Album Review: Judas Priest 'Redeemer Of Souls'

Despite dabbling in some album reviews during the neophyte stages of the website (remember The 13th Floor?...Ahh memories), album reviews aren't something we usually do around these parts. But them again it's not everyday that icons Judas Priest release a new album. So lets jump into the pit head first and see what the metal gods have wrought on the public this go around shall we?

The third album since lead singer Rob Halford returned to the Priest fold, 'Redeemer of Souls' is the latest attempt by the band to transport fans back to their hey day full of monstrous riffs, screaming vocals and, as it turned out a whole lot of gay innuendo. I kid...but seriously, "Jawbreaker"..."Grinder"? Really? No one got it?

When Halford rejoined Judas Priest back in 2003, fans were greeted with a tremendous return to greatness (although to be fair, the Ripper Owens albums aren't terrible - just different) with 'Angel Of Retribution.' It was a solid comeback disc full of classic Priest-ness, but some curious choices. Namely the closing track "Loch Ness" a 13 and a half minute song about the loch ness monster. Once described by fellow metal icon Bruce Dickinson as a "mechanized panzer attack" Priest was never really one to dabble in the mythological swords and sorcery realm. The next post reunion release carved out more new, albeit again, curious territory, for the boys from Birmingham, England, the concept album. A study of 16th century French writer/psychic Nostradamus. The album certainly showed Priest could carry a a narrative over the full length of an album, but was met with general apathy. Leading toe the question, despite being able to make a concept album, did anyone, besides themselves really want them to?

With long time co lead guitarist K.K. Downing retiring in 2011, Priest replaced him with talented journeyman axe slinger Richie Faulkner and entered the studio looking to again return to their past glory. Joining Halford, and newcomer Faulkner, on the new album are the usual cast of Priest characters, co-lead guitarist Glenn Tipton, Bassist Ian Hill, and long time drummer Scott Travis.

The first thing that stands out about 'Redeemer' is the fact it really feels like a whole album. It's certainly not an album fishing for a single with a bunch of filler tracks to fill out the running time. Something, unfortunately, Priest has done before (see: 'Point of Entry'). The second thing that stands out is it's an album that you really can't quit on. Some of the albums best songs are late in the recording. "Battle Cry" is the second to last song on the album, but is one of it's best. "Redeemer" is meant to be listened to as an album, not as a series of singles that show up in a random on your iPod. It's a long album (a little too long for me) coming in with 13 songs, most of which are over 5 minutes, and a total running time of 61+ minutes. I would prefer a shorter release, 11 songs is about as far as my concentration can last, but nowadays when the band releases an album every 5 years or so, I guess we should all be happy with what we have.

I expected with Downings departure that bringing in a new guitarist might change some things sonically for the band. I was pleasantly surprised, while listening, to find that Faulkners playing is almost indistinguishable form anything Downing had done since Halfords return. While Faulkners assimilation into the band seems flawless, it's starting to become rather obvious that Halford just can't seem to hit the higher register notes he's been a master of in the past. it's not that the singing is bad, Rob certainly can still belt it out, and in many ways his voice sounds fuller than it has in year. But I couldn't imagine him trying to hit the notes on say, "Painkiller" in the studio these days.

One last thing before I wrap this review wouldn't be DreadWorld if I didn't point out that despite the awesomeness of the opening track "Dragonaut," that it totally cribs the "master of my domain" line from Seinfeld. I'd like to think that it was unintentional, especially considering the subject matter of the song, but knowing Rob Halford has a pretty wicked sense of humor, it makes me wonder. And no the track "Sword Of Damocles" is not a cover of the Rocky Horror Picture Show song - although that would have been awesome.

Judas Priest "Redeemer of Souls" is a return to form for the band after the concept album misstep of "Nostradamus." While Halford certainly can't hit the high notes like he could even 10 years ago on "Angel of Retribution," the album certainly rocks well enough to be considered one of Priests finest.

Best Tracks: Dragonaut, Redeemer of Souls, Battle Cry, Metalizer, Down in Flames - but it's all pretty good

**** stars out of *****

As always thanks for reading and "enjoy every sandwich"

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