Judas Priest - Firepower (Album Review)

Alec Chillingworth 13 March 2018

A full hour of new music from a heavy metal band who have been knocking about since 1969. That sounds tedious, doesn’t it? That sounds painful, right? Embarrassing? No to all three, because Judas Priest have just released their best album in 28 years.

‘Firepower’ is the Birmingham legends’ 18th record, but it doesn’t sound like it. Produced by Tom Allom and Andy Sneap – the former a veteran Priest collaborator, the latter responsible for reinvigorating Megadeth’s plodding output in the latter half of the ‘00s – the 14 songs here are a genuine joy.src=http://www.stereoboard.com/images/stories/2013/images/A-Z%20Main%20Artist%20Images/J/judas_priest_large_js_291117.jpg

Not because they’re nostalgic, though, and not because they’re rehashes of Priest’s glory period spruced up with today’s studio wizardry. ‘Firepower’ succeeds on the strength of the music and the fact that the band sound like they’re going for the throat.

Recorded live with no click tracks, ‘Firepower’ is the result of a heritage act shedding that label. Vocalist Rob Halford is a man on a mission, serving up King Diamond levels of melodrama while stringing us along with with every word, every ludicrous tale.

Yes, he’ll bring you the head of the demon on the title track. No, he couldn’t dream to be without her kind on Children of the Sun. Whether he’s spinning yarns in his patented shriek or a grumbly vibrato, he means it.

And how could he not? ‘Firepower’ celebrates the wonderful grandiosity, the absurd self-belief and genuinely uplifting qualities of metal in the best possible way. It rumbles with the thumping, relentless heaviness of 1990’s ‘Painkiller’, but also the hook-a-minute grease of ‘Screaming For Vengeance’. Every track’s got a big chorus. Every twin-lead exchange between Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner makes you wonder why Iron Maiden can’t do that anymore.

‘Redeemer of Souls’, Priest’s previous record, went for epic and fell through the cracks somewhere between outright failure and points for trying. But here the concise songwriting makes the opera-worthy passages all the more effective. You’ve got Rising From Ruins – the best mid-tempo, grinding anthem of its kind since A Touch of Evil from ‘Painkiller’ - sharing space with the gorgeous piano prelude Guardians.

When Sea of Red wraps everything up, moving from brooding acoustics to a huge, hokey choir… it actually doesn’t feel all that hokey. In fact, it’s the perfect accompaniment to Halford’s master storytelling and nails prog-infused metal far more precisely than on previous outings.

Everything you want from Judas Priest in 2018 is present and correct here. Traitors Gate is the sound of a band in their prime, with Halford’s fist-in-the-air, die-for-metal chants complementing the Tipton/Faulkner riff machine. You want riffs? You want neck-snapping heaviness? The title track and Lightning Strike are all drums, thick bass, Halford’s vocal spikes slicing your throat. Necromancer’s intro could have featured on the last Lamb of God album. This is heavy metal.

Track 12 – 12! – sums everything up. It clocks in at less than three minutes. It’s got that sleazy biker vibe, it’s epic and it’s called No Surrender. No. Fucking. Surrender. Even this late in the game, when Judas Priest could churn out any old rubbish and people would pretend to love it, ‘Firepower’ is a classic.

Judas Priest Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue March 13 2018 - WILKES BARRE Pennsylvania - Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza (USA)
Thu March 15 2018 - YOUNGSTOWN Ohio - Covelli Centre (USA)
Sat March 17 2018 - UNIONDALE New York - Nassau Coliseum (USA)
Sun March 18 2018 - WASHINGTON District Of Columbia - Anthem - D.C. (USA)
Tue March 20 2018 - NEWARK New Jersey - Prudential Center (USA)
Thu March 22 2018 - UNCASVILLE Connecticut - Mohegan Sun Arena (USA)
Fri March 23 2018 - WORCESTER Massachusetts - Palladium (USA)
Sun March 25 2018 - OTTAWA Ontario - TD Place Arena (Canada)
Tue March 27 2018 - LONDON ON Ontario - Budweiser Gardens (Canada)
Wed March 28 2018 - OSHAWA Ontario - Tribute Communities Centre (Canada)
Fri March 30 2018 - RAMA Ontario - Casino Rama Entertainment Centre (Canada)
Sat March 31 2018 - DETROIT Michigan - Masonic Temple (USA)
Mon April 02 2018 - MINNEAPOLIS Minnesota - Armory Minneapolis (USA)
Tue April 03 2018 - MILWAUKEE Wisconsin - Riverside Theatre (USA)
Thu April 05 2018 - GREEN BAY Wisconsin - Resch Center (USA)
Fri April 06 2018 - HAMMOND Indiana - Venue at Horseshoe Casino (USA)
Sun April 08 2018 - BLOOMINGTON Illinois - Us Cellular Coliseum (USA)
Tue April 10 2018 - CASPER Wyoming - Casper Events Center (USA)
Wed April 11 2018 - LOVELAND Colorado - Budweiser Events Center (USA)
Fri April 13 2018 - SALT LAKE CITY Utah - Vivint Smart Home Arena (USA)
Sun April 15 2018 - KENT Washington - Showare Center (USA)
Tue April 17 2018 - PORTLAND Oregon - Veterans Memorial Coliseum (Portland) (USA)
Thu April 19 2018 - SAN FRANCISCO California - Warfield (USA)
Sun April 22 2018 - LOS ANGELES California - Microsoft Theatre (USA)
Tue April 24 2018 - PHOENIX Arizona - Comerica Theatre (USA)
Thu April 26 2018 - TULSA Oklahoma - BOK Center (USA)
Sat April 28 2018 - DALLAS Texas - Bomb Factory (USA)
Sun April 29 2018 - SUGAR LAND Texas - Smart Financial Centre (USA)
Tue May 01 2018 - SAN ANTONIO Texas - Freeman Coliseum (USA)

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