For My Sunday Song #295, we are go to go through “Never the Heroes” off the band’s most recent album, 2018’s ‘Firepower’. The song was the third single and it helped propel the album to a #5 ranking on the Billboard Top 200 albums and showing the band still had a lot of life left in them. It was an album and a song that saw the band return to form and show that metal was still alive and well in their old bones.
The band issued a statement about the song upon its release stating the following:
“‘Never The Heroes’ is about the courageous men and women that enter war, never trained to be heroes but becoming heroic due to their actions and sacrifices doing their duty for their people and country,” the band said in a statement. “It resonates as there is a hero in all of us and in times of struggle we can be strong and united, conquering our own challenges and helping others.”
I don’t think I need to add anything to that so I will just talk about the music.
This is one of the coolest songs on the album, “Never the Heroes”, and also one of my favorite songs, ever, by the band. Their foot comes off the gas with this one only slightly and we get a pure melodic blissful song. It shows the softer side of Priest and Halford’s vocals deliver nothing but greatness. Usually with the pounding drums and guitar, I tend to miss out on Ian’s bass playing, but this one has that deep, low end sound that helps take this one up a notch. But it is the layers of vocals and the harmonies they create in the chorus that takes it over the top. This is a solid hard rock song and shows that those old dogs can still hunt. Priest being the old dog and the hunt being the music if you missed that analogy.
For My Sunday Song #291, we are kicking off a 10 Song Set of Judas Priest songs with “Halls of Valhalla” off their 2014 album, ‘Redeemer of Souls’. The album came out on July 8, 2014 in the U.S. and debuted at #6 making it their first album to debut in the Top 10…ever!! That would get topped with their next release ‘Firepower’. “Halls of Valhalla” was not a single, but it was the standout track for me so I thought it was as good a place to start as any.
The song was inspired by the TV Show ‘The Vikings’. The got Rob Halford thinking about Scandinavia, the North Sea and all the mythology of that part of the world. The word “Valhalla” came to mind at 4 in the morning and that turned in to the focus of the song. The song is about sailing around the North Sea searching for the Halls of Valhalla. According to Songfacts…
In Norse mythology Valhalla is a giant hall, where the souls of warriors slain in battle are taken by the Valkyries. A form of heaven where they are ruled over by the god Odin, the fallen combatants spend their days fighting safe in the knowledge of never being permanently harmed.
This song for me might be the shining achievement of the ‘Redeemer of Souls’ album. The dramatic guitar opening is then filled with a brutal guitar riff and Scott’s thundering 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.
We are finally to the end of the Judas Priest Complete Albums Collection Series. And we are ending it with a ranking of all the Studio albums for the band which is a total of 18 albums to go through. That is a lot. I knew of Judas Priest and I had heard a ton of songs, but I had never dived deep in the band until I did this series. I received The Complete Albums Collection Box Set for Christmas 2020 and bought the 4 studio albums that were missing from the set and decided to review them all and it has been a blast. I will say that I am a huge fan now.
Out of the 18 albums, there are only 2 they have that I felt were below average and the rest are worth hearing at least to me. That isn’t bad to have 16 albums that rank at least a 3 or higher. My choices might be different from some people and that is okay as we like different things. I really enjoyed the bluesiness of the early albums and the more 80’s style and even the real heaviness of the more current records. I will even admit I liked one of the Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens albums. No matter what I heard, I found things I liked and didn’t like. But what I do know is that the original members of Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing and Ian Hill were a powerful group and there was a magic to their music together. I like Richie Faulkner as he brought a new life to the band and I really liked Scott Travis on drums as he was a force to be reckoned with behind that kit.
Judas Priest was not a one trick pony. They weren’t just heavy metal…they had a blues influence, glam influence, straight up hard rock, speed metal and even a little death metal at times. They could do it all. Any time they had dual guitar solos or Halford hit that trademark scream, I was all in. These guys are one of the best bands to come out of the UK and I can’t believe we have had 50 years of Judas Priest. What a ride it has been. Now, let’s see how I rank the albums and away we go…
After the stellar performance of the prior album ‘Redeemer of Souls’ thanks in large part of the addition of Richie Faulkner, the band started work on the next album in 2016. However, it took a long time to finally get to the studios in March of 2017 and the band would go until June to finish the recording. The album then sat for months on months and finally get released on March 9, 2018 where it went on to sell around 49,000 copies in the first week putting it at #5 and their highest chart position. Yeah, 49,000 is a far cry from their heydays, but 49,000 in 2018 for any band is a decent week of sales…oh how things have changed.
But sometimes things to don’t change as the band brought back former producer Tom Allom in to the mix to co-produce the album with Andy Sneap. It had been since 1988’s ‘Ram It Down” as the last time they worked with Allom, so 30 years. That is a long gap. Andy would have such an impact with the band, he would actually go on tour with the band as guitarist. The reason for that was due to some sad news from the camp. The great Glenn Tipton was retiring from touring due to his battle with Parkinson’s Disease. The illness was getting to be too much to play some of the more challenging parts in songs. That doesn’t mean he didn’t pop up on stage every now and again when he felt good enough to play because he did. Glenn is still a member of the band and will still help creatively and in recording. Touring is just too much and too unpredictable on how he’ll feel.
One of the really cool things about this album is the cover art. I remember seeing this and thinking, Damn! That is a cool cover. The next thing I know, there was a filter or something because people started replacing their cover picture on Facebook with their name in Judas Priest Firepower font. It was cool. I didn’t do it though as I was probably too lazy as it seemed like to much work and I didn’t want to be a follower, as I am a leader…no, who am I kidding, it was the laziness part!!
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.