JUDAS PRIEST — Jugulator (review)

JUDAS PRIEST — Jugulator album cover Album · 1997 · Groove Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Warthur
Jugulator kicked off a new era for Judas Priest with a new lead vocalist, with Ripper Owens attempting to fill the boots of the almighty Rob Halford. That's one of the toughest roles to fill in metal, and in retrospect it was inevitable that a certain chunk of the fanbase would never accept Ripper as lead vocalist of the band, no matter how good he was.

And let's be clear - Ripper's not bad! He makes sure to slip in a scream or two early on in the opening title track to reassure us that he can indeed pull off something comparable to Halford's range, and I'd actually say his vocals might be the closest part of this album to "classic Priest". You see, as well as taking on a new vocalist, Priest took this opportunity to take on a new sound - a sort of doom-y groove metal approach with a healthy dose of Metallica influence, much more reminiscent of then-modern sounds in metal than of the classic Priest sound (or of the high-intensity variant of it which they'd premiered on Painkiller).

Now, I've nothing against bands experimenting with their sound (though some experiments would be better off left on the cutting room floor, rather than making it onto a record) - but this does mean that the vocals and instruments on this album are working at cross-purposes. Ripper's trying to sell us on the idea that he can deliver old-school Judas Priest vocals like Halford could, whilst the musical backing is saying "this ain't the old Judas Priest any more, we've got a whole new deal going on".

It's no surprise that Jugulator gets a bad rap, then. Fans might have accepted Judas Priest trying out a bold new sound if Halford were still fronting the band, and they might have accepted Ripper as the new vocalist if his first album with the group had more continuity with the previous sound of the group than this one does, but changing the singer and changing the musical style at the same time was most likely a bridge too far.

Is it a good Judas Priest album? Probably not, because beyond the odd yell from Ripper it's got almost none of the stuff you go to a Judas Priest album hoping to hear beyond being broadly in the metal genre. Is it an entertaining 1990s metal album? I'd say so - but not to the extent that it made any great contribution to the genre. And when you're a band of the stature and age of Judas Priest, any album which doesn't either push the genre you co-created forward or at the very least evoke the spirit of your classic material is going to be a tough sell. Jugulator is OK, but it's not much better than OK.
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Vim Fuego wrote:
7 months ago
Exactly. A good metal album, but not a great Judas Priest album. Personally, I quite like the Ripper era material.

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