REVIEW: Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls (2014 deluxe edition – Disc 1)

NEW RELEASE

Part 1 of 2:  Today, the album, tomorrow the bonus CD!

JUDAS PRIEST – Redeemer of Souls (2014 deluxe edition)

Whenever a classic metal band loses a key original member this late in the game, fans would be forgiven for being skeptical.  When KK Downing quit in 2011, the shockwaves could be felt on every metal message board in the world.  KK said, “There were at least 21 reasons why I decided to quit,” and you have to respect the man’s wishes.  It was hard to be optimistic about the future of Judas Priest (if there was to be any), but the band responded by hiring young Richie Faulkner (ex-Lauren Harris) who proceeded to inject a fresh bolt of electricity.

Filling a role on stage is one thing, and Faulkner did that ably (as proven on the band’s live Epitaph blu-ray).  He also brought his own sound to the table.  Creating new music is much harder to do.  Faulkner has a writing credit (with Rob Halford and Glenn Tipton) on every track of Judas Priest’s new album Redeemer of Souls, and the result is possibly Priest’s strongest since Painkiller in 1990.  Those who felt indifferent to 2008’s double Nostradamus CD should find plenty to like here.

JPROS_0007“Dragonaut” opens the album with a track almost reminiscent of  Rob’s solo band Halford.  For me the most important thing about this song is the classic sounding Priest guitar solos.  It’s almost like they said, “Do you doubt us?  Check out the new kid.”  The solo break has a harmony section similar to “Freewheel Burning”, but both shredders (Tipton and Faulkner) have plenty of time to burn.  “Dragonaut” is a good track, but compared with others on the album, it’s just one of many.

The title track is not that dissimilar to Nostradamus, sounding pretty much as latter-day Priest are expected to sound.  Perhaps that’s why it didn’t blow me away when it was first previewed a while ago.  Now that it has had time to grow on me, I consider it a favourite.  It has a chorus, a riff, and a beat you can bang your head to.  What more do you want?  More solos?  OK, no problem.  Sounds like Glenn has that under control!

If you missed the classic sound of Priest of old, then “Halls of Valhalla” may please you, as it sounds as if it could have been written for Painkiller (think “Hell Patrol”).  Faulkner nails the classic Priest vibe, but it’s the riffs here that truly feel classic.  Regardless of past experiments in sound and direction, there are certain guitar parts that simply sound Priest-ish, and Redeemer of Souls is loaded with them.  Halford throws in a couple screams, while Scott Travis and Ian Hill create the patented Judas Priest back beat.  “Halls of Valhalla” is the strongest song thus far.

“Sword of Damocles” is rhythmically different; the band slow it down a bit to let the song stomp.  The chorus here is top-notch, and the track has a lot of light and shade to it.  Even though it’s only five minutes in length, I’m inclined to use the word “epic” to describe it.  Meanwhile “March of the Damned” has a bit of a groove to it, something not always associated with Judas Priest.  The riff has some “Metal Gods” in its DNA, but melodically I’m thinking of Ozzy.  Regardless, it’s a great mid-tempo groover that would be an obvious single.  Then a really nice guitar harmony introduces “Down in Flames”, which is nothing like its intro.  Judas Priest can do heavy music of every type, and “Down in Flames” is Priest doing hard rock.  It’s the heavy side of hard rock, but the catchy chorus leaves no doubt.  Richie and Glenn trade off solos just like KK used to do, and I’m glad Priest have discovered some new chemistry guitar-wise.

At the midway point of the album comes “Hell and Back”.  A ballady intro is merely a fake-out, soon one of those grinding British Steel riffs takes over.  This one doesn’t boast one of the best choruses, but luckily the riffs and groove are entertaining enough.  It definitely sounds like classic Judas Priest in style.  It also has a killer outro.

JPROS_0005“Cold Blooded” might be considered the “power ballad”.  This one took the longest to grow on me, due to a similarity to some of the slower material on the Demolition CD.  I like it more now; the verses and choruses are really strong.  I think there will be a lot of people who pick this song as a favourite.  The solos absolutely smoke.

Priest usually like to lay down one or two breakneck speed metal workouts.  “Metalizer” is one of those fast tracks, like “Painkiller” or “Demonizer”.  This requires a couple Halford screams, and Rob delivers, insomuch as his voice will allow.   Think Rob sucks now?  Let’s hear you scream at age 62!  Then, “Crossfire” also has a classic Priest vibe, but I’ll be damned if the “quiet” guitar lick in the song isn’t eerily similar to “I” by Black Sabbath.  Who sang for Black Sabbath on the last two dates of their Dehumanizer tour?  Rob Halford.

Regal riffing opens “Secrets of the Dead” which is yet another outstanding track.  This one reminds me of “Laid to Rest”, off the first album by Rob Halford’s Fight.  It doesn’t sound like Fight; it sounds like Judas Priest, but there is a clear similarity to the earlier song.  I also hear a little bit of “Night Comes Down”, from Defenders of the Faith.  Then, what better to follow a slow track than something fast and metallic?  “Battle Cry” is pure, classic metal.   There is nothing that sucks about “Battle Cry”; it lays waste to the landscape and features one of Rob’s best vocals on the album.

The land has been scorched.  Nothing remains but the fires and ashes of the past — so “Beginning of the End” is a perfect end to this CD.  It is a slow and mellow epic with texture.  I firmly believe that an album should feel like a journey with a beginning, middle and end.  A song like this feels like an album closer by destiny.

After 13 tracks of timeless heavy metal, it is understandable if you’re exhausted by the sheer power of it all.  It’s over an hour of pretty much non-stop quality metal, so it is hard to believe that there’s yet more!  On the deluxe edition, that is.  Five more to be exact and we’ll be taking a close look at them tomorrow.

As for the basic version of Redeemer of Souls?

4.75/5 stars

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55 comments

  1. This is a brilliant write-up Mike. I’ll probably have a go at it myself soon but I feel pretty much the same about it as you do. I have issues with it but, on the whole, it’s a very enjoyable album. I’d probably give it around a 4. There’s a few things you mentioned that I’m so pleased about: the Ozzy-ness of March of the Damned and the “I” riff in Crossfire. Bingo!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Really!?!? You might be the only person I know who says that! I remember Dan Slessor from Kerrang magazine and I used to joke about that song a lot. All he’d have to do is say “Loch Ness” and I’d be laughing.

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        2. I wish Samsquanch was more of a Canadian icon. Alas, you won’t find him on postage stamps. Which is too bad, because he has more likelihood of being real. That Loch has been searched clean, I think.

          Dr. Dave Haslam, my Sausagefest compatriot, is (or was) an enthusiast with the BFRO (Big Foot Research Organization).

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        3. I have an amazing Arthur C. Clarke book here, an encyclopedia of mysteries or something like that. It was through that book I first heard of this guy. That Clarke book is awesome and I will HAVE to review it. It’s right to my right, actually.

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        4. Guess I have to make a giant leap out of the closet as well. I like Loch Ness, always did. I also thought Nostradamus was a great album.

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        5. Ahh Jompa, for guys who have similar taste I lovve that we often disagree about songs!

          Speaking of which, I’m hitting “play” on a CD now, for reviewing purposes. Europe — Out of this World

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  2. Mikey, I have read a ton of reviews on this album before I bought it and your review is the best!
    Good job!
    I posted over at HMOs that Cold Blooded is my fav as well those solos and songs on this are fantastic. I really thought Priest had nothing left in the tank and so man they hit one out of the park!
    Good to see I mean I streamed a few of the tracks that they put out and it was like geez I dunno about this as the guitar tones sounded demo like but I guess it’s just the sound they were looking for but I’m glad I took the plunge and purchased.
    Faulkner has added new blood for sure good on him!
    I think it’s there most solid effort since Defenders…..

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    1. Seriously dude?? Thank you! I’m gonna put that as my tag line. “Deke says my review is the best!”

      More details tomorrow so stay tuned!

      Strongest since Defenders is arguable for sure. I guess it all depends on how you feel about Painkiller.

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  3. Painkiller for me was A mix bag..liked some of it not all of it after Ram It Down I kinda lost interest somewhat still bought there stuff but like I have said numerous times for me And Priest it’s Unleashed to Defenders for some reason I’m stuck there..hahaha….Turbo had some interesting things about it and the live album Priest Live was pretty good but I dunno….
    But Redeemer is a strong album..shit I really came close to not even bothering but after your review I would have gotten it if I hadn’t already !

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    1. I mostly love Painkiller. There are a few tracks I could live without such as Nightcrawler. But I think Painkiller really was a high water mark. It was exactly what I wanted to hear from Priest at that time. The last couple albums had some fans disappointed. They had to get heavy again. And I think they had to start incorporating thrash metal influences. Thrash was bigger than ever in 1990 and all those bands owned British Steel.

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      1. Yeah that may be it..too trashy for my liking..I just remember Dan Gallagher premiering the Painkiller vid on The Pepsi Powerhour and I was like holllllllllllllly Sheeeeeeeeeit!
        They went and gone real heavy and esp when I seen there tour mates Megadeth and Testament. I mean on the turbo tour they had Dokken and Jovi hahahaha..so there ya go…..
        But this is a solid effort man ….I hope someone asks KK if he has heard it and I hope he just won’t give the same ol x member quote of no I haven’t!……

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        1. I taped it when they premiered it on Much. Still have it. Dan was in the studio with Michael and Chris from Queensryche. After the video aired, Chris made a comment that he felt like he had a workout after the Judas Priest video!

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  4. Great review by the way. I haven’t bought a Judas Priest album in 20 years. I was looking forward to this one though, and your review sealed it. Too bad there is no vinyl deluxe edition though.

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      1. Too bad bands didn’t realize people will spend more money if there is value. Make the deluxe edition a double LP, and even put out a limited selection of coloured vinyl. They are leaving money on the table.

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        1. Yeah that is true. I would think it’s the labels more than the bands. Very few bands seem to be hands-on with their packaging. Two examples of people that are would be Jimmy Page and Jack White who oversee literally everything.

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  5. Great review, Mike. I have only listened to this album twice and I might need a couple of more spins, but as for now, I reckon this album is their best since Turbo (I was never a huge fan of Painkiller…). The fact that KK is gone didn’t affect the Priest sound at all.
    I’m gonna write a review of this album as well, but I’m on vacation now so my time behind the keys is somewhat limited. Sun and beer have a tendency to take over… :-D

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      1. I just started writing about the Väsby Rock festival and I will review the King Diamond gig as well. But I can reveal it was a great gig.
        The I have a bunch of CDs to do as well. But I still have a couple of weeks of vacation to take care of. Now, where’s the beer…?

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  6. Mikey I read a interesting article and if I remember where I read it I will send I to u but basically the just of it was that with Priest debuting in top 10 first time ever that if u were to,compare there amount of records sold in the first week sold compared to back in 1988 Redeemer would have not cracked the top 30 back in 88….. Still a top 10 is a top 10 but man…….

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