The band took a long, long, long break after 2008’s ‘Nostradamus’ which was not received all that well, despite the fact I really enjoyed that one. In 2011, there were rumblings of new album the band had been working on and they said they were going to take their time with it and let me tell you, they did just that. The album didn’t come out until July 8th, 2014 more than 3 years later. And a lot happened in those three years.
The biggest thing that happened was the departure of one of its founding members and the jelly to the jam of the guitar duo. K.K. Downing departed the band in 2011 and it sounded like it was over creative differences with the band. This was a major blow to the band, though probably not as big as losing your lead singer…sorry, easier to replace a guitarist than a singer (except if your Eddie Van Halen maybe). The band found a replacement in the wonderful guitar playing of Richie Faulkner and from what I can tell has been very well received by the fans. Richie immediately has made an impact as he was heavily involved in the song writing for this album.
It takes time to get a new member acclimated to things, so the band spent the next 3 years completing the album and having Richie get familiar with the other members of Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill and Scott Travis. Upon its release, the album saw them hit their highest peak on the charts in the U.S., going to #6 on giving them first Top 10 album. Now, it only sold a little over 100,000 copies but this is 2014 and streaming was taking over as well as digital sales so actual album sales are not what they used to be. Still a respectable showing, but it is a respectable album. Let us find out.
A storm is a brewing with thunder blasting through the sky. A nasty guitar riff kicks in and the band is off to the races with “Dragonaut”. Heavy and pounding, the song is Priest in more of a Painkiller mode than what you would call classic Priest. However, it is a pounding track and some killer guitar work from the new duo of Tipton and Faulkner.
They don’t slow anything down with the title track of “Redeemer of Souls”. The song isn’t as fast as the previous track but Scott’s drums are just as heavy. The song moves more purposeful and deliberate. Rob’s vocals are solid and deep. He isn’t hitting those classic screams and he sounds a little possessed as he delivers the verses. The solo break is full of flashy guitars and peppered with drum fills throughout. It is another solid track and we are starting to get in to a groove.
The band hits their stride with “Halls of Valhalla” as this might be the shining achievement of the whole album. The dramatic guitar opening is then filled with a brutal guitar riff and Scott’s drum. Rob comes screaming in and that classic Priest piss and vigor is back. A cross between old Priest and Black Sabbath, we are treated to brilliant metal masterpiece. Rob really stretches his vocal range giving it a full workout and that is all we want to hear. He goes from a guttural growl to the highest of highs almost effortlessly. When I hear the mention of Asgard in the lyrics, I expect Thor to show up or hell, even Loki, but that doesn’t happen.
“Sword of Damocles” is up next and although heavy and loud doesn’t hit me like a punch in the gut like the three previous tracks. You hear a few flaws in Halford’s vocals and it feels too familiar and generic although hitting all the marks you want a Priest song to hit. It was missing heart and soul until we get to the last minute or two of the song when Priest slays you with the intensity and Halford’s vocals are brutally destructive. It saves the song for me.
The next track, “March of the Damned”, feels like a different style than the first part of the album. It is more hard rock and even a slight pop feel more in the vein of ‘Ram It Down’ or maybe ‘Turbo. It lacks the punch I like, but isn’t a terrible song overall. It is a little average but it is catchy and has some fine guitar playing and I can live with that.
“Down in Flames” feels like it is right off ‘Painkiller’ and I am loving it. It is catchy and a little exciting as it takes me back to some classic era sounding Priest. More fantastic guitars and some back and forth between Faulkner and Tipton which you need to hear. Scott and Ian are driving the groove forward and Rob sounds refreshed and it all works well for me.
We now get to a slower track, almost ballad realm with its opening, but then turns it up a notch. “Hell & Back” has promise but seems very contrived and seems to lumber on aimlessly. It feels like it wants to go to another level but never reaches it. It sounds tired and bored.
With a dual guitar opening, “Cold Blooded” redeems itself after the prior misstep. The song is epic in feel and Rob deliberate delivery of the lyrics feel critical and important. Although it is missing a real catchy chorus or any chorus for the matter, what feels like the bridge is the best part for the main reason of how Rob sings it. I can’t really describe exactly why I like it, but there is something there I find cool.
“Metalizer” comes roaring in with speedy guitar riffs and a Halford scream. The song has that mythological vibe and leans towards the cheesy side a little. With a strong metallic feel and some quick pounding kick drums from Scott, the song is relentless in its delivery and when you throw in some Halford’s high pitched squeals, I get some enjoyment out of it.
From a very metallic tone to the last song, we go back to the band’s roots with this blues heavy tune called “Crossfire”. Talk about a throwback, we haven’t heard this side of Priest since the 70’s and I have to say, I’ll take it. It doesn’t really fit with the albums sound, but still a killer track.
Then the church bells start ringing as we get the ominous sounding “Secrets of the Dead”. It shows why “Crossfire” is a little out of place on this record, but it also shows that the prior is a better track. The song plods along to no where. A little slower paced, close to a ballad, but doesn’t deliver anything worth holding on to enjoy. Very skippable especially when we get the voiceover of the demon trying to make the song bigger than it is.
And next we get another Painkiller type song, “Battle Cry” comes slamming home. The guitar work at the beginning of some of the best on the whole album. The song is powerful and a full on speed metal monster. The band is firing on all cylinders and Rob is singing his heart out. This is the Priest I like to hear and would listen to all day long. To be this deep in to the album and have a song as strong as this is a testament to the band.
We finally get to a true ballad on the album with “Beginning of the End”. I don’t normally like an album to end on a slow track, but this works. It reminds of how they ended ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ with “Dreamer Deceiver” and that worked well. It is a powerful track, engrossing and even a little mystical in tone. It is really impressive. This might be Rob’s vocal highlight on the album as his words and emotive singing draw you in and won’t let go.
- Dragonaut – Keeper
- Redeemer of Souls – Keeper
- Halls of Valhalla – Keeper
- Sword of Damocles – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- March of the Damned – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Down in Flames – Keeper
- Hell & Back – Delete
- Cold Blooded – Keeper
- Metalizer – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Crossfire – Keeper
- Secrets of the Dead – Delete
- Battle Cry – Keeper
- Beginning of the End – Keeper
The Track Score is 9.5 out of 13 Tracks or 73%. Which is about right. I do like a lot of the songs, but as an album, it is not a favorite. It is a little long at over 60 minutes and that is without the bonus tracks. The are some misses, but there are really some great tracks as well. “Halls of Valhalla”, “Battle Cry” and “Beginning of the End” and I feel are some of their best in a while. Richie Faulkner is a welcomed addition to the band and gives them a fresh perspective. I am not going to say I don’t miss K.K. Downing because there was a little missing from the sound without his guitar. All in all, I give it a 3.5 out of 5.0 Stars as it is a solid album, but isn’t up there with their top ones. However, I will pull this one out again.
The band decided to do a deluxe edition of the album as they recorded a ton for this album. These five tracks were added and not included in the original release as the band felt they didn’t quite fit the sonics of the album and I would agree. The first track, “Snakebite” is one that doesn’t sound like the album, but it is catchy, has a great groove and is better than some of the album tracks. Hell, “Crossfire” didn’t fit and it sounded great. “Tears of Blood” I feel actually would have fit the album as it is a darker tone and very heavy but maybe they had too many heavy songs on the album…who am I kidding, you never have too many heavy songs!!. Another solid track. Up next is “Creatures” but probably should be titled “Creatures of the Night” as that is what they say most of the time. It has a catchy chorus and Rob is trying to sound as evil as he can. A great groove on this one as well as some fantastic guitar work by the duo and another solid track. I have to remember that these are bonus tracks and I am not sure why that would be the case as these first three have been killer.
“Bring It On” another rocking track. This one doesn’t not fit on the album, but has some classic Priest elements. I could take an album of this type of song as well. Rob again slays it vocally and he seems really in to it and then let us get to the guitars. I think Faulkner has lit a fire under Tipton as the two together a really giving their all and delivering on every front. Lastly we get “Never Forget” which is a ballad. I think it is a great ballad, but I like “Beginning of the End” more so I see why this one was relegated to the bonus tracks as it doesn’t quite fit the tone of the album as well. It doesn’t mean this one is bad as it is not, but I feel it slightly misses the mark as it is trying to reach great heights, but never quite makes the climb. There is a slight cheese factor to it as a result. But don’t get me wrong, it is still good. In fact, this bonus disc is sensational. I will actually score it and give it a 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars as for bonus songs, these are fantastic and show that the band has some life in them still and might even be a little refreshed with the addition of Faulkner. Good stuff for sure!!
UP NEXT: ‘FIREPOWER’ (2018) – BONUS EDITION
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)
- Jugulator (1997) – Bonus Edition
- Demolition (2001) – Bonus Edition
- Redeemer of Souls (2014) – Bonus Edition