After the 1990 album, ‘Painkiller’, Rob Halford left Judas Priest and the band continued on for 11 years with the singer Tim “Ripper” Owens. Rob went on and did his own thing whether it was the band Fight, Two or band Halford. Judas Priest did two albums with Ripper during this time, but the fans were screaming for Halford and Priest to reunite. Rob had wanted that for a long time, but was too afraid to reach out (at least that is what he says in his book). However, eventually it happened. Rob Halford was to rejoin Priest and in 2003, it finally happened.
Judas Priest toured a little and then went in to the studio to record their new album ‘Angel of Retribution’. They recorded from October to December of 2004 and the album was finally released on February 23, 2005 and to quite acclaim. It went to #13 on the Billboard 200 Charts and Priest were back. Rob brought over Roy Z as the producer who also mixed and engineered the album as well. Roy Z was the guitar player in Rob’s band Halford and he produced several of those albums as well.
I read somewhere that the album artwork was a continuation of the angel from ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’. This time the angel has transformed in to steel as she is rising out of the ashes and becoming the angel of retribution. Who knows if that is true, but cool to think that it is a reference to that album.
After 11 years apart, what would the new Priest sound like was the question of the day. Judas Priest would come out and deliver a massively heavy album and usher their sound in to the 21st Century! Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing, Ian Hill and Scott Travis are ready to rock.
The album opens with the song “Judas Rising” and Judas is the angel from Sad Wings of Destiny, Painkiller and this album cover. You could take it as Priest saying they were back from the ashes ready to rock the world again. The song opens with heavy guitars, double-kick drum mayhem and a massive scream from Halford announcing the return of the classic line-up. The song is immense and powerful with Halford attacking the lyrics with all his might and how Scott Travis on drums can continue the pummeling of the kick drums for that long is beyond me. The band explodes out of the gates of hell with such destructive force and the excitement is building for what is to come.
“Deal with the Devil” is a song that tells the story about the band’s story and takes you back to the Black Country where they started to the metal gods they are today. Another heart pounding song and a very catchy chorus. Not as hard as the opener and a little more melodic. This is the only song that Roy Z had a co-write on, otherwise, it is still Halford, Tipton and Downing at the helm. Towards the back half of the album and on several more songs, Halford hits some notes that sound a lot like Axl Rose from Guns ‘N Roses and I mean that in a very good way. The solo on this is incredibly fast and frantic and I think is a dual solo for Tipton and Downing. A great exclamation point on an already great song.
This might be a first for the band, a bass line opening by Ian Hill. I am not sure if they’ve done that before. The Rob scream at the beginning has been done before but to have Ian front and center is a nice change. The song is really different than what I would’ve expected. “Revolution” is probably the most radio-friendly song on the album and has a ton of Rob’s screams, a simple guitar riff and at times the song is a little cheesy, but it is catchy enough. Sometimes strange is good. A fact about that opening bass as it is actually from a cassette tape that they recorded that riff on back in the 70’s. They uploaded it to pro tools and built the song around it.
“Worth Fighting For” comes out and sounds a lot like old school Priest…well maybe early 80’s Priest anyway. A simple drum beat and Rob singing softly at the opening. A slower tempo almost a ballad, but not quite. The guitar solo is great and fitting for the song and not over-the-top. I find the song to be quite pleasant and and a nice unexpected twist in style and vibe. They are keeping you on your toes with this album.
“Demonizer” brings back the heavy and the darkness. With a killer riff to open the song and more of Scott’s double kick drum madness. The song could’ve been straight off Painkiller as it has that tone. Rob sounds great here and he sounds so menacing and evil fitting for a song called “Demonizer”. Another assault on the senses and turn it up to 11 so you get the full effect of those guitars and drums as they pummel your ears and you love every minute of it.
The next song opens with what sounds like a Van Halen riff, listen closely. “Wheels of Fire” will take you back to the ‘Screaming for Vengeance’ era and make all you 80’s Priest fans very happy as it would feel right at home in that era. It isn’t the heavy, destructive force as the beginning of the album, but you need a break form that and this one will give you all the good feels of 80’s Priest and I am good with that feeling.
Then we get a true ballad with the song “Angel”. I think this might be one of the best ballads they had done. Rob’s vocals on this might be the best of the album. His vocals are smooth at times and full of emotion and it is just him and an acoustic guitar for most of the song. It has a very melancholy tone and is actually quite moving. The bass comes in around the middle and then some electric guitars for the solo. The drums to come in towards the end and brings the full band in to play. It is a beautifully constructed song and might be the best song on the album…who am I kidding, it is the best song on the album.
The heavy is brought back with the speed demon of a song, “Hellrider”. The guitar opening is incredible and then the destructiveness of Scott’s drums come in followed by Rob’s evil vocals and the band is fire. If you are a fan of the last album with Rob, ‘Painkiller’, then this song will be right up your alley. I think my ears started to bleed from listening to this and I couldn’t be happier. It is an evil beast and a great way to end the album. Well, I say that because the last two songs are complete and utter trash so this is the end of the album for me.
“Eulogy” is up first and I guess this might be the opening to the horrific song “Lochness”, but if not, I will review as a stand alone. It is a slow tempo song but where “Angel” was emotive and done perfectly, this song falls flat and I found lacked emotion and was quite dull in comparison. The piano seems to play on with no real direction and keeps repeating the same notes over and over. Rob sounds bored and not sure how to sing it. Move on.
The final track on the album is the longest one at 13 minutes. “Lochness” is about old Nessie and I am not sure what they were going for here. Are they trying to go back to their early prog roots or what I am not sure. The song is heavy and feels very evil and there are some musical moments I like, but overall it lacks so much. The song is cheesy at times and when Rob hits the chorus, oh man, shoot me now it is so bad. I think the song is trying to be more than it can be as there aren’t enough shining moments to lift it above its dreariness. Now you know why I say the album ends at “Hellrider”.
- Judas Rising – Keeper
- Deal With The Devil – Keeper
- Revolution – Keeper
- Worth Fighting For – Keeper
- Demonizer – Keeper
- Wheels Of Fire – Keeper
- Angel – Keeper
- Hellrider – Keeper
- Eulogy – Delete
- Lochness – Delete
The Track Score is 8 out of 10 or 80% and is really respectable. The reunion album was worth the wait for me. It shines above any of the Ripper albums (Sorry Harrison). If it stopped at “Hellrider” this album would get a 4.5-5.0 easily as I really do love all those songs. When the band went heavy, they exceed all expectations. They felt alive and the band seemed revitalized and excited to be back. They brought the Priest sound into the 21st Century while still staying true to the history as there were moments in several songs that harkened back to the old days. It is good to have Rob back and I think they delivered on all fronts…well mostly except for the two giant missteps at the end of the album. Overall, the album Score is 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars as I enjoyed this way more than I expected and I don’t have to skip any songs, I can just stop after “Hellrider”.
UP NEXT: ‘NOSTRADAMUS’ (2008)
THE COMPLETE ALBUMS COLLECTION SERIES:
- Rocka Rolla (1974)
- Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)
- Sin After Sin (1977)
- Stained Class (1978)
- Killing Machine / Hell Bent For Leather (1978)
- Unleashed in the East (1979)
- British Steel (1980)
- Point of Entry (1981)
- Screaming for Vengeance (1982)
- Defenders of the Faith (1984)
- Turbo (1986)
- Priest…Live! (1987)
- Ram it Down (1988)
- Painkiller (1990)
- Angel of Retribution (2005)
- Nostradamus (2008)
- A Touch of Evil: Live (2009)