Review Summary: Rising in the East is a blast to watch and a timely reminder why Judas Priest are still the Metal Gods.
Judas Priest is a band that needs little introduction -- they’re the Metal Gods. They have a legacy unmatched in heavy metal except maybe by Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden (sorry, Metallica). After their 1991 tour, frontman Rob Halford announced that he was leaving the band, leaving a huge void in his wake. Journeyman Tim “Ripper” Owens filled in admirably for a while, but there was no replacing Halford. So when the band finally put their differences aside and Halford returned to the mic for 2005’s Angel of Retribution, fans around the world were ecstatic. The album was considered a solid return to form, and ‘Priest promptly embarked on a massive world tour. The result was Rising in the East.
Since Judas Priest maintain a huge following in Japan (due in large part to their classic live album, Unleashed in the East) the band decided to film their two shows at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan arena. Rising is comprised of one complete show, from a dark stage to the band’s final bow. Lead guitarist Glen Tipton explained, “We filmed both nights but we ended up using the second night only for this DVD. We wanted it to be as live and as real as possible.” They certainly nailed the “real” feeling. Rising is one of the best-filmed live DVD’s you’re likely to find. The camera seems to always focus on the most interesting part of the show, sitting on the guitars during the solos and switching to Halford for his signature screams, while Scott Travis has several cameras devoted to his high-octane drumming. In typical fashion, bassist Ian Hill gets very little attention, but that’s to be expected since he is, after all, the bassist. And for being mostly in their 50’s, the band doesn’t look too bad during their close-ups (except maybe K.K. Downing, who needs to give up the leather vest). The accompanying audio is clear and balanced, with each instrument prominent in the mix. Travis’ drums, in particular, are thunderous. Not once during the show does a musician make an obvious mistake or go overboard with theatrics, a testament to the maturity Judas Priest’s members have developed in their time together. Halford minimizes the oh-yeahs and unnecessary screams, though he gives plenty of air-raid-siren wails to wow the fans during the course of his performance.
The music is, of course, top-notch (as it should be with such a large discography to pick from). The show covers every Halford-era album except the mundane Rocka Rolla and, inexplicably, Defenders of the Faith. The concert starts with a bang, as “The Hellion” introduces “Electric Eye” in classic Judas Priest style. “Metal Gods” and surprising highlight “Riding on the Wind” transition the show into some mid-tempo crowd pleasers. Tipton shows the crowd that he’s still one of the most talented (and tasteful) metal guitarists in the world, recreating his solos from the original recordings mostly flawlessly. His solo during "Victim of Changes" gets a little bit self-indulgent at one point, but it seems the crowd liked it. The new album proves to be terrific concert material, with “Judas Rising” and “Hellrider” allowing the band to flex their muscles (and pyrotechnics) a bit.
Halford’s voice is quite different than during his youth, and quite frankly, it sounds better now in many of the songs. The Screaming for Vengeance songs, in particular, have more of a roar to them than during the ’82 tour, while his scream remains largely the same, though the high notes no longer come effortlessly, and he's out of breath between verses of "Painkiller". Towards the middle of the show, the band makes the unorthodox decision to play an acoustic rendition of “Diamonds and Rust,” but it turns out to be pleasant change of pace and a great performance. In the second half of the show, Priest pull out some classics such as “Beyond the Realms of Death” and “Victim of Changes” to the crowd’s delight. They really ought to have axed Ram It Down’s “I’m A Rocker” for “Freewheel Burning” or “The Sentinel”, but all is forgiven by the time “Exciter” and “Painkiller” close the set, the latter of which sounds exponentially better here than any other recent live version. After a moment of silence, Halford triumphantly returns to the stage atop his Harley-Davidson, and the band rips through an encore of “Hell Bent for Leather”, “Living After Midnight”, and their biggest hit, “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”.
The atmosphere of the recording is second to none, with a lights show accompanying each song and the crowd mic’d prominently for maximum at-the-show feel. If you’ve never seen Judas Priest, this is about as close as you can get without being among the raucous, flag-waving fans crammed into the venue. Rising in the East is a definitive statement by Judas Priest that they’re still one of the best live bands in the world, and aren’t going away any time soon. This is about as much fun as any live DVD, thanks to an inspired performance by the band and great filming and editing of the concert footage. Covering the majority of a career as legendary as Judas Priest’s isn’t an easy task, but this is about as good as it gets – so plug Rising in the East into your DVD player, turn the speakers up to 11, grab your air guitar, and have a blast.