JUDAS PRIEST – Demolition (2001 Victor Japan)
1997: Judas Priest thudded back into stores with Jugulator, their first without Halford. It underwhelmed me, and I had to wait four more years for Judas Priest with Tim “Ripper” Owens to finally return again in 2001 with Demolition. Jugulator was a mixed bag and I hoped for more on the lineup’s second album. I was excited; according to my journal I played my copy three times in the first 24 hours. It doesn’t indicate how many of those plays happened in the record store!
As a die hard fan, I had a lot riding on the first album with Ripper, Jugulator. It was a let down, probably even more so since the new singer was so damn good! The live album that followed, ’98 Live Meltdown, won me over in a big way, the Jugulator songs being much better live. Ripper had an amazing voice with power to spare, but the lyrics (which he did not write) were juvenile and the music was a tad monotonous. Demolition is marginally better lyrically, and much improved musically.
The winner of Worst Lyric Award 2001 was “Cyberface”. As I have stated before, I generally do not like songs about the internet! “Don’t access the site/or beware his megabyte/no virus scan/detects the man”. I’m guessing Glenn just got high-speed at his house or something. This is a low point, but on some tracks we’re getting back to respectability!
The sound and production of the album was still too 1990’s in style. The guitars are good and chunky, the bass, usually lacking on Priest albums, is in your face, and Scott Travis is seriously kickin’ it on the drum kit. The guitars and vocals sound a tad too processed, though. A little too much tinkering with the effects racks. Ripper’s not screaming as much as he used to. I imagine his voice was already starting to wear, considering the great job he did on tour. Still, he rips it out for a couple tracks and it’s very welcome.
Songwriting-wise, the band are coming up with much more interesting riffs and songs than last time. Perhaps Jugulator suffered from lack of variety. On Demolition we run the gamut from fast thrash (“Machine Man”) to groove (“One on One”) to ballads (“Close to You”). At 13 songs, I think Demolition could have stood for some editing. Lose “Cyberface” and “Feed on Me”. What you’d be left with would have been a strong collection of songs. The truth is that a handful of tunes, like “Bloodsuckers” and “Metal Messiah” could have been on a Halford-era album.
Elsewhere there are still the modern nu-metal touches that I never liked too much. The guitar part in “Devil Digger” is a good example, as is the rap-like delivery of Owens on certain parts of certain songs. But Ripper didn’t write the songs. Don’t blame him.
There’s only one tune that Ripper had a writing credit on, which is the Japanese bonus track “What’s My Name”. This is the only song in Priest history with a Ripper Owens writing credit. Live, Mr. Owens often introduced the Priest classic “The Ripper” by inciting the crowd to yell his name. “What’s my name?” Ripper would ask the crowd. That’s where the title comes from, and it’s a pretty good song. This is one I’d been hunting for, for years. I’ve bought Demoltion three times now. First was the regular CD, then a European digipack with two B-sides*, and finally this Japanese edition.
The worst thing about Demolition is the nondescript cover. Mark Wilkinson must have been too busy drawing new Eddies for the reunited Iron Maiden or something, because this cover is by L-Space design instead. And it sucks. Not that Judas Priest have always had the greatest album covers (Stained Class, anyone?) but this sucks. At least the Japanese version came with a sticker sheet of the new Priest logo.
Anyhow, I really do like this album. The Ripper era of Priest was uneven, and although Demolition is overly long it does contain enough Priest metal to salve the soul.
* The two B-sides were the ’98 re-recordings of “Rapid Fire”, and “Green Manalishi”. “Rapid Fire” is thrashed up with additional lyrics, and “Green Manalishi” is slowed down to a grind. These were both originally released on the 1998 Japanese CD single for “Bullet Train”, which I already have. Therefore my digipack version of Demolition will be passed on to another rock fan.