JUDAS PRIEST – Firepower (2018)
Unless you’ve been living in a cave your entire life, JUDAS PRIEST are one of those bands that warrant the “This band requires no introduction…” The most representative, iconic band of true heavy metal is still alive & kickin’, and their new album “Firepower” to be released next Friday is a biting proof of that.
“Firepower” is Priest‘s 18th full-length, and while founder guitarist Glenn Tipton’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease forcing him to retire from touring may be a disheartening backdrop for a new release, let me tell you the music speaks for itself: sharp, focused songwriting and plenty of energetic melodic riffs.
Andy Sneap, one of the bright stars in music production today and Accept’s unheralded savior, will be filling in for Tipton on Priest’s upcoming tour. Even more notable is Sneap’s involvement in “Firepower” as co-producer alongside ‘Colonel’ Tom Allom (responsible for Judas Priest’s halcyon recordings).
Together, Sneap and Allom, along with the dynamic songwriting team of Tipton, Rob Halford and second guitarist Richie Faulkner, have engineered the most urgent and streamlined Judas Priest album in ages.
Wasting no time, the album gets down to metal business with the title track’s heavy riffing and straight-ahead bullying. It’s satisfyingly heavy and Halford sounds in good form, screeching and growling along with the extra crunchy riffs.
‘Lighting Strikes’ keeps the momentum going with another nut-buster full of thick riffage and heroic vocals. It’s quite catchy and sounds like the output of a much younger band.
What makes “Firepower” such a pleasant surprise is how consistently good it is and the sheer number of album high points.
Midtempo ‘Never The Heroes’ really grabbed me on the first spin and got under my skin. It reminds me of the recent Saxon output and has a simple but deceptively addictive chorus that really sticks.
‘Rising From the Ruins’ is the best song the band’s written since 1990, steeped in rebellious attitude and vintage metal tricks and tropes. Halford delivers a surprisingly sensitive and poignant vocal performance on a very upbeat, fist pumping “defeat the world” kind of song with a great chorus and enough chest thumping machismo to get you through several barroom brawls.
‘Spectre’ is also impressive, meaty and uber-catchy, with some interesting guitar-work woven around the edges. The late album tandem of ‘Traitor’s Gate’ and the hard rocker ‘Never Surrender’ (a personal favorite) show Priest functioning at their highest level in 30 years, crafting punchy, hard-hitting classic metal with serious staying power and bite.
Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner slathered this album with thick, crunchy riffing, which gives it an intense, modern sound that definitely works in the band’s favor. They layer on the flashy solos too, and some of the fret-work is surprisingly subtle and tasteful.
Rob Halford is on top form considering his age, and though he stays in his mid-range much of the time, he does attempt to his classic wailing on many songs. He sounds particularly vibrant and powerful on cuts like ‘Children of the Sun’ and the punchy ‘Traitor’s Gate’, and it’s great to hear him belting it out again like a man possessed.
In my humble opinion, “Firepower” is the best album Judas Priest has recorded since their glory days. It’s heavy, hooky, full of piss, vinegar and whiskey, but at the same time really melodic.
All-time fans will love it, but I also recommend the listen to all hard / melodic rock fans as well, because it’s a very polished album and you’ll be surprised by its fluid arrangements.
02. Lightning Strike
03. Evil Never Dies
04. Never The Heroes
06. Children Of The Sun
08. Rising From Ruins
09. Flame Thrower
11. Traitors Gate
12. No Surrender
13. Lone Wolf
14. Sea Of Red
Rob Halford – vocals
Glenn Tipton – guitar
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Ian Hill – bass
Scott Travis – drums