Judas Priest promised a return to traditional heavy metal and in Redeemer of Souls that’s what they’ve delivered–mostly. The surprising part of the result is that the band brought what they’ve learned in the last forty years to this album. They’ve captured the NWOBHM feel that the old school metal heads will love, but there are modern elements that Judas Priest has added to its repertoire. Many of the songs have this fresh patina that prevents the album from becoming too nostalgic an effort.
There are lyrical themes of hypocrisy and the overthrow of corruption but the writing also brings us laments of death and honor from a mature mind. Intelligent, mythological references are made throughout as well as reflections on the past. This album speaks to long-time fans of the band but offers a few modern elements that will have new listeners digging into the catalog.
02. Redeemer Of Souls
03. Halls Of Valhalla
04. Sword Of Damocles
05. March Of The Damned
06. Down In Flames
07. Hell & Back
08. Cold Blooded
11. Secrets Of The Dead
12. Battle Cry
13. Beginning Of The End
Redeemer of Souls could have started out with “Sword of Damocles” because this track sets the tone for the guitar work throughout the album. One word: awesome. Just about every song has interesting guitar solos and riffs. The lyrics also set the tone: truth will find its reward/if you live and die by the sword. Halford’s signature operatic voice sounds better than anticipated and doesn’t seem to have much auto-tuning or effects either. This song encapsulates the entirety of the album, traditional and modern.
Instead, it starts out with “Dragonaut” which will be one of several songs that long-time fan’s will enjoy. Along a similar vein are “March of the Damned”, “Battle Cry”, and “Cold Blooded.” They are straight up heavy metal, no punches pulled, and completely Judas Priest. This is the tone the band intended to set making the first track the obvious choice. “Hell and Back” also has that old-school feel but here they added some slow groove that demonstrates that an old Priest can learn new twists on the kind of music they helped bring into being.
More songs that show this modernized sensibility is “Metalizer” with an ominous thrash mood, “Crossfire” with bluesy, intricate guitars, and “Secrets of the Dead” which uses similar voice and guitar effects as an oldie-but-goodie “Turbo Lover” giving the track an otherworldly feel. These songs illustrate why Judas Priest is still around and still a name on everyone’s lips.
Two of my personal favorites are “Beginning of the End” with a slow acoustic guitar that renders a melancholy feel. The arrangement is impeccable. The other is “Halls of Valhalla.” Everything fits. It’s solid and inspiring from the lyrics to the music. The tracks speak to both the mature woman I am now and to the naive girl I was when I first listened to heavy metal.
Judas Priest has come through on their promise to create a solid, back-to-their-roots record. What I admire is that they took a few chances with more modern elements. I certainly don’t see this album as their best yet. “Down in Flames” and “Redeemer of Souls”, the title track, weren’t bad but they lacked power with monotone vocals and guitar. The bass and drum work were solid the whole album through but weren’t inspiring as they gave way to the catchy guitar riffs and Halford’s more intricate vocals throughout. I would have liked to see some more calculated risk taking from the band’s backbone.
I’ve heard there are five more tracks on the deluxe version of the album which are not available for streaming. Word on the street is that these songs were different enough to warrant their own album. My interest is piqued but I’m also wondering if Judas Priest is playing it safe. Music isn’t a retirement investment, gentlemen. You can afford to take chances in music the more mature you become.
Redeemer of Souls is set to drop on July 8th via Epic Records. You can get an advance listen on iTunes radio HERE. After you’ve braved the iTunes player, tell us what you think in the comments below.
I.O. Kirkwood is a Metal Descent contributor. You can check out her personal blog at http://iokirkwood.com.
All media content courtesy of www.judaspriest.com.