JUDAS PRIEST — '98 Live Meltdown (review)

JUDAS PRIEST — '98 Live Meltdown album cover Live album · 1998 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Warthur
As I said on my review on it, Jugulator was a good 1990s metal album, but not a great one, and it didn't really sound like a Priest album. '98 Live Meltdown, the first live release from the Ripper Owens-fronted era of the band, does a fair amount to course-correct.

Of course, it certainly helps that on a 24 song setlist, only five come from Jugulator, and they're largely buried in the middle of the set. The remaining 19 songs are various Priest classics, distinguished from previous renditions largely by Ripper being on vocals instead of Rob Halford.

It's here where Ripper really gets to prove himself. Sure, in terms of the instrumental backing, the team of Tipton, Downing, Hill, and Travis do the excellent job playing these we expect of them, but Ripper's ability to tackle the Halford-material establishes him as an impressive vocalist in his own right. You can tell why he was a successful frontman of a Priest tribute group before getting his chance with the real deal, because he has a similarly impressively wide range as Halford himself, but he's able to put just enough of his own take on the material that he's not just in tribute act mode.

As for the Jugulator material, the band do a good job of choosing the better songs from that album to perform, and offer renditions which bring them a little closer to the classic Judas Priest sound. Indeed, the quality of '98 Live Meltdown does have the side effect of making seem Jugulator seem all the worse by comparison. Perhaps the production was off, or perhaps the band went into the studio too soon and needed a little more time to workshop and refine the material before setting it down, but either way I prefer these live versions to those we got on the studio album.

Whilst I'm not sad that Rob came back to Priest - the greatest gig I've attended in my life was probably their Bloodstock 2021 headlining set - '98 Live Meltdown does go some way towards rehabilitating the Ripper years for me. I wouldn't give it more than four stars - it's a solid but not groundbreaking set based largely on Priest classics, and the patchier Jugulator material does pull it down - but I wouldn't give it less either.
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