Andy Sneap

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Firepower (2018)

JUDAS PRIEST – Firepower (2018 Sony)

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.

4.5/5 stars

 

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NEWS: Glenn Tipton has Parkinson’s Disease

Bad news after bad news after bad news.  Such is 2018.  Last week, Pat Torpey of Mr. Big died due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.  This week, Glenn Tipton from Judas Priest announced he is suffering from the same illness.

In fact he was diagnosed 10 years ago, but it has now gotten to the point where it will affect his guitar playing.  Glenn Tipton will be unable to tour as usual behind their forthcoming new album, Firepower.  His onstage guitar role will be filled by co-producer Andy Sneap.

Tipton’s statement reads in part:

“I want everyone to know that it’s vital that the Judas Priest tour go ahead and that I am not leaving the band – it’s simply that my role has changed. I don’t rule out the chance to go on stage as and when I feel able to blast out some Priest!”

We wish Glenn Tipton all the best in his fight against Parkinson’s.  Priest’s new album Firepower will be out March 9 2018.

REVIEW: Blaze – Silicon Messiah (2000)

BLAZE_0001BLAZE – Silicon Messiah (2000 SPV)

It took Blaze Bayley a couple years to bounce back with a new band and album, and given the fan reception to his work with Iron Maiden, I was skeptical.  I didn’t shell out for the Japanese, but I did grab the domestic CD as soon as a copy arrived in our stores.  I was pleasantly surprised, as Blaze’s debut solo release Silicon Messiah is a very heavy and memorable disc.

The weakness for some will be Blaze’s voice.  You either like it or you don’t.  Outside of the context of Iron Maiden, his deep vocals work better.  The opening track “Ghost in the Machine” for example is a de-tuned chugger the likes of which Maiden wouldn’t do.  Blaze’s vocals work better with this kind of low, growly metal.  Fortunately there is still enough melody (on the killer chorus) and riffage to keep heads banging.  And no wonder: the CD is produced by metal master Andy Sneap, who laid waste to several excellent Accept albums recently.  Blaze wrote the music with his new eponymous band:  Steve Wray and John Slater (guitars), Jeff Singer (drums), and Rob Naylor (bass).  The band is somewhat faceless, aside from Blaze himself there’s nothing identifiable about the band.

If there is a weakness to Silicon Messiah, it’s that there is a certain sameness to the songs.  It’s a bit homogeneous:  grinding, de-tuned riffs, melodic choruses and solos, with powerful but low vocals.   Fortunately Blaze has written some surprisingly decent lyrics to go with the songs, with several seeming to fit together into some kind of cyberpunk concept.

Highlights:

  • “Silicon Messiah”, perhaps the most Maiden-like track.
  • “Born as a Stranger”, also Maiden-like (think “Be Quick or Be Dead”); speedy goodness.
  • “The Brave”, another fast one that kicks all the asses in the room.  “Fortune favours the brave” indeed.
  • “Identity” which boasts lots of tasty guitar bits along with loud and quiet parts.
  • “The Launch” which is essentially “Man of the Edge” by Iron Maiden re-written (but with a better chorus).
  • “Stare at the Sun”, your typical Maiden-inspired epic closer.

Blaze Bayley, his band and Andy Sneap created a pretty decent metal album here.  It’s perfectly listenable throughout, if a bit anonymous sounding.  Fans of Blaze will dig it.

3.25/5 stars