Review Summary: "...feel as though nobody cares, if we live or die..."
Should we really be excited for a new Judas Priest album? Admittedly, the prospect of comeback albums have become far less exciting than they once were at the tail-end of the '00s. Some albums have fared better than others (Black Sabbath's 13
, Metallica's Death Magnetic
, Swans My Father Will Guide Us Up a Rope to the Sky
), and some have seen themselves age poorly in lieu of critical malling and poor sales figures (specifically referring to The Stooges' The Weirdness
, although Aerosmith's Music from Another Dimension!
will suffice). What cannot be denied is that these albums often become defining works for many bands; they signify the point where they either sank or swam, where the skill was proved or shown to diminish with aging. Precisely where Redeemer of Souls
fits in this spectrum though is a constantly baffling and difficult question to answer, yielding mixed results overall.
Rob Halford has said the case for Redeemer
was to prove that Priest were still a viable heavy metal band; after the overindulgent Nostradamus
, it was arguably a necessity to right that wrong in their career. Opener "Dragonaut" could make a decent case for being being worthy of the fabled description British Steel
, combining an '80s radio friendly vibe with a ballistic vibrancy reminiscent of the latter album. Other singles attempt their hardest to meet the difficult goal set out and succeed in varying measures; the title track rolls along with modesty in its heart but is ruined by an underwhelming performance from Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner. Other songs may be well-written but more often than not face a critical flaw, as "Sword of Damocles", "March of the Damned" and "Halls of Valhalla" all fall flat on their face for various reasons; Halford not hitting operatic and indulgent high notes, Tipton and Faulkner playing with a weedy and thin guitar tone, Scott Travis playing far too simple drum lines. In reality, the album doesn't live up to its unbelievable and ridiculous imagery, instead deciding to settle and force its passion through as a selling point.
For the most part, it suffices. The likes of "Down in Flames" and "Hell & Back", while utterly dreadful, at least aren't a dime a dozen. Ultimately, the ilk of "Crossfire" and "The Beginning of the End" dominate the record, pronouncing Faulkner and Tiptons weathered leads and Halford's overblown lyricism. There comes a point though where sympathy and wanting to see our heroes succeed overshadows the reality of what they are doing. It's clear Scott Travis can still belt out rapid gun fire drum lines, and the twin-axe attack of Tipton and Faulkner is just as good as that of KK Downing and Tipton (as evidenced by Epitaph
). If there is one overriding disappointment, it's that Priest aim to play it safe more than anything, and while it saves Redeemer
from any huge embarrassments, it ultimately stops it from succeeding on most terms.
It begs the question; have Priest really survived the last 40 years? It's a little selfish and unreasonable to expect Rob Halford could still wail like a banshee and think Scott Travis could still be capable of performing 6-minutes+ of double bass pedal machine gun action, but then isn't it unreasonable to return knowing you're incapable (or unwilling) of delivering to these standards? It's obvious that Priest still have 'it', and among their reunited peers they shine above the rest in terms of non-diminished musicianship. In that sense, Redeemer of Souls
isn't a classic along the lines of their earlier career, but does qualify as proving that even though they may have aged beyond their classics, Judas Priest can still lay claim to the title of Metal Gods.