JUDAS PRIEST — Firepower (review)

JUDAS PRIEST — Firepower album cover Album · 2018 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
It’s hard to believe that the metal gods of the 80s who formed all the way back in 1969, yep, that’s 49 years ago are still around almost 20 years into the new millennium with their 18th studio album are still cranking it up and pumping out the metal glory. While most metal bands have formed and disbanded within this time period, JUDAS PRIEST somehow seems immortal as they unleash their classic 80s sound in modern form on their newest sonic artillery range FIREPOWER. On their previous album “Redeemer Of Souls,” PRIEST seemed to be having an identity crisis of some sort. The album sampled a bit from their entire career with one of the most diverse sounding albums since their Gull Records days, but on FIREPOWER, Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill, Scott Travis and the newest member of the pack Richie Faulkner (who replaced found K.K. Downing in 2011) zero in on the classic 80s PRIEST sound that made them some of the metal lords of eternity. In fact if someone were to re-write history and replace “Turbo” with FIREPOWER and listen to their canon in sequential order, no one would probably even notice if they were not familiar with the real order or course.

While JUDAS PRIEST may have had mixed reviews with their 80s output, it’s generally agreed upon that they hit a high note with “Painkiller” and although it seemed that the band were on top of the world ready to rule another decade, Rob Halford upped and left leaving the band to find a new singer while he jumped into other projects like Fight and his self-penned band Halford. Once he found himself back in the band on 2005’s “Angel Of Retribution,” the original lead singer was back but that old school PRIEST magic was not. After a divisive attempt at a prog album “Nostradamus” and their decently performed but rather safe feeling “Redeemer Of Souls,” PRIEST finally return with one of their most confidently performed albums since “Painkiller.” To help rekindle the spirit of yore, producer Tom Allom rejoins the cast after an absence stemming back to 1988’s “Ram It Down.” To keep things fresh and modern Andy Sneap stepped in as co-producer which means FIREPOWER sounds like classic PRIEST in all thunderous heavy metal glory with a crisp punchy modern production fit for the modern era.

Right from the very first guitar gusto bursting out on the opening title track, it’s clear that PRIEST were going for the aggressive guitar riff heavy sound that is all their own with a serious feistiness not experienced since the “Painkiller” days although Halford is a lot more conservative with his high-pitched falsetto but nails the mid-range dynamics of his vocals perfectly showing not a single sign of multi-decade strain. The following “Lightning Strikes,” one of the singles follows in classic PRIEST form with heavy dueling guitar attacks, catchy and dynamic melodies with bombastic bass and percussive backup from Hill and Travis. Both of these tracks easily could have slipped in on any of the 80s releases. However just when it seems PRIEST was going completely retro on us with a few classic sounding tracks, they start to show a more diverse picture starting with “Never The Heroes” which shows influences from Halford’s solo career more than classic PRIEST with Fight inspired riffage although the soaring sustained guitar chord choruses yank the listener back into the classic era.

Some tracks like “Necromancer” carefully craft riffs around previous classics only changing it up enough to keep you guessing where you’ve heard it before much like Iron Maiden’s “Book Of Souls.” “Children Of The Sun” which sounds more like something from the Ripper years with clean guitar arpeggiated sections with thrash laden riffs showing that PRIEST were just as interested in incorporating other aspects of their career rather than a totally 80s free-for-all. Likewise the piano based “Guardians” serves as an intermission reminding more of the “Nostradamus” album before jumping into the now familiar guitar driven riffs of “Rising From Ruins,” another heavy melody rich stew of aggressive guitar driven metal only with softer verses that build up momentum.

The rest of the album continues this trend and pretty much continues the strong selection of compositions. While the album is surprisingly consistent in its quality, the album does hit a brick wall at the end with the head scratcher of a tune “Lone Wolf” which with a dirty bluesy shuffle sounds very weak amidst the heavier tracks. Likewise the “Sea Of Red” finale seems a bit anti-climactic as well as it slowly oozes in with a soft melodic acoustic guitar passage that also seems out of place in the midst of heavier company and not a very dynamic way to end the album although it’s not necessarily a bad tune by any means. Perhaps if it were placed elsewhere it would have packed a bit more punch. It also sounds like the classic PRIEST sound mixed with a Maiden “7th Son..” era with the un-PRIEST-ly sounding background vocals. When all is said and done, PRIEST deliver on 14 tracks of classic heavy metal fortified with a modern production as well as a contemporary lyrical subject matter.

FIREPOWER proves that PRIEST is not even close to ready for the retirement home as far as pumping out feisty adrenaline fueled classic metal anthems, however the news of of Tipton’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease resulting in his possible dismissal from the band’s line-up beckons the lingering question if the band after nearly a half century of head banging service will simply call it a day and at long last bask in their heavy metal god status glory that few others have achieved. The ingredients displayed on FIREPOWER do have a rather epic flare of gusto that would be a good note to end on. Personally i never expect much from classic era metal bands to deliver something compelling but i was pleasantly surprised with FIREPOWER. True it may not go down as the number 1 favorite PRIEST album of all time. That indeed would be a tall order to fulfill, but neither will it go down near the bottom. While not a perfect album by any means, for a band who’s been around for so long to put out an excellent midrange album this late in their career, that’s certainly a classic comfort i can wholeheartedly support and with metal music having spun off in so many crazy directions since the classic 80s, it’s really cool that one of the veteran acts of the day can create something that grounds them to the past while keeping both feet in the here and now.
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siLLy puPPy wrote:
6 months ago
Yep. I shoulda read the credits in the liner notes before writing that down. An editing faux pas!
adg211288 wrote:
6 months ago
http://www.themetalvoice.com/single-post/2018/01/08/Bruce-Dickinson-WILL-NOT-Guest-on-NEW-Judas-Priest-Album-FIREPOWER
siLLy puPPy wrote:
6 months ago
You know what. Me neither. I don't know where i read that. I was exhausted when i wrote this and can't remember. Gonna nix that part since it's not mentioned in the liner notes.
adg211288 wrote:
6 months ago
I've listened to this a couple of times as well and I didn't hear him either.
6 months ago
Just re-listened to the song you say he's on. I still don't hear him. Sounds like Rob all the way through.
6 months ago
Bruce Dickinson is on this? I didn't hear him.

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