Stylistic redemption for Judas Priest arrives in the form of the heavy metal forerunners’ seventeenth studio album, ‘Redeemer of Souls.’ Granted, the band’s 2008 double rock opera offering ‘Nostradamus’ had more than it’s share of memorable moments, however what the members of Judas Priest achieve with this new compilation couldn’t be better tailored to fit the appetite of their dedicated followers.
Smoldering crashes of thunder immediately thrust the listener amiss an impressive conclave of rhythm guitar-bracketed radio rockers and unforgiving war anthems, beginning with “Dragonaut,” which showcases the energizing dueling leads of Glenn Tipton and newly appointed guitarist Richie Faulkner, in addition to the menacing yet melodic performance from Rob Halford.
The closest which ‘Redeemer of Souls’ nears towards a song of epic running time is “Halls of Valhalla,” which comes in at just over six minutes and coincidentally serves as one of the album’s strongest moments; paired alongside an almost dizzying set of chord progressions, Halford executes what is perhaps his most diverse vocal presentation which ranges from nearly inaudible growls to ‘Painkiller’ reminiscent screams.
An intriguing introduction which borrows some of the fuel from “The Hellion” snags the listener’s interest on “Down in Flames,” before abruptly transitioning into a comfortable mid-tempo selection bolstered by a harmonic sing-along chorus. Similarly, delicate arpeggios not unlike those found throughout ‘Nostradamus’ decorate the beginning to “Hell & Back,” yet ultimately evolves into another grinding anthemic track.
Further exemplifying the notion that ‘Redeemer of Souls’ not only serves as a formidable studio effort but a diverse one at that, “Cold Blooded” serves as a hastily welcomed reimagining of “Out in the Cold” from ‘Turbo,’ however opposed to being simply another run through of that distinctive approach is instead fused with a more direct and logical heavy metal sound expected from a new Judas Priest album.
Without straying too far from the topic of bold revivals, “Metalizer” reintroduces the kick drum-strengthened speed metal sound of “Painkiller,” complete with an opening glass shattering scream and lyrical themes of the otherworldly, havoc-unleashing messiah which has made a reoccurring appearance throughout Judas Priest’s extensive lineagy.
Black Sabbath-inspired bass lines right from the pages of “N.I.B.” hint towards to the blues rock-overtones of “Crossfire,” whereas the more consistent, take-no-prisoners frontier found throughout ‘Redeemer of Souls’ reappears during the haunting “Secrets of the Damned,” which transports the listener to the land “Where angels dare to tread.”
A wave of accelerating guitar riffs surface on “Battle Cry,” failing to diminish the album’s continuously punishing tone or pace despite being the second-to-last song in the track listing. Compelling vocal melodies and overpowering distortion keep the outcome within distinctive domain as we reach the somewhat reflective “Beginning of the End,” the only moment where we find the members of Judas Priest stepping aside from their high octane persona.
Whether this new effort was determined to serve as the triumphant final curtain for these Metal Gods, or rather an incontestable reassertion of why they hold that proud title, Judas Priest deliver a solid collection of highly engaging material in the vein of their signature approach throughout ‘Redeemer of Souls.’