Text written by Phil Ashdown.
Heavy Metal evolved from Birmingham’s industrial working class in the late 60s with the formation of bands like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. As Sabbath seem to be finally retiring it’s up to the Priest to keep the flame of the pioneers alive.
With Priest’s early recording line-up dwindling with the news of guitarist Glenn Tipton battling with Parkinson’s Disease their latest album Firepower could end up being their last. Well let’s hope not, because their 18th studio release in a career spanning over forty years they prove to be on superb form.
It opens with the title track, a classic scorcher full of dark, speedy riffing, dual guitar melodies and squeals and a typical Halford menacing vocal. It simply and effectively encapsulates everything Judas Priest in just the very first song! ‘Lightning Strike’ is unleashed while the title track is still ringing in the ears, another top-drawer slab of pure old school metal that the band seem to create so easily. Evil Never Dies follows swiftly in the same vein with an irresistible chorus that will prove to be a live favourite on tour. ‘Never The Heroes’ starts with a synth intro and soon builds into a glorious, thrusting classic slab of metal that tips it’s hat to their early 80s catalogue but with a modern sonic palate.
Other noteworthy tracks are the incendiary Necromancer which displays Priest at their very best, Children Of The Sun, a razor-sharp mid-paced rocker that has some wonderful guitar interplay between Faulkner and Tipton. A short piano driven instrumental introduces Rising From Ruins which keeps the pace and quality at the expected level.
This is easily their best sounding album since 1990’s Painkiller, mainly due to the production team of older statesman Tom Allom and modern saviour Andy Sneap which manages to blend echoes of the past whilst giving it a contemporary twist. The pace never drops with the speed and delivery of tracks like ‘Traitor’s Gate’ and the explosive ‘Flame Thrower’ taking your breath away along with the skin from your face!. The rhythm section is as reliable and rock-solid as ever with the rumble of Ian Hill’s bass powering along the solid drumming of the always thunderous Scott Travis.
Halford’s voice remains peerless throughout with the range and power that continues to make him the envy of singers and fans around the world still clearly on show. Hard to believe when listening to this record that he is 66 years old.
Let’s be honest they are not trying to re-invent the wheel here but fans will not be disappointed by this collection of songs delivered with such intent, style and power. It is exactly what they have been promising on previous albums for years but just failing to execute. Even into their fifth decade Judas Priest are still one of the best British metal bands ever.
2. Lighting Strike
3. Evil Never Dies
4. Never the Heroes
6. Children of the Sun
8. Rising from Ruins
9. Flame Thrower
11. Traitor’s Gate
12. No Surrender
13. Lone Wolf
14. Sea of Red
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