Review Summary: Priest's most recent release is nothing more than a collection of live tracks, but a solid collection nonetheless.
The year is 2009. Judas Priest have, since their formation in 1969 (yes, they’ve been around for 40 years now), provided us with various and often influential pieces of heavy metal. The band have given us, up till this release, 16 studio albums, the most recent one being Nostradamus
in 2008, and 4 live albums. July 14 saw another addition to the live album list: A Touch of Evil
. The album consists of various live performances recorded on Priest’s world tours in both 2006 and 2008, and contains, along with more recent material from Nostradamus
, Angel of Retribution
, some oldies such as Dissident Aggressor
and Beyond the Realms of Death
. No tracks heard on this album have ever been released as live performances before.
Judas Priest is:
- Robert John Arthur Halford ~ Vocals
- Kenneth Downing Junior ~ Lead Guitar
- Glenn Raymond Tipton ~ Lead Guitar
- Ian Frank Hill ~ Bass Guitar
- Scott Travis ~ Drums
Priest’s live albums have always been plagued by something that didn’t make them quite as great as we would want them to be. The (in)famous Unleashed in the East
had studio vocals, Priest…Live!
didn’t have a quite as memorable set list, and suffered from a poor production and lack of intensity. The two Owens-era albums ’98 Live Meltdown
and Live in London
were, even with a trying vocalist, forced and dull affairs. Would Priest ever be able to get a live album right"
The answer is both yes and no. Yes, for a lot of things have improved since the previous 4. The production is the best yet, with the noise coming through very clear. The performances are honest and intense enough, which makes for Priest’s most ‘live’ sounding album up till now. The featured songs have all never been released as live performances before, so we don’t get another Breaking the Law
or Living After Midnight
, which is a relief. Halford is back, and he regained his old post well, despite not being able to hit quite all the notes anymore. The rest of the band, revitalized by his return, put down a memorable and heavier than usual performance, as the guitars have been clearly toned down a bit. The album only seems to benefit from it.
No, for there are also a few flaws. The first and unavoidable fact is the aging of the band, and especially Halford, who is sometimes out of breath, especially on the title track. Nevertheless, the boys are playing excellently considering they’re all close to or just beyond 60 (except for Travis, who is quite a bit younger). Unfortunately Priest repeats a mistake made on both Unleashed
: they just grab a bunch of live performances. This creates a feeling that you’re just listening to a collection of tracks with no added value to the entire experience (the same what happens when an album isn’t bound by a similar theme between the tracks). Still, they’re good performances, and there isn’t really anything wrong with them either, but in this aspect Priest makes it seem A Touch of Evil
is a money-grabbing attempt (though you could also just say fan-only).
I have also often argued that live tracks must have something that makes them stand out beside their original counterpart. Gladly, Priest succeeds in that in some tracks. Riding on the Wind
sounds actually more intense than the Screaming for Vengeance original, in fact, Halford seemingly forgetting about his age there, as he ferociously rages through the song like it’s 1982. The two classic oldies from the 70’s, Dissident Aggressor
and Beyond the Realms of Death
, benefit from the tuned-down, heavier playing style and sound fantastic (plus, Dissident Aggressor
is rid of the useless intro). On the other hand, some performances are inferior to their originals, especially the previously mentioned title track and the two Nostradamus songs, Death
. What is lacking in these two is not the band’s performance per se, but the carefully created atmosphere found on Priest’s most recent studio release, in which the symphonic elements, not as neatly created on stage, played a great part.
The rest of what can be found on A Touch of Evil
is all solid, albeit not too surprising or amazing. Tracks like Hellrider
and Eat Me Alive
are almost impossible to do wrong live, and Painkiller makes a rather interesting closing track. Though this is most obviously a fan-only release, there is nothing particularly wrong with it. There is nothing so great about it either. Priest will never manage to create a truly essential live release anymore, and that is a shame.