"Painkiller". Suddenly, almost without warning, everything changed two years later. After some internal struggles, Rob Halford leaves the group, breaking millions of metal hearts, a move that shook the entire structure of the band. It would take an additional 4 years for the band to find its replacement, a man called Tim "Ripper" Owens, an obvious Judas Priest fan whom was a member of a cover group called British Steel. A tough task for a man to replace a Metal God.
This turbulent time eventually ended up with this, the album known as "Jugulator", a album that made it more than obvious that the band had changed more than just their singer. First off "Jugulator" is a ridiculous name, like a name for a super hero that has the power of either juggling or shaking big female jugs, and while the "Jugulator" is displayed in a pretty cool manor on the cover, he actually looks a little horny, and ready to pound. I know, I have a disgusting imagination, but what is even more disgusting is the new logo, which just looks dumb. What was wrong with the old one? Nothing!
The music has also changed, from the powerful and passionate speed metal that made "Painkiller" so god damn attractive, to a heavier, but slower sound that has more in common with thrash metal than NWoBHM. It is really obvious that the band is trying to sound as evil and menacing as possible, but frankly, they fail miserably at that task. They created that feeling perfectly in the song "A Touch of Evil", and now they are trying to do it again with a completely different sound, which just sounds wrong. They do not need to do this, yet they still do it, and I do not know why.
The most common complain about this album has been about (surprise, surprise) Tim and his performance. I get it, he is no metal god, and he will never be one, but his voice does fit with the band, and I can see why he was chosen by the band. With that said, he does try a little too hard to mimic Rob, which drags his performance down a notch, but it is still fairly acceptable. I rate it a B-. As for the rest of the band, they follow this darker path as well. Downing and Tipton's guitar work is a lot darker and grimmer, containing less riffs that kicks ass. It feels so weird to hear it, and it is hard to get used to it. It does not really appeal to me, but I do admire the effort for expanding their horizons once again. Scott Travis (whom also left the band for a short stint to help Halford in his project Fight) is probably the guy who you recognize the most here, since his drum work here is not too far off from the one in "Painkiller". It is still darker, but does contain that power and technicality that made him a force to be reckon with.
After reading all of this, you might be thinking that this does not sound like a Judas Priest record at all, and you would be half correct, because this new layer of coating makes "Jugulator" sound like a bad Slayer/Dio era of Black Sabbath rip off of some sort, but it still has a lot of Judas Priest in it, which is crucial if the album even wants to have some real meaning. The song writing is kind of uneven, but you can still sense some dirty gems in here. "Burn In Hell" instantly caught my attention, where Tim utilizes some great vocals together with some good riffing and a steadfast pace that is infectious. The title track has a nice twitch to it, "Dead Meat" has one of the cooler choruses, "Death Row" and "Brain Dead" has some interesting lyrics that makes you think, and "Bullet Train" has speed! So as you see, "Jugulator" does have its fair share of good music.
For a Judas Priest album, "Jugulator" is lacking speed, power, and passion, but in some really strange way, it still finds a way to show the band's wide diversity. This record has been bitch slapped by almost everyone for not having Rob Halford in it, and I agree that Rob would have made this album better with his mere presence, but the main structure of the album is solid. It is tough, heavy, and a fairly groovy album that has the classic Judas Priest theme and mentality. I am pissed that the band did not make a "Painkiller 2.0", but at the same time, I am glad they didn't, and tried something completely different, because it shows that the band has guts, and wants to evolve even further into the future. In the end though, the "Jugulator" leaves me more stirred than shaken, but one should still give it a fair shot, because it deserves it.
Songs worthy of recognition: Burn In hell, Death Row, Bullet Train
Rating: 6/10 Abductors