Review Summary: Owens-era Priest not only fails in the studio, but also in their first, too hastily brought out live recording.
Following the release of their first studio recording with a different vocalist, Jugulator, Judas Priest already issued a live recording with Owens. A surprising move, considering how little material the new line-up had created. ’98 Live Meltdown
was even a double live album, like its live predecessor Priest…Live!, and contained mostly material Priest recorded with Rob Halford, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. In contrast, however, it contains an entire concert instead of different live cuts, for the first time in Priest’s live albums history. Needless to say, its reception was lukewarm, like Priest’s first studio effort with Owens.
’98 Live Meltdown’s Judas Priest was:
- Timothy S. Owens ~ Vocals
- Kenneth Downing Jr. ~ Lead Guitar
- Glenn Raymond Tipton ~ Lead Guitar
- Ian Frank Hill ~ Bass Guitar
- Scott Travis ~ Drums
That reception, however is again very justified. Priest’s 3rd live album is truly a very poor output, and interesting or entertaining features are hard to find. The track list isn’t that bad. 24 songs, of which 5 Jugulator
songs are featured. Surprisingly though, the two best songs on that album, Cathedral Spires
and the title track, are not present. As for the classic material, Priest can’t really go wrong there, having produced tons of it from Sad Wings of Destiny
up to Painkiller
. Unlike Priest…Live!, material spanning their almost their entire career is featured, with cuts from the 70’s such as Victim of Changes
, The Ripper
, Beyond the Realms of Death
and The Green Malanishi
. Their famous 80’s albums British Steel
and Screaming for Vengeance
, along with Painkiller
, are most prominently featured.
This means, that on paper, Judas Priest will put out an excellent live show. Unfortunately, the album is plagued by two very major problems. The first and obvious one is Owens. While, as he showed in Jugulator
, he is a very solid vocalist, even having a range comparable to Halford’s, he lacks the distinctive voice and charisma that his predecessor had, which means he is having a very hard time pulling off the classic Priest material in a convincing way. His work on the Jugulator
tunes is fine, of course, but the songs featured here weren’t very inspired to begin with. Again, it’s not his fault, but these are not really the vocals we would like to hear.
An even bigger flaw, however, is the rest of the band. Not only have they grown older since Priest’s inception in 1973, but with the loss of their key figure, the spark from their live shows has disappeared just as well. The playing of the boys sounds forced and dull, as if the energy has been sucked away from the band. Rather than melting the place down themselves as the title implies, they seem to have experienced a meltdown themselves, and they don’t sound like they quite feel like playing concerts anymore. That’s really how bad it is. I feel sorry for Owens putting in so much energy, for his band mates do the exact opposite.
That is what ’98 Live Meltdown
simply is. A half-assed live record with a band playing far worse than they are capable of, and a singer that really tries but cannot recapture the glory of the old days. Releasing this so soon after Jugulator is about the worst move the band could have made. Maybe, with more playing experience together the new Priest could have made a better live recording, but as for this, I advise everyone to stay the hell away from it.