Sunday, March 11, 2018

Judas Priest - Firepower (2018)

Closing in on their 50th year of existence, Judas Priest is reaching the closing stretch of their magnificent career, and with the recent news of Glenn Tipton and his Parkinson disease, it feels really sad to acknowledge that. I know we are in the age of retiring metal giants, but it does not get any easier when another legend hangs up their equipment one last time. So every new release is for me kind of sacred, not because I have huge expectations of it, but because it is another chance for these old guns to deliver something that will go down to history with the rest of their discography. It is certainly something to cherish.

So when "Firepower" was announced, I was obviously excited, but I understood that the band would probably do another "Redeemer of Souls", a good record with some patchy spots. So call me stunned when I first went through the record, just completely baffled, because this is not what I expected. I felt like the band went back in time, stole themselves from 1990, brought them back to 2018, and said "go, start recording". What the bloody hell happened, this is insane!

Some of those emotions actually went through me before the release, when the band released the first two songs of the record, the title track and "Lightning Strike". Both were complete bangers, classic heavy Judas Priest straight out of the "Painkiller" era, smashing its way through my brain. The title track just opens the album in splendid fashion, a bone heavy riff and a speed that I did not think the band could execute anymore, while "Lightning Strike" is more typical of the band, with the trademarked dual blazing guitars and Rob Halford dominating everything. What an amazing opening one-two punch, one of the best ones in the band's discography actually.

So one would think that it does not get much better than this, that the album would just drop in quality. It definitely does not reach the same level of intensity, but the quality is incredibly consistent, not at all the up and down story that its predecessor was. Each song has something to offer, and the performances on each and every one of them are just marvelous. The chemistry between Faulkner and Tipton is just spot on, Scott Travis pummels on behind his drum kit, Hill and his bass is still the back bone of the music. And then we have Halford, who sounds much fresher and energetic this time around. The guy is 67 years for Christ sake, and he still has a range that would make any singer jealous. Hell, I would be glad if I sounded half as good in my 30's.

Most of the songs are more or less the bread and butter of the Priest, classic heavy metal focused around catchy hooks and memorable riffs. Songs like "Spectre", "Evil Never Dies", and "Necromancer" are simple, but highly effective, just like you want from the band. But "Firepower" is more than that, it has several songs that does more than what they really need to do. We got "Never The Heroes", an epic tune of what soldiers really are, packaged with some real emotion to it. "Rising From Ruins" takes the momentum from the small instrumental "Guardians", and turns into a very heartfelt ballad that strikes pretty hard. Also take note of the angelic closer "Sea of Red", another stand out among muscle packages.

With 14 songs, and just under an hour of run time, there is bound for some fillers, but they are surprisingly few. Many might consider "Flame Thrower" as one of them because of its Megadeth vibe, but I personally like it, it is like they had to include something out of "Turbo" in here, and settled with this groover. I am more indifferent towards "Children of The Sun", "No Surrender", and "Lone Wolf", those could have easily been cut out to make "Firepower" a little tighter, but they do not really ruin the album in any way, and thanks to good production and strong performances, it is easy to get through them.

Well, what can I really say? Judas Priest promised firepower, and they certainly delivered a butt load of it. This is not only the heaviest album since "Painkiller", this is the best album since "Painkiller", and it is not even close. The band just shoots song after song at you, oozing with nostalgia, yet feels modern enough to fit in 2018. It is not perfect in any way shape or form, but it has so much power to it that it does not matter all that much. It is not the album that we expected from the band, and I think that everyone will agree that this is a very pleasant surprise. If this turns out to be the band's final album, then what an incredible way to say good bye.

Songs worthy of recognition: Never The Heroes, Firepower, Lightning Strike, Rising From Ruins

Rating: 8,5/10 Necromancers

More reviews of Judas Priest
Rocka Rolla
Sad Wings of Destiny
Sin After Sin
Stained Class
Killing Machine
British Steel
Point of Entry
Screaming For Vengeance
Defenders of The Faith
Ram It Down
Angel of Retribution
Redeemer of Souls

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