It’s 2018 and the Priest is back. The excitement for the mighty metal band’s return has been restrained by the knowledge that Glenn Tipton is too ill to tour. Parkinson’s disease — what a bastard that is. Co-producer Andy Sneap has stepped up to take over Glenn’s guitar parts on tour.
Meanwhile on album, Glenn’s contributions to Firepower can be heard. Sneap and classic Priest producer Tom Allom recorded one of the most biting Priest albums to date. More impressive than the sound they captured are the performances. Rob Halford in particular is more expressive than he has been in years.
At 14 tracks and almost an hour, Firepower suffers only from too many tracks. There are a couple that clearly could have been cut and left for B-sides or bonus tracks. “Flame Thrower” (similar to “Hot For Love” from Turbo), though a cool title, would have been great on a B-side. On album, I’d rather race ahead to some of the more exciting tracks.
Firepower throws it back to sounds of the past. Sometimes it’s Painkiller, and sometimes Angel of Retribution. Rock writer Heavy Metal Overload noticed sonic similarities to Halford’s Resurrection CD. At other times it’s brand new, because guitarist Richie Faulkner brings new things to the table, such as slide.
There are many highlights among the 14 tracks. “Evil Never Dies” and “Never the Heroes” both immediately jump out for their melodic mastery. Rob is sounding better than he has on the last couple, with a few tasty screams to enjoy. As time goes on, new favourites will replace old. Perhaps it’ll be “Spectre”, “No Surrender”, “Children of the Sun”, “Rising From the Ruins” or even “Flame Thrower”! Another highlight: mellow album closer “Sea of Red” which bears lyrical similarities to “Blood Red Skies” from 1988’s Ram It Down. In general, Firepower is about fighting back.
The cover art by Claudio Bergamin is Priest’s new mascot, “Titanicus”. Silly name aside, this one Priest’s best album cover in decades. (Mark Wilkinson continues to contribute to the packaging art as well.) Notice how Bergamin’s lines match up with the style of past Priest albums like Screaming for Vengeance.
It’s hard to imagine a better album this late in their career. Priest have done it again. Firepower lives up to its name.