On July 8, 2014 " Judas Priest" released its 17th studio album "Redeemer of Souls".
"Redeemer of Souls" marks an important chapter in Judas Priest's history.
In 2011 "Judas Priest" founding guitarist K.K. Downing, departed the band. His departure was no small matter. Downing was one half of the twin guitar sound that defined "Judas Priest" sound and style, so it was not clear if the band would last and if they would find a guitarist who could step into his big shoes. Just as Judas Priest faced a significant setback after Rob Halford's departure following the "Painkiller" album in 1991, taking seven years to find a replacement and release "Jugulator," the band experienced a similar delay in recovering with the release of "Redeemer of Souls." This album arrived six years after their previous release, highlighting the band's extended period of transition and the challenges they faced in regaining their momentum.
The anticipation surrounding this release was high, with fans wondering if it would live up to the band's past glories. Listening to the album will reveal that although it does not come close to the level of the band's masterpiece albums, it is still a kind of comeback album for the band, a return to roots album, especially after the change of style and concept of "Nostradamus". The addition of new guitarist Richie Faulkner brought fresh energy to the band. Faulkner's guitar work, helped restore some of "Judas Priest's" classic sound.
Opening with the energetic and robust "Dragonaut", the album kicks off on a solid note, giving a glimpse of the classic "Judas Priest" 80's sound (even the "Turbo" guitar effect in the beginning). Rob Halford's vocals remain powerful, and the track exhibits the band's trademark riffing. As the guitar solo arrives, we breathe a sigh of relief... Richie Faulkner passed the dual guitar test and he manages to produce together with Glenn Tipton a great melodic and neo-classical solo like in the good old days
The title track, "Redeemer of Souls" follows suit, offering a taste of the anthemic qualities that "Judas Priest" is known for. With its catchy chorus and memorable hooks, it captures the essence of the band's prowess. But something is very noticeable here. It is the first time we learn that the years has taken a toll on Halford's voice. it sounds like he is being careful keeping himself somewhere in the middle of his well-known endless vocal range.
One standout moment arrives with "Halls of Valhalla" a potent and metal-driven track that showcases Halford's fiery vocals and a punchy chorus, his sonic scream on 4:30 min, a less predictable guitar line, heavy drumming and it seems we are back in the game. It successfully captures the spirit of the band's earlier work, with a touch of heaviness.
"Sword of Damocles" maintains the brilliance that is synonymous with "Judas Priest", placing a strong emphasis on monumental guitar leads and melodic lines that at 0:20 min even reminded us of "Iron Maiden". Once again, Halford delivers exceptional vocals, seamlessly trading off with the heavy chugging of Tipton and Faulkner. The chorus is so addictive that you'll yearn for it to flow through your veins like an intravenous infusion, while the soft bridge at 2:50 comes with great surprise and add to the song dynamics.
While the initial tracks impress, the album's consistency change as it progresses. although it's heavy riff "March of the Damned" feels somewhat radio-friendly and even poppy. No doubt that this is the album's hit. Catchy, well-written, simply a metal anthem. "Down In Flames" continues the radio-friendly formula with its catchy chorus, but falls short of its predecessor. “Hell & Back” and “Secrets of the Dead” are languid, lumbering quasi-ballads the former having a Geezer Butler-esque baseline and the latter having "touches" of "Touch Of Evil". While Rob Halford's vocals are emotionally driven and sincere, these tracks lack the dynamic energy expected from the band.
"Cold Blooded" is kind of a classic epic piece of the band, it starts as a slow-paced song, but later picks up the tempo, and power level increases, until the fast interlude where the band finally presses the pedal a bit and beats heavily.
In "Metalizer" the band lets loose and moves into some of their heaviest moments on the album, but suffers from a medium quality and fails to leave a lasting impression. "Crossfire" corresponds with the early days of the band, and experiments with a bluesy rock approach, but doesn't quite resonate as a quintessential "Judas Priest" track.
We are nearing the end with "Battle Cry" - ש song that opens with a slow and heavy guitar line that gradually develops, until at minute 0:27 it suddenly reminded us of the opening line from "Hail To The King" by "Avenged Sevenfold", released a year earlier. Halford gives a most impressive performance here, as he travels through his infinite vocal range.
The closing track, "Beginning of the End" brings a mellow and laid-back vibe, providing a somewhat underwhelming conclusion to the album.
The Deluxe version of the album contains 5 bonus tracks that prove that the band had much more to give after 6 years of preparation.
Clocking in at over an hour and with 13 tracks, "Redeemer of Souls" could have benefited from some trimming. The album's length detracts from the overall impact and could have been streamlined to focus on the strongest tracks.
In conclusion, "Redeemer of Souls" is a mixed bag for "Judas Priest". While it starts with promise and delivers some standout moments, the album falls short of recapturing the magic of the band's earlier years. After "Nostradamus" it is a great "back to roots" album, but in comparison to the bands classic albums it suffers from inconsistent songwriting, veering into mediocrity at times.