Thursday, February 03, 2005

Judas Priest - Angel of Retribution

Angel of Retribution, in stores March 1, 2005, is the 16th studio album by Judas Priest in 28 years and features the return of original vocalist Rob Halford, last heard on 1990’s Painkiller. Serious Priest fans will snap it up but I don't know if it will win over new listeners.

Believe it or not, but the term “classic Priest” is as meaningless as it is popular. Every album since Turbo has been branded as sounding like “classic Priest” by fans, reviewers and even Priest themselves. I’ll spare that terminology on this review of Angel of Retribution, which is surely one of the weakest Judas Priest albums ever. They are so wanting for ideas that they have on at least four occasions, referenced previous songs in their lyrics, which have also never been as banal. Still, the guitar playing of KK Downing and Glenn Tipton is meaty and satisfying. It’s also refreshing to hear the familiar vocals of Rob Halford, one of the greatest singers in all of rock. Drummer Scott Travis performs brilliantly and bassist Ian Hill's presence is felt rather than heard...turn it up! To get your money's worth, be sure to buy the special edition with bonus DVD featuring seven favorite tracks. Bundling limited edition DVDs is a great way to combat downloaders and is a trend that I really like.

4/5 Angel of Retribution kicks off with “Judas Rising”, a strong opener, but it’s not as catchy as other album openers like Painkiller, Ram It Down, The Hellion/ Electric Eye, and Freewheel Burning, Heading Out To The Highway, Rapid Fire, Exciter, Delivering The Goods, Sinner and Victim of Changes. I won’t mention anything from the Ripper albums.

1/5 "Deal With the Devil" follows but is the lyrics are lame and the song goes nowhere. “Blood Red Skies" is referenced early on.

“gotta deal with the devil
cuz you know that's it's real
gotta deal with the devil
from a heart made of steel”

2/5 Lyrics on “Revolution” like so many Priest songs, seem vague and meaningless, a half-assed attempt to match words to music. They can get away with it when the music is exceptional, but it isn’t here.

3/5 "Worth Fighting For". This feels lightweight for Priest but it shows elements of promise, and grows with each listen. Halford's voice sounds worn out here, though.

2/5 "Demonizer"’s chorus sound like nursery rhyme. Fortunately, the music cooks. Can I honestly play this song for serious metal fans and tell them that it’s cool? Only if they don't listen to the words. “Painkiller” is referenced here.

1/5 "Wheels of Fire" is not to be confused with the far better Manowar tune of the same name. Ironically, Manowar are very obviously Priest influenced. Nice soloing but pure filler otherwise.

4/5 "Angel" is a ballad with some tasty guitar playing, both electric and acoustic.

3/5 "Hellrider". Has a good groove, but more cheesy lyrics. Some of the soloing is Euro-metal in places. Nice guitar playing in places.

2/5 At 2:54, "Eulogy", is a brief ballad with piano and once again, former songs "Stained Class" and "The Sentinel" are referenced here.

2/5 13:22 "Lochness" is an attempt at a grand epic, but it fails to intrigue. It plods along without being musically or lyrically interesting.

Sadly, nothing on this CD holds up well compared to the many outstanding songs that Priest have written and recorded over their long career. If you have any doubt about how great their catalogue is, buy the boxed set, Metalogy. Priest, like many other long-running bands, have become a nostalgia act, having lost their songwriting ability over the past twenty years. Sure, they’ve recorded the odd good song since then, maybe enough to fill up one album. Produced by Roy Z, the producer behind Halford's solo albums.

The limited edition of Angel of Retribution has a bonus DVD documentry on the band reuniting, featuring seven tracks recorded last June in Valencia and Barcelona, Spain: ‘Breaking The Law’, ‘Diamonds And Rust’, ‘Helion/Electric Eye’, ‘Touch Of Evil’, ‘Metal Gods’, ‘Hell Bent For Leather’ and ‘Living After Midnight’.

“Epic Records will also celebrate the reunion of the original Judas Priest lineup by issuing a DualDisc for Angel Of Retribution. The DualDisc edition will coincide with the release of the above mentioned CD, out through Epic/Sony-BMG on March 1st.”

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