JUDAS PRIEST — Invincible Shield (review)

JUDAS PRIEST — Invincible Shield album cover Album · 2024 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Warthur
A swirling keyboard line introduces Panic Attack, the first song on Judas Priest's latest album, Invincible Shield - sounding nothing like any of the prior dabbling in synthesisers and more like they've been dipping a toe into the synthwave scene. No, it's not a radical shift in direction - just an atmospheric intro which gives way to metal fury once the song kicks into high gear, offering the most electrifying opening track on a Priest album since Painkiller.

And it never, ever lets up after that! After the excellent Firepower found Priest playing in a very direct, go-for-the-throat style which went back to basics, this one sees them elaborating the song structures a bit in a manner reminiscent of their 1970s material whilst still keeping the sound fresh, offering a sound with blends the fury and pace of Painkiller, the pristine production of their mid-1980s material, and the edge of transgression and defiance they've been offering up since the 1970s, encapsulating the best of all of their classic eras whilst still finding novel and exciting songs to play in this style.

A particular tip of the hat is needed for Glenn Tipton, who despite his Parkinson's still manages to contribute to the album, helping out with songwriting as he always has and putting in a few guitar solos here and there. Andy Sneap of Sabbat fame, who's served as Tipton's stand-in for the band's live shows ever since he stepped back from in-person performance, is credited with additional guitar, as well as fully taking on the producer's role (having co-produced Firepower), and he does a fine job of all these tasks, engineering the album to perfection as well as giving Glenn that essential backup. Given how key he's become to the band's activities these days, we should surely start thinking of Andy as Judas Priest's unofficial sixth member; he'd deserve it based on his contributions to this album alone, but combine that with his sterling work on Firepower and the grand job he does live filling in for Glenn he's surely become as crucial as any of the tenured band members.

Think of any other band who've been going as long as Priest, putting a new album out some 50 years after their debut; nine times out of ten, that new album's going to be a bit of a nostalgia exercise, a process of going through the motions which will appeal to ultra-fans but doesn't really offer much over their more compelling work they put out in their prime. Now look at Priest: it's easy enough to say that Invincible Shield beats the living daylights out of Rocka Rolla, that's a notably weak debut which more or less all of their albums bar for Demolition or Jugulator beat comfortably.

But for Invincible Shield to measure up credibly next to the likes of Sad Wings of Destiny, Stained Class, or Painkiller? That's astonishing - and yet I really think it does. Judas Priest are an inspiration to all the rest of us: if these lads can keep the flame burning after half a century, if Glenn Tipton can keep contributing as he does here despite his Parkinson's, then that's a challenge to all of us to face whatever challenges life throws at us with equal determination. Perhaps that conviction and self-belief - and confidence that their listeners can discover that same fire within them - which is Priest's true Invincible Shield.
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siLLy puPPy wrote:
48 days ago
As good as Painkiller? Not even close
Psydye wrote:
50 days ago
Agreed, freaking love this album! :D

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