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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Judas Priest

Angel of Retribution

Review by Mike Korn

So here it is at last...one of the most anticipated metal records of the last decade. Make no mistake, "Angel of Retribution" is an event, not merely a record. Not only does it see the return of the Metal God, Rob Halford, to the ranks of the seminal band he left so abruptly almost 15 years ago, but it may be the key to revitalizing the whole "true metal" scene. It's easy to get carried away with it all and perhaps make the record more than it is. That is something I always keep in the back of my mind. I can't let my love for this band throw my judgment out of whack. But it's hard not to. And after listening to "Angel of Retribution" intently several times, I can say with all honesty that this IS a great record. This is EXACTLY what Priest needed to release at this time. It's a tremendous showcase for their range as a band and their songwriting skills. Unlike tepid efforts like "Turbo" and "Demolition", there is no pandering, no desperation to "modernize" their sound. This is a very classic Judas Priest album, sometimes hearkening back to the origins of the band. Not every song is a world-beating monster, but looked at as a whole, it is obvious that "AOR" has been put together very carefully, with each track strategically placed for maximum impact. Nowadays, the concept of putting out an album with variation between each track is virtually a lost art. "Angel of Retribution" hails back to that time when it wasn't that way.

It sounds like Rob Halford has never been away. It goes without saying that his vocals completely destroy. But actually, this CD revolves around the wonderful guitar prowess of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing. They are the pre-eminent metal guitar duo in genre history, and here they confirm it. Listen to some of the licks on "Deal With the Devil" and "Hellrider" to experience TRUE metal wizardry!

Anybody who listens to "Angel of Retribution" will instantly know what real heavy metal is.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Judas Rising
I don't think you could have a better opening number than this. Starting with a cascade of guitar arpeggios slightly reminiscent of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck", this soon bursts into killer power chords and a Halford banshee wail. The power drumming of Scott Travis, as always, locks things in. This is a blast of pure classy heavy metal done in true Priest fashion!
Deal With the Devil
This has become one of my favorites. Fast and driving, it has a kind of "dirty" feeling to it. I was reminded a bit of the title track to Halford's "Resurrection" album. The real enjoyment comes in listening to K.K. and Glenn exchange blistering guitar leads. Honestly, their guitar work here is as good as it has been on any Priest song, ever.
Revolution
This is clearly more of an anthemic, radio-friendly track than the first two cuts and has been criticized by some for that. But Judas Priest has always had its more commercial, fist-pounding numbers, so there's nothing wrong with having one here. Propelled by Ian Hill's rock solid bass, this one is pretty easy on the brain, with its simple refrains of "Here. Comes. The Revolution/Time.For.Retribution". Yes, this is not Priest's greatest songwriting hour, but the track sort of seeps into your head and stays there. It will be a live favorite, for sure.
Worth Fighting For
A more subtle side to the band rises here. This is not exactly a ballad, but it sure isn't all-out metal. It has a feeling similar to "Night Comes Down" from the "Defenders of the Faith" album. Halford excels with the slower, more sensitive vocals. The track is not really a stand-out but again, looked at in context of the entire album, it fits very well in this slot.
Demonizer
Heaviness and power return full force with this number, which has a definite "Painkiller" feel to it and which is lyrically a sequel of that great song. Not only is this really heavy, but the catchiness is there as well, especially when Halford yells "Out, demons, out!" on the chorus. Listen for some more red-hot guitar work.
Wheels of Fire
If the album has a low point, I would say this is it. A very simple, chugging "anthem" type song, it seems a little too basic. Sure, this is part of Priest's repertoire also. I don't actively dislike the song...the chorus is catchy for sure...but it is merely average, not great.
Angel
This is a true metal ballad and perhaps the band's best ever. Those looking to headbang and thrash should look elsewhere, but this tune has as much real emotion as any head-crusher. The acoustic guitar here is exquisitely tasteful, and Rob's vocals are full of sentiment as he asks "Angel, wrap your wings around me." The song does build to a heavy, moving conclusion. It's a superb heavy ballad.
Hellrider
This cut reminds us all why Judas Priest is the world's greatest heavy metal band. Not only is it packed with power, heaviness and speed, but also the songwriting is a brilliant blend of melody and intensity. It's like a "Stained Class" song performed with "Painkiller" extremity. The most complex and challenging song on the record, it's flawlessly delivered.
Eulogy
Piano in a Priest song? I don't think that's been heard since the days of "Sin After Sin" in the mid-70's! The tune here is brief but poignant...a somber ballad with a funeral type of sorrow to it. It's a perfect introduction to the final song.
Lochness
Wow, what a monster song this is! You either love it or hate it. I, for one, love it. I think it is one of the best Priest songs ever. A moody 13-minute plus epic, this is truly an example of epic doom metal that would do Candlemass proud. Beginning mysteriously, it soon gives way to a "squawling" guitar motif, and then a thunderously heavy riff hits with maximum impact. You can almost see Nessie rising from the deeps as you hear this murky tune. The chorus is unforgettable with its simple but effective rhyming and it will be a long time before I can get "Loch Ness/Protect monstrosity/Loch Ness/Confess to me" out of my head. More wild and unpredictable lead work from Glenn and K.K. on this one and on the final two minutes, there's some string plucking that's so heavy it almost blew my speakers. Yes, the track is longwinded, but to me, it is never boring and it stands as a tribute to the originality that has made Priest so great.
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