For My Sunday Song #297, we are talking about the song “Angel” by Judas Priest. The song is off their 2005 album ‘Angel of Retribution’. I picked another song that wasn’t a single and from an album that a lot of fans might not think about. The album is their 15th studio album and the first since 1990’s Painkiller to feature Rob Halford again on vocals.
The lyrics on this one seem to be really deep. That there is a deeper meaning to them that we weren’t meant to really understand. Is it about wanting to die and be taken to the land of peace with Christ? Is it about longing for a lover that has left and he just wants them back to be whole again? Is it about drugs and wanting to escape in them again where he could stop feeling all the pain this world brings? I don’t really have the answer, I guess you can interpret it however you want and none of it would be wrong.
“Angel”, I think this might be one of the best ballads they have done. Rob’s vocals on this might be the best off the album as well. 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 with its beautiful soaring vocals and the sweeping music seems to lift you in the sky with the angels. The bass comes in around the middle and then some electric guitars for the solo. The drums 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.
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 #293, we are going to discuss the title track, “Nostradamus”, from the Judas Priest 2008 concept album ‘Nostradamus’. The album focuses on the life and times of the great 16th Century writer and prophecy maker which I think is brilliant. The album went to #11 on the Billboard Charts but I think fell flat after that as people just didn’t get it. They were wrong in my book. The title track did get nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance but lost.
The song is an homage to the man himself. It celebrates everything about the man, the myth, the legend. It vindicates the man that was persecuted for his beliefs. He lived in the 16th Century so I am sure they thought he was a witch or evil with all his visions.
“Nostradamus” has some brilliance to it. Rob is full on operatic in his vocals and he really hits some great notes at the beginning and then the band comes in and slams it home with a massive Halford scream. It does actually have a little of the speed metal and has some classic Priest sounds and that Halford SCREAM!!!! What more could you want. I really love the epic, grandness feel to the song. It takes you on a journey and one you will want to travel again and again. The band went for it on this song and album I personally love it.
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.
After the sour reaction to the previous album, ‘Jugulator’, Priest tried to determine what went wrong. It was a myriad of things, but most importantly was due to the departure of the much loved Rob Halford and then completely changing your sound and abandoning everything that Judas Priest was known for in its sound. It is pretty simple actually. They tried to rectify one of those things as Rob was still not in the band. The lead singer for his second album with the band was Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens. The end result was the album ‘Demolition’ which was released on July 16, 2001 and did even worse then the previous album. It only charted at #165 on the US Billboard charts.
However, the album is way better than the reception it received. The band still consisted of K.K. Downing, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill and Scott Travis along with Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens and this time around they went back to a more Priest sound which was a little less heavy and a lot more melodic. They did modernize the sound by adding some nu-metal / industrial elements while still maintaining a lot of what Priest fans loved. This was a much more accessible album and one I find to be way better than the previous one. Dare I say, I really like this album, but it still doesn’t completely feel like a Priest album. It is a step in the right direction.
The opening track “Machine Man” sadly doesn’t really stray too far from the previous album. It is pretty brutal and heavy. It is one of the songs on the album that actually garnered Priest with their first Parental Advisory Sticker on an album due to the language. The guitar playing on this is pretty lethal and the combo of Tipton and Downing again shows how great this band is with those two. And not to be outdone, Travis’ drumming is totally maddening and still can’t figure out how he can drum that fast…it is crazy nuts. But I don’t completely hate it despite it’s resemblance to the prior album. Tim’s singing is better and more melodic at times and at least it had a decent chorus.
After the ‘Painkiller’ Tour in 1991, Rob Halford had decided to leave the band. However, due to contract obligations he didn’t really leave until late 1992 as Halford did help with the 20th Anniversary celebration of the band with the greatest hits package ‘Metal Works – ’73-’93’. After that was overs, so was Halford. Now, according to Rob’s book ‘Confess’, his departure was merely a miscommunication. He said he was leaving to do just go do a solo project, but not technically leaving the band. The band took it as he was leaving the band, plain and simple. It took them 11 years to work that out because Rob was too scared to make contact and clear things up and Rob takes fully responsibility for that part.
In the meantime, the band moved on without Rob. They searched high and low and found their new lead singer in the strangest of places. The found Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens in a Judas Priest Tribute band called British Steel. When they heard him, they knew he was the one. That story inspired a movie in 2001 called ‘Rock Star’ with Mark Wahlberg that told of a story of metal band finding their new lead singer from a Tribute Band…hmmm…is this the bands 2nd time inspiring movies. Didn’t their legendary drummer turnover inspire part of ‘This is Spinal Tap’??? Crazy stuff.
The line-up was set, original members K.K. Downing, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill along with drummer Scott Travis and new guy, Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens. Tim was not the only new thing about the band for this album, the band changed their sound and changed it big time. They didn’t go to a softer side, they went even heavier…much heavier. The band tuned down their guitars which completely change the tone of the album as that classic Priest guitar sound was gone. The album was pretty much a thrash metal album as there was not much melody and really no catchy choruses. This is the heaviest I think they’ve ever been. They were starting to lean towards heavier even with ‘Painkiller’, but this takes it to another level entirely. And you know what, with a new singer, it wasn’t a bad idea to try and change it up…might’ve been better if it wasn’t a Priest album because as a Priest album, I’m not sure this works. As another band name, might be just fine. We will see.
We are now to the final album in the box set, The Complete Albums Collection. Why is it the final album in the set, because it is the last album to feature original guitarist, K.K. Downing. This box set contained ALL albums that featured the 4 main members, Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill and K.K. Downing. We know it wasn’t because of a single drummer as they close to a 1,000 drummers in their career…and yes, that is an exaggeration. This live album is also the band’s fifth live album, but only 3rd in this series. We won’t be doing the other two any time soon, so sorry about that fact.
This live album was the first one since Rob Halford rejoined the band and it is also noted for an old producer friend of the band sees his return. Tom Allom is back as co-producer with the band and I can’t say that was actually a good thing after you hear my complaints about this album. They did a good job about not repeating any tracks on any other Halford led Live album up to this point. There are a lot of repeats on the Tim “Ripper” Owen albums, but those don’t count for this conversation. Why don’t we jump straight in to this release.
The album took songs from the band’s tours in 2005 and 2008 and not from one show which is okay. The problem was they didn’t mix the album to sound like a full live show. Nope! Each song fades out and then the next song comes in totally ruining the live album effect. If you are going to make a live album, at least give it the feel that it is one consistent show even if it is not. It totally takes me out of the game when you fade the songs in and out.