Thursday, August 28, 2014

I'm NOT Nostradamus!

Judas Priest "Redeemer of Souls" 9/10

When a band has so many classic albums, it's hard to hear a new release with open ears. But since "Nostradamus" sucked so bad, this album immediately sounds proper right off the bat. And that's all due respect to "Nostradamus," clearly it was musical - just WAY overboard and, in my opinion, misses the mark it set to hit. So rather than attempt to do anything daring, Priest has gone the safe route if you will, and put out an album of classic heavy metal. Almost makes me wonder if K.K. was responsible for the blunder that was their last album? Hmmm...

Speaking of which - I don't know if K.K. was stunting the band's creative juices or if Richie Faulkner is just an amazing songwriter - but this album really has that perfect combination of classic metal and modern european style. It feels fresh and inspired. One of the problems with "Angel of Retribution" was that although it's very inspired at times, it's a bit uneven and sound kind of tired and forced at some moments (Revolution or whatever the hell it's called - the one with the Janes Addiction riff?) It's as if the metal gods themselves came down and said "ok guys, we will bless one more album with the magic!" The riffs are crunchier than ever, like a powerful Wacken sound system. When the band said they have been somewhat revitalized, this was actually not an exaggeration!

Vocals are subdued, but tons of conviction, without being contrived. Halford is simply inhuman. He must be (see "Halls of Valhallah" for more proof). I mean seriously, what the fuck is in this guy's blood, fucking propane??? There is a really good variety here of powerful Painkiller Halford as well as the more dynamic 70s version. It seems the band really had a concept to create great songs here, and the vocals are a real center point. This was not an attempt to show how high he can scream, although it certainly shows he can still belt it out. But there is a humbleness to his delivery that makes it more appealing than the last few recordings he's done. He's also a bit more creative and experimental than he has been for some time. Halford sounds engaged, and it almost sounds like he's been listening to some viking metal if I'm not mistaken! Does he sound old? Well yes, at times he sounds like he's fighting age, but so far he's still winning. And I think he's still got a few albums left in him yet.

Drums - well Scott Travis is the atomic clock at the center of the earth last I checked. But sometimes he can sound a little robotic. You gotta admit right? Well he lays off a little on the double bass, and digs a little more of the riffs. "Metalizer" has an almost raw swedish guitar tone - probably the meanest tone heard from Priest...but the drums are a great example of Scott's extremely brutal, yet clean delivery. "Crossfire" is the real surprise on here though. Scott is kinda forced to dig into the bluesy riffs, and this gives the whole album a much needed vintage feel at times - and detracts from the sometimes robotic sound Scott can fall into.

The solos are surprisingly subtle in the mix, although they are all over the place. It seems the band has focused more on extremely solid riffs and melodic passages. So although I can't say there are any solos which approach the greatness of their best 70s material, what IS here is more dedicated to the song than the individual ego. This is a first on a Priest album I would say! But there are so many amazing details besides solos here. I'm somewhat beside myself here, because you can really feel the effort the band put into this. And it is inspiring to hear how much this great band still has to offer.

The inevitable comparison to "Painkiller" needs to be addressed. And it's pretty easy to see the contrast. "Painkiller" was just a straight forward ass kicker, done as aggressively as possible. "Redeemer" is less focused on brutality and more on great classic metal fist bangers. But without getting into cliche Euro metal territory. And yet, there is a modern sensibility to this. Again, what the fuck? Must be Faulkner's influence. He's in some other power metal band right? Yeah it's true the title track shares a strong resemblance to "Hell Patrol." But I wouldn't say it sounds like a copy. In fact, "Hell Patrol" almost sounds like it could have been written after this song, if that makes any sense. It's a more varied tune, which kinda sums up the whole album. Varied, yet cohesive.

Richie Faulkner's playing is really distinct from Glen's, and I can tell it apart even more than I could with KK. He's got a really cool vintage tone that is rich and full of character. This is no "stand in" the band really knew what they were doing with this fellow! Glen lets him shine which is cool - he rips many solos here.

"Down in Flames" does kind of sound like a Halford tune. But Roy Z has a certain sound, and that's not what I hear on this. Which makes it superior, of course! Speaking of which - the last Halford album was not that great. And I was beginning to think Halford was going to start becoming kind of a self parody soon. But here on "Redeemer" he shows that he can still create some material on par with his best.

"Hell and Back" is a real obvious "Metal Gods" sort of crowd pleaser/fist banger and does tread the cheese line pretty steadily. But the tone is real heavy and gives the band more of that laid back bluesy feel they had abandonded some years ago. It heads into directions you would not expect, and Priest does this a lot on this album. Again, either the new guy freed them to branch out or KK was holding the band back creatively. (Sorry KK I know I am assuming a lot here!) Some real killer solo tones on this one!

Overall, what I like most about this album is that there is no feeling of "trying to please" anyone, or trying to capture a sound. It really seems as though this new version of the band has simply come together and made a killer album. Another true metal classic from Judas Priest!