Album Review: Judas Priest- FirePower

 

Judas Priest are a band that need no introduction. They are one of the most revolutionary acts in both Rock and Heavy Metal music as we know it today. And here we are with the band actually nearing their 50th anniversary since formed(although no members from that line up exist at this time) and they are pushing out their 18th studio album entitled “Firepower”. A very anticipated record indeed since the release of their 2014 cut “Redeemer of Souls” which I still enjoy to this day even though the record felt a bit bloated and inconsistent with production in spots. However, with classic Priest producer Tom Allom and Accept revivalist Andy Sneap at the helm, can they bounce the band back to sounding like absolute monsters once again?

Right off the bat, we see the title track coupled with “Lightning Strike” showing that Priest sound heavy and fresh on record again. The guitars are extremely crisp with the low end really holding down the songs creating an all around bigger sound. Ian Hills bass on the record as a whole is a lot more present but not overwhelming as it should sound. Halford, what can you say. He sounds fresh and full of life especially on songs like “Evil Never Dies” with some very evil and shrill vocals styles throughout the chorus. Some of the songs presented on this album are just as good as cuts on Painkiller. Songs like the epic almost power metal-esque “Traitors Gate” show Priest at their absolute best. Even songs like “Spectre” which even has a bit of a “Ripper” feel to it but still feels fresh and energetic. The album does have a modern feel throughout with songs like the heavy and very catchy “Necromancer” and the more hard rocking and almost sludgy sounding “Lone Wolf”. However, the classic sounds are still present with songs like “Never The Heroes” which could have been on “Ram It Down” or even “Flame Thrower” which sounds like a cut off of “Defenders Of The Faith”. However, the biggest and greatest fact about this album is that these songs, coupled with the absolute lively and sleek yet organic production really give Priest a fresh sound they need this far along. The band sounds ten times more powerful and alive than they did four years ago. Even on slower mid paced songs like “Children Of The Sun” and “Rising From Ruins” coupled with the excellent and emotional opening instrumental “Guardians” really hold their own as well with such power and emotion conveyed through them. Another favorite of mine is “No Surrender” which has a very up beat rocking feel and is one of the most energetic songs on the album. Even the album closing ballad “Sea Of Red” is a fitting end to this juggernaut of a record. Simply put, there really are no bad songs on this album. Through my near twentieth full listen, no song has grown tired for me. The soloing is lively and even with Faulkner’s solos feeling a lot more organic on this record and Glenn still giving it all he’s got this late in the game it really is a feat considering his recent decision to cut out touring(instead we will see Andy Sneap slinging his axe on stage). It really is sad to see but if this is the last record from the almighty Priest, then it is possibly the best way the band could go out.

Overall, I have to say that this album is easily an early contender for album of the year. This is easily the best modern Priest album and although it¬† honestly is more of just straight forward Heavy Metal with no real surprises, the music that is presented has so much life and substance to it with the band really giving it their all. Don’t miss out on this record and even though we won’t see the same line up as presented here, the shows will still be great and hopefully they pull a lot from this record, it is a beast!

Headbanging Highlight of The Week: Jaguar- Power Games

 

Welcome back for another Headbanging Highlight of the Week! Well Frost and Fire in Ventura California is only a month and a half away and i’m gearing up big time to see some of the best of the best from today and yesterday. One band in particular is Jaguar from England. This will be their first outing in the US making for a very rare and special performance. Their 1983 ferocious debut “Power Games” has been on repeat a lot this week for me and definitely should be on your playlist too!

One of my favorite albums of the early 80’s, the reason is mainly the bands no nonsense break neck speed and fluid songwriting. With almost punk like songwriting, the band manage to take it into more heavy metal territory with frenzied soloing that is structured just enough to fit the songs melody and catchy lyrics belted from Paul Merrell. There are some softer more ballad-like moments from songs like “Master Game” which still keep the raw heavy metal feel in tact all the way through. The band you can tell have a lot charisma from their performance especially from how tight their playing is. The band also excel at creating memorable hooks through their songs having the vocals simple and ferocious yet adding a touch of melody to keep them being memorable like songs such as “No Lies” and my all time favorite “Prisoner”. This album carries that early 80’s traditional/speed metal tradition which is one of the main reasons they have such a cult following today. I also highly recommend their early singles leading up to this album such as possibly their most famous “Axe Crazy” and “Back Street Woman”

Overall, this album is simply an early ¬†masterpiece showing the future of heavy metal becoming faster and more aggressive but still being true to that NWOBHM sound. This album has so many highlights like “Dutch Connection”, “Prisoner”, “Raw Deal” and just about every other track. It keeps a very consistent pace and is one you need to hear or own if you haven’t heard it before. For lovers of NWOBHM and pure unabashed heavy metal, check this one out. Also, if you have a chance, check them out at Frost and Fire this year along a lot of great other acts, it surely won’t be a performance to forget.