This month, heavy metal giants Judas Priest released their seventeenth and potentially final studio album, Redeemer of Souls. This is their first full length release since 2008's Nostradamus, as well as their first without lifelong guitarist K.K. Downing.
Despite this, the album is easily their most solid effort in recent memory. No gimmicks or concepts here. Just pure, no frills heavy metal from start to finish.
The first track, "Dragonaut", opens with a deafening thunderclap that would make a grown man wince, foreshadowing the sonic assault that will soon follow. What comes next is a roar of duel guitars, bass and drums that feels fresh even though it's deeply rooted in Priest's classic style.
This energy remains throughout the majority of the album, and vocalist Rob Halford carries the listener through it with a voice that just refuses to quit. He may not have all the highs he once did, but the nearly 63 year old man still has a trick or two up his sleeve, a prime example being the epic "Halls of Valhalla" which just may leave you with your mouth agape.
The twin guitar dynamic that has been the band's trademark for over four decades is in full force on Redeemer of Souls. Glenn Tipton's crushing tonality is better than ever, and the masterful additions by new guitarist Richie Faulkner have injected a touch of modern style while staying true to the Priest formula. Scott Travis hasn't lost a step in his pounding double bass drum attack, and the often overlooked Ian Hill lays down a solid bass groove throughout.
Redeemer of Souls visits many styles throughout the band's history. Tracks such as "Down In Flames" and "March of the Damned" are perfect examples of vintage 1980's Priest, whereas the title track and the bone-crushing "Battle Cry" have more of a Painkiller-era feel to them. The album concludes with the hauntingly titled, "Beginning of the End", a slow haunting piece stained with imagery of death.
Lyrically, the album is much like a history lesson for the fans. Halford speaks of his life experiences with the band as well as his refusal to leave quietly when faced with his own mortality. On the deluxe edition, there is a bonus track entitled "Never Forget" which reads like a heartfelt Thank You note to the fans. And of course no Priest album would be complete without some stylized heavy metal monsters, as heard on songs like "Metalizer".
The band may be older, but this possible final effort shows that they can still bring it after all these years. Redeemer of Souls can easily be considered Painkiller for a new generation, as it is arguably the best material they've released in a long time.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Priest is back.