(9/10) The moment that metal pioneers of Judas Priest announces a new album leads to excitement, expectations and guessing when it comes to sound and songs. All this also happened the moment when the Metal Gods announced their 18th studio album “Firepower”.
Judas Priest started in the early 70’s and since then the quintet released many milestones in metal, influencing young bands with their riffs and firepower. Already from this point of view the title for the newest strike, “Firepower”, is more than well chosen. Classics like “Electric Eye”, “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”, “Green Manalishi”, “Painkiller”… are known by every metalhead around the world and even the controversially discussed “Turbo”-release is, in retrospective, far better than what was discussed in 1986.
However, next to these cornerstones in metal Judas Priest also faced an era without Rob Halford being the iconic frontman of this metal powerhouse and also experimented with a concept album entitled “Nostradamus” which doesn’t belong to best ones the band released up to date. Things improved again with the latest record “Redeemer of Souls” and also the latest live releases “A Touch of Evil” and "Battle Cry" showcased the band in full force.
2018 is the year of Judas Priests newest strike, an album that's entitled “Firepower”. Nomen et omen with this longplayer I would say, an album that comprises of 14 tracks. These provide you with almost an hour of rock solid metal, done in a perfect fashion.
The first jaw-dropping high is the title track that opens this longplayer. "Firepower" begins with a typical Priest riff and a scream by Halford that shows the iconic singer in great shape and form. For the rest we are talking about a cool metal track, kept in a faster pace with some surprisingly melodic leads. After such a wowing beginning it's "Lightning Strike" that's next in the batting order. As the opener also this tune is a very well-crafted Priest anthem that contains everything fans of Halford and Co. could ask for.
The quintet slows down with "Evil Never Dies", esp. in the verse. Halford massive vocal range and razor blade sharp guitars are the main factors of this roaring metal track that also includes a calmer middle section, adding a gloomy vibe to the mix. A dark expression is also what "Never the Heroes" is built on, a song that reminded me in one or another way of Accept.
"Necromancer" is a typical Judas Priest hymn before "Children of the Sun" shows why the band belongs to the genre titans.
A piano-based interlude entitled "Guardians" breaks the flow on the album in a positive way, introducing with "Rising From Ruin" another highlight on the this superb longplayer. "Rising From Ruin" is a built on a brilliant and heavy riff while also shining with a calmer verse. It's these two element and a great chorus that makes this song to a real smasher.
"Flame Thrower" is more of a straight-forward rocker, followed by "Spectra". "Spectra" is a sinister song that's not that easy to approach. It's not a bad one, but it needs time to find the 'golden nugget'.
After such un unusual tune it's "Traitors Gate" that brings back the spot-on Judas Priest sound with face-smashing guitars and excellent vocals, both built on a thumping bass and a pounding drum line. Melody gets very much into the forefront with "No Surrender", which became a bit too sweet for my liking. However, the hooks are great and it's hard to not be fascinated by this tune.
"Lone Wolf" is another riff attack before "Sea of Red" marks the ending of this extraordinary longplayer. Acoustic guitars create a nice and calm atmosphere. Rob Halford joins, showing his voice in a calmer context. The tune slowly builds up to a heavier one with ferocious guitars sweeping away the acoustic six-string. "Sea of Red" is the most cinematic track of the entire album and reminds, with its bombast, of the "Nostradamus"-days. It's a good song, but there are better ones on the album.
No less than Andy Sneap and Tom Allom took over the production duties of “Firepower” and they gave the album the sound it deserves. Having Sneap and Allom together at the helm led to a sound that comes with a more modern approach combined with a classic metal vibe. What benefits the album and the sound too is the fact that the band recorded the tunes all together, which created a special and organic atmosphere.
Judas Priest’s 18th studio album became another great addition to an already impressive discography. The true highlights on the album are the moments when the band unveils their full riffpower, like with the title track and "Lightning Strike". The quintet was, is and will belong to the spearheads of heavy metal - true Metal Gods.
- Lightning Strike
- Evil Never Dies
- Never the Heroes
- Children of the Sun
- Rising From Ruins
- Flame Thrower
- Traitors Gate
- No Surrender
- Lone Wolf
- Sea of Red
Label: Sony Music
Genre: Heavy Metal
Release Date EU: March 9th, 2018