It has been going on a long time, this love affair between JUDAS PRIEST and me. For the most part Rob Halford and Co. have delivered one winning record after another, so you can imagine my excitement at the first new material from the Birmingham boys in almost six years, right? THE PRIEST is back with Redeemer of Souls!! One look at that album cover and I knew I had zero to worry about!
A key element of a JUDAS PRIEST record is the opener, and “Dragonaut” does not disappoint. New addition Richie Faulkner fits in perfectly, co-writing on tracks with fellow guitarist Glenn Tipton and The Metal God Halford. The molten metal riffs and searing solo work instantly remind you that this is indeed JUDAS FUCKING PRIEST you are hearing and don’t you forget it. Title track “Redeemer of Souls” continues the up-tempo pace at a gallop and is sure to have all heads banging on tour this fall. This is yet another song with seamless lead breaks and I am very excited to get my mitts on the liner notes so I can see who is soloing when, believe me.
There’s no doubt “Halls of Valhalla” is a clear-cut favorite here. Everybody came to play on this one and if you’re anything like me it’ll be one of yours too. At six minutes it’s the longest track on the disc and not one of said minutes is wasted. No bloated intro, no soft build-up, just ass-kicking metal done right! Speaking of, check out “Sword of Damocles” Jeezus, these fucking song titles! How can you NOT be convinced the band means business on this album, huh? This has a different tempo than probably anything I’ve heard out of these guys in eons, and that’s a very cool thing. “March of the Damned” is one that seemed to divide all my fellow PRIEST fans when they first made it available. Me, I love it. It sounds like the offspring of “Metal Gods” which is me paying it a compliment.
Wow, are we really only five songs in? So far so good, people! Halford has this killer mirroring thing going on during parts of “Down In Flames” and once again the music is top notch. Drummer Scott Travis and bassist Ian Hill are joined at the hip; where one goes, the other follows. And AGAIN, the fucking solos, both single and dual on this track are something else! After a short acoustic intro “Hell & Back” is a little change of pace, reminding me of something that could have been a B-side during the Screaming For Vengeance or Defenders of the Faith recording sessions, which isn’t to say it’s dated; it just has a vintage feel to it is all. My old friend Michael from INFERNAL OPERA (check them out, guys!) mentioned that “Cold Blooded” was one of his favorites and I’m with him there 100%. The hook is amazing, and there is a part just after the halfway mark that for me is one of the biggest statements on the album. This gives way to yet another ripping solo!
“Metalizer”, much like 2005’s “Demonizer” is that deeper album track that is living proof JUDAS PRIEST can still fuck shit up better than bands 30 years younger than they are, and I thoroughly enjoyed the bluesy feel throughout “Crossfire”. This is followed by the slow, deliberate stalk of “Secrets of the Dead” which is one of the only tunes that didn’t really excite me. “Battle Cry” however is a definite winner, with high-octane riffs, and Halford singing his heart out. This really should have been the album closer, but alas the band chose to go with “Beginning of the End”, the one true soft song on the record. And while it’s not a bad song it seems a bit out of place in this collection. Still, JUDAS PRIEST have come back strong after a prolonged absence and though he may not be hitting the highs of yesteryear, Rob Halford, my Metal God, sings his ass off while his bandmates play like men possessed on Redeemer of Souls. I love it!!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Halls of Valhalla”, “Sword of Damocles”, “Cold Blooded”, “Battle Cry”, “Down In Flames”, “Crossfire”