. My family became very worried and moved me home to get help after discovering I had breast-augmentation surgery. But I wasn’t aware that I had done this until a few weeks later when I snapped back to reality and saw I had breast implants. It was terrifying. I spent time at Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, New York, and was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder (dissociative identity disorder).”

She also explained how the bias manifested in her youth. “I was embarrassed about being perceived as ‘crazy.’ As a kid I was made to feel bad or was bullied for being different. As a child, I would make up things about myself to avoid seeming odd. This coping tactic got more intense after college and then I felt other personalities taking hold,” she said. “I used an alias for most of my life, keeping who I really was hidden. Only now am I capable of letting go of my various identities, but it’s still painful to feel vulnerable.” As time went on, she was able to find treatments that were effective in managing her mood and psychotic symptoms. She also said the combination of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy was effective for her. Cognitive-behavioral therapy often includes examining how one’s thoughts and behaviors may influence emotions and well-being, and how modifying thoughts and behaviors can improve clinical outcomes. In addition to that, she also found that her music was influential in her coping. Her experience is supported by research that shows that music therapy improves clinical outcomes among individuals with mental illness, including schizophrenia and mood disorders. “Music saved my life. My mother says I was singing before I could speak. I knew my purpose as soon as I could talk. It was always music. I relate to the mathematics behind music, it soothes my brain and helps me cope with my various disorders,” she said. “By the time I was 10, I was performing in operas and musicals. My vocal range developed quickly. I was using four octaves by 13. The discipline and focus was beyond my years. But I’ve never had much patience for people. I was always one step ahead. Music is the only way I ever knew how to cope.”

And you can notice how much Jill loved her music and metal in general, and how open she always was about her mental condition, by watching several interviews with her on Youtube, such as her chat with Brittney Patton in 2016 where she talks about mental illness, artwork, sobriety and other topics; talking about touring and her childhood to Rock Hard Megazine in 2012; an interview to Yell! Magazine during Heavy MTL in 2013; a two-part interview filmed by JAM Magazine on tour backstage at the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, Texas on November 2, 2013 (check part one HERE and part two HERE); an interview to Jeanette LeBlanc from The Heavy Press after a Huntress show at The Kool Haus, in Toronto in 2013; or simply watch this EPK published by Huntress in 2012 where Jill talks about the band and their music.

After Jill’s passing this August, several renowned artists and bands from the rock and metal scene shared their shock and sadness on social media, such as Rob Halford, Lzzy Hale, Alex Skolnick, johan Hegg, Starkill, DragonForce, Otep, Randy Blythe, Cristina Scabbia, Alissa White-Gluz, and obviously her boyfriend, bandmate and partner in crime Blake Meahl, among many, many others as you can see HERE and HERE, showing how respected, loved and admired Jill was her entire life and career, and that she was never alone despite all her mental issues. Having said that, if you or someone you know and love might be at risk of suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (or use the Lifeline Chat) if you’re in the United States, reach out to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention if you live here in Canada, or any other support number or website from this international list of suicide crisis lines no matter where you are located in the world.

Jill Janus’ Official Instagram
Jill Janus’ Official Twitter
Huntress’ Official Facebook page
Huntress’ Official Twitter

“Once you decide to choose your purpose and live only for that purpose, that is when you will find success, and right now Huntress is it. I’m married to heavy metal and that is all that I have.” – Jill Janus

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Album Review – Suum / Buried Into The Grave (2018)

Enjoy this Stygian and occult album featuring seven tracks of pure gloomy Doom Metal, masterfully delivered by an Italian quartet that has already succumbed to the dark side of music.

Let’s dive deep into the sluggish and obscure realms of old school Doom Metal to the music by a Italian quartet that goes by the name of Summ, formed in 2017 in the Italian capital Rome. Comprised of Mark Wolf on vocals, Painkiller on the guitar, Marcas on bass and Rick on drums, Suum are releasing now in 2018 the full-length album Buried Into The Grave, featuring seven tracks of pure gloomy Doom Metal, bringing to your ears not only a Stygian sound tailored for the doomed, but also cryptic lyrics about darkness, doom and occultism, being highly recommended for fans of Black Sabbath, Danzig, Candlemass, My Dying Bride, Electric Wizard, and all other bands and artists that have beautifully succumbed to the darkest and most lugubrious side of music.

If there’s rain, thunder and wind, you know the music is going to be doomed, which is exactly what happens in the opening track Tower Of Oblivion. Marcas kicks off this damned feast with his low-tuned bass until the rest of the band joins him in darkness, with lead singer Mark Wolf haunting our souls with his Black Sabbath-inspired vocals while Painkiller fires sheer obscurity through his riffs, with all vileness increasing in intensity until its crisp ending. And their Doom Metal mass goes on in Black Mist, led by the steady beats by Rick while the phantasmagoric vocals by Mark and the heavier-than-hell riffs by Painkiller generate a truly somber atmosphere; followed by Buried Into The Grave, which in my humble opinion is the most Stygian of all tracks of the album (hence, it would definitely make Tony Iommi proud). Not only the vocal lines are deep and deranged, but the combined sound of guitar, bass and drums create this gloomy creature that will mercilessly enfold you just like pitch black darkness.

Last Sacrifice is another classic Doom Metal tune spearheaded by the slashing riffage by Painkiller and the slow but intricate beats by Rick, putting you on a trance and inspiring you to crack your neck headbanging, with the music flowing smoothly and darkly until the end. Then bringing the most acid and somber elements from Stoner Metal and Rock we have Seeds Of Decay, an atmospheric and sluggish creation by Suum with highlights to the rumbling sounds extracted by both Painkiller and Marcas from their hellish strings, whereas in the melancholic and introspective instrumental The Woods Are Waiting we face more rain and wind, going on for a bit too long though (albeit nothing that will make you skip it). And finally, rhythmic drums and scorching hot riffs ignite their last breath of old school Doom Metal, the somber extravaganza titled Shadows Haunt The Night, where Painkiller sounds absolutely on fire during the entire song, adding an extra touch of malignancy and obscurity to the final result.

You can succumb to total darkness by listening to Buried Into The Grave in its entirety on YouTube, by visiting Suum’s official Facebook page, and obviously by purchasing such dense and entertaining album from the band’s own BandCamp page, from the Endless Winter webstore, from the Hellas Records webstore, or from Discogs. Those four skillful Italian metallers not only live up to the legacy of traditional Doom Metal, but based on the high-quality of the music found in Buried Into The Grave, they’re also more than ready to carve their names in the history of such distinct music style.

Best moments of the album: Tower Of Oblivion, Buried Into The Grave and Shadows Haunt The Night.

Worst moments of the album: The Woods Are Waiting.

Released in 2018 Endless Winter/Hellas Records

Track listing
1. Tower Of Oblivion 6:25
2. Black Mist 4:40
3. Buried Into The Grave 4:55
4. Last Sacrifice 5:13
5. Seeds Of Decay 5:44
6. The Woods Are Waiting (Instrumental) 3:38
7. Shadows Haunt The Night 4:23

Band members
Mark Wolf – vocals
Painkiller – guitars
Marcas – bass
Rick – drums

Concert Review – Judas Priest (Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON, 11/12/2015)

Thousands of Heavy Metal maniacs screamed for vengeance together with the Metal Gods on a memorable night in Toronto.

OPENING ACT: Mastodon

Judas-Priest-Redeemer-of-Souls-Tour-2015Fortunately, after the excruciating hassle of having to drive for hours to get to Casino Rama to see Judas Priest last year, an enlightened soul realized there was an urge emanating from all metalheads in Toronto to have the Metal Gods in town for a proper concert, and therefore we were all granted with a memorable Heavy Metal celebration at the Air Canada Centre last night. I know some people loved the fact they could stay in Orillia for some gambling and beer, taking a day or two off for that, but they must understand this is all about praising the almighty Judas Priest, not about wasting your money in tedious slot machines. I just wish the floor section didn’t have those stupid seats. Why not just having a floor section, period?

IMG_0770The opening band this time were American metallers MASTODON, with all their craziness, psychedelia, heaviness and unquestionable talent. However, the biggest problem for me (and I’m sure it was the same with lots of other Priest fans at the concert) was their lack of charisma. I mean, they have all the ingredients to be one of the best metal acts in activity, but unless you’re high on something it’s pretty hard to enjoy their full setlist. Songs like High Road and Megalodon stand out among the others, but the overall result is not as exciting as watching a less skilled band on stage playing simpler but a lot catchier songs. All band members masterfully handle their instruments, and if you’re a guitar player you probably go insane with their intricate riffs and compositions, but I think it’s a lot better to listen to their music at home or in your car than at a venue like the Air Canada Centre. I’m not saying it was a bad concert, quite the contrary, Mastodon were pretty good. It just wasn’t what I had in mind as the perfect warm-up for the Metal Gods.

Setlist
Tread Lightly
Blasteroid
The Motherload
Chimes at Midnight
High Road
Aqua Dementia
Mother Puncher
Halloween
Bladecatcher
Black Tongue
Ember City
Megalodon
Blood and Thunder

Band members
Brent Hinds – guitar, vocals
Bill Kelliher – guitar
Troy Sanders – bass, vocals
Brann Dailor – drums, vocals

JUDAS PRIEST

IMG_0773Finally back to the CITY of Toronto after four long years, Heavy Metal titans JUDAS PRIEST seem to be getting better and better as years go by. Perhaps it’s the fresh energy brought to the band by the awesome guitarist Richie Faulkner, or the fact that Redeemer Of Souls put the band back on track in their career, but the truth is that they’ve been delivering flawless concerts for years in a row now, putting smiles on everyone’s faces and reminding us all why they’re called “Metal Gods”.

When the backdrop curtain carrying the Priest classic logo dropped, right after the venue sound system played an excerpt of “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath and the intro to one of their own new songs, the excellent “Battle Cry”, an avalanche of Heavy Metal classic mixed with some of their new tunes began, driving all diehard fans crazy with their intensity and passion in this successful Redeemer of Souls Tour 2015. And from the very beginning we could see how impressive the performance by the one and only Rob Halford is nowadays. The Metal God is already 64 years old, but he can still deliver it like if he was just 20 something. It’s sometimes unbelievable how powerful his voice still is at this stage of his career, don’t you agree?

IMG_0780I personally found part of the fans at the venue a little too slow for the electricity imposed by the band, but anyway most Heavy Metal maniacs had an unforgettable time singing and screaming together with Halford & Co. during the entire setlist. From the first part of the concert, I must say it was beautiful witnessing Halford singing the classic Desert Plains while Richie and the iconic Glenn Tipton were ripping our hearts off with their razing riffs, as simple and effective as that. And what to say about Halford’s monumental performances in the unparalleled Victim of Changes and the newer Halls of Valhalla, already a classic song for many? Holy shit, that gave me metallic goosebumps so awesome it was.

Then after playing a few more incredible tunes, such as The Rage and Turbo Lover, it looked like the Metal Gods wanted to mark our hearts, bodies and souls with their burning metal as the sequence of Heavy Metal anthems was beyond superb. They didn’t just play my favorite Priest song of all time, the fiery Screaming for Vengeance, they executed it to perfection. Add to that the back video where you could follow its lyrics (and see a meme of Halford SCREEEEAAAAAAMING! on the video by the end of the song), and you have the most astonishing moment of the night. Not only that, as soon as this masterpiece was over, Halford intoned his famous “Woo-woo-woo-yeah!” before the whole band kicked some serious ass with Breaking the Law and Hell Bent for Leather, the latter featuring Halford’s shining Harley-Davidson for the delight of everyone at the venue.

IMG_0793But before Judas Preist let Toronto be that quiet and cozy city again, they fired two final rounds of all-time classics, including Electric Eye, Painkiller and Living After Midnight. Let me tell you something about Painkiller, as it was a really bold move by the band to put it at the end of the setlist knowing how demanding it is, especially for Halford. When the unstoppable drummer Scott Travis provoked Toronto to go wild with his unique drumming intro, I wasn’t sure if Halford would be capable of delivering his high-pitched screams during the whole song. Well, guess what? That was by far the best performance by the Metal God singing Painkiller I’ve ever seen in my life, a billion times better than their 2005 DVD Rising in the East, and that was over 10 years ago.

At around 11pm the concert was over, people started heading back to their homes by car, subway or, like I did, by Go Train. Everyone was displaying a mix of happiness and complete exhaustion on the way back, but one thing is beyond certain after you witness such a beautiful ode to Heavy Metal. It doesn’t matter how long it takes for Judas Priest to return to Toronto again, we’ll all be there one more time to enjoy our metallic deities celebrating heavy music and, of course, SCREEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAMING FOR VENGEANCE!

Setlist
War Pigs (Black Sabbath song)
Battle Cry
Dragonaut
Metal Gods
Desert Plains
Victim of Changes
Halls of Valhalla
The Rage
Turbo Lover
Redeemer of Souls
Beyond the Realms of Death
Screaming for Vengeance
Breaking the Law
Hell Bent for Leather

Encore:
The Hellion/Electric Eye
You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’

Encore 2:
Painkiller
Living After Midnight
Beginning of the End

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

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