It’s 2005 and the Priest is back! Now with the mighty Rob Halford back in the fold can Judas Priest resurrect their past glories? If you close your eyes while listening to Angel Of Retribution you’ll feel like you were back in their early 80s heyday, it’s mostly that good. Judas Priest may not have been the world’s first heavy metal band but unlike genre originators Black Sabbath, Priest were the first band to justifiably proclaim to be authentically heavy metal.
Like most bands Priest has gone through several incarnations but the classic line-up is the legendary duel partnership of guitarists KK Downing and Glenn Tipton, bassist Ian Hill and the group’s most popular singer Halford, while a number of drummers have occupied the drum stool over the years. The current drummer being Scott Travis, who first showed his immense skill on the last album to feature Halford – 1990’s utterly tremendous Painkiller.
Halford is an elite member of an exclusive pantheon of metal singers with very few contemporary singers holding membership. It is not an exaggeration to claim that Halford is the greatest metal singer ever with his earth shattering falsettos and quick shifts in tone and harmony. He has lost none of his appeal.
It is hoped by many fans that Angel Of Retribution will contain the same unstoppable ferociousness and intensity that Painkiller exclaimed. Angel Of Retribution contains the best of Priest’s thunderous metal with some welcome ballads.
Judas Rising is an unstoppable juggernaut and Deal With The Devil could fit perfectly on any of their masterful late-70’s work. Revolution is an odd but effective brew with a distinctive commercial sound while Worth Fighting For is a simply terrific ballad.
Demonizer is an abattoir of sounds and Wheels Of Fire is a grinding marriage of sharp riffs and steady drumming. Angel slows the pace down considerably but it is as effective as the underrated and obscure Prisoner Of Your Eyes. Hellrider enters brutal territory with Halford’s famous roars and screeches while Eulogy is a ballad that doesn’t quite hit the right spot.
Then we arrive at Lochness. A 13-minute epic that as its name blatantly suggests is about the elusive Scottish beast. It’s a very bizarre number that will take some time getting use to. It’s more Spinal Tap than Spinal Tap but it has a lot of balls to last that long.
Angel Of Retribution shows that after more than a decade apart the band still have that unique gel that produced some of metal’s most brilliant work and the album’s superb artwork recalls the classic 1977 Sad Wings Of Destiny album.
Like fellow British heavy metal stalwarts Iron Maiden, Judas Priest proves that reunions can – and do – work. As the band become more familiar and comfortable with each other Angel Of Retribution is a taster of the bigger and better things to come. But for the time being, this comeback is a brilliant return to form.