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Judas Priest's comeback record with original singer Rob Halford is quite a mixed bag. ''Angel of Retribution'' is clearly better than the tame predecessor ''Demolition'' or the overlong successor ''Nostradamus'' but it can't mess with the band's classic records at any time. While this record includes a few potent tracks, it includes just as many uninspired fillers. Inconsistency is the key word to describe this release.
On the positive side, the opener ''Judas Rising'' is a glorious and powerful heavy metal anthem that convinces with fierce riffs, uplifting melodies and a strong vocal performance by Rob Halford. This juvenile song goes straight back to the style of Painkiller and sounds as if the band had never been restructured over the past one and a half decades. Still, the band has also kept the more experimental spirit of the studio records with Tim Owens. The calm and bass-driven half-ballad ''Worth Fighting For'' is a real grower and one of the most original tunes in the band's career. The emotional ballad ''Angel'' might be among the best mellower tunes in the band's extensive career and this song underlines Rob Halford's still outstanding vocal skills best on this album along with the opener. The epic album closer ''Lochness'' will divide fans and critics alike. Some might find this song too long, plodding and unspectacular which is perfectly understandable. Still, this song has become my personal highlight of this release. Judas Priest's longest track ever is a gloomy doom metal epic with an extremely heavy main riff, unusually distorted guitar solos and a glorious chorus with majestic proportions of a national anthem. It's a quite unusual track for the band and reminds me a lot of Black Sabbath which happens to be one of my favorite bands. Let's add to the positive points that the production of the record is clear and powerful and that the cover artwork is simple yet appropriate and one of the band's best in my book.
On the negative side, this record includes many uninspired heavy metal tunes that try to go back to the band's earlier records but fail to develop the same authenticity, creativity and energy. These songs aren't memorable at all and would have been bonus tracks at best two and three decades ago. Especially the mid-tempo stomper ''Revolution'' with its annoying chorus is maybe the band's worst single choice ever and sounds like a lackluster leftover from the Jugulator sessions. The most boring tune is the vapid interlude ''Eulogy''. Instrumentally, this track is sleep-inducing, the vocals are powerless and the lyrics mildly amusing as if an inexperienced high school student had attempted to write a poem quoting some Judas Priest song titles in about five minutes. There isn't any valid reason for this tune to even exist.
In the end, ''Angel of Retribution'' isn't a very strong comeback album. It has less than a handful of strong moments, one controversial epic that fans either love or hate and a lot of uninspired mediocrity. This album is only partially going back to the band's origins and also includes more experimental elements of the past two releases which makes the final result sound directionless. Most tracks have a slightly gloomy tone which gives this album at least a little guiding line. Ambitious collectors and faithful fans of long date might buy this record but occasional fans should only grab this average output for a handful of dollars from a cheap storage box.
I have to start somewhere and 'Angel of Retribution' album was chosen as a subject for my first ever Judas Priest review. The album is a very important piece in the band's history: The classic formation was back together again, as singer Rob Halford had returned to the line-up in 2003 (Tim "Ripper" Owens sang on 2 albums), and it is the first ever number one on record sales lists (in Greece) anywhere.
The cover shows an angel (of retribution), but music-wise this album didn't go as far into the past. I feel this revisits 'Painkiller' era (1990) quite a bit. This is evident from the beginning, as 'Judas Rising' is conjured with tapping guitar and banshee screaming when it explodes into marching double kick drumming, courtesy of Scott Travis, and tight riffing with Halford's commanding vocals. The solos... I think I do not have to say more about one of the most respected guitar duos in history, do I?! A magnificent Black Country metal opener! The album's rocking pieces follow with 'Deal with the Devil' and 'Revolution', of which the formed is more powerful and head-bangable, plus we get the twin guitar harmonies from K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton, while the latter is the album's most US-sounding piece; a tad too laid-back, bringing something like Slash's or ZZ Top's material to my mind, but good at that.
Contrary to my expectations, the album's first softer song is up next, 'Worth Fighting for'. However, a song that is softer music and playing-wise is harder on emotional level. Actually, it's absolutely affecting song, yet with strong pulsing beat, where Ian Hill's bass guitar simply slays. Halford's vocals and guitar lines really capture soul's woe, but there's always something worth fighting for... "The painkiller rises again..." on 'Demonizer, and again that means tough metal forged in the mills of Black Country. Dramatic and exorcising, double bass drum driven injects molten metal in listener's veins, and does it with style. 'Wheel s of Fire' is a rolling US-vibe heavy metal song, but it does not reach that streak it was meant to do. Hmmm, another US style song, that happens to be my least favourite here...
'Angel' is a ballad, that doesn't choke a listener with too much honey, while it is one of the more beautiful songs I've ever heard. It actually is touching, but not annoyingly sticky. Starting acoustically, the song catches beat in its midpoint, but do not wait for firey guitar solos, please! 'Hellrider' isn't a ballad, as you might've already figured out, but another 'Painkiller'-ish metal mayhem. There's even some classical-inspired guitar work in the solo part. The chorus is another hymnal/horror piece. Fantastic! Talking about hymns, 'Eulogy' is one gloomy song. A bass guitar, piano (plus some synthesizers) and Halford make magic happen.
The album ends with huge 'Lochness'. It's a slower song, which has doomy atmosphere going on. Nothing too typical JP here, but more like a nod towards Black Sabbath. Starting with moody sounds bringing images of Scottish nature to mind, and then weird sounds depicting the monster, the song contains sturdy heavy metal riffs and rhythm section. Awesome vocals lines culminate to hymnic chorus. Solo parts liven up the song in drastic places. This was the first song I heard from this album on a radio, and it grabbed me hard. I believe this didn't happen to many a people, because the song is so ostracise. I love the song; it is a giant, yet it flows beautifully, and is so atmospheric.
Some things do not happen as much as wanted: Halford's singing is more on lower notes now (understandably with ageing), despite a few shrieks/high vocals, and twin guitar harmonies could have been more frequent. These aren't real complaints. Only those songs with US-vibe are, but still the songs are okay at least. If you want another negative remark, it's about ugly booklet artwork and layout (NOT about the cover art).
Produced by the band with Roy Z (Tribe of Gypsies, Bruce Dickinson, Rob Rock etc.), the album sounds great. It is powerful, it resonates, it is clear and nicely balanced. Plus, there's no preset recording adjustments, of course. It's a "picture" of its time, as there is no 1980s synthesizer influences. Performances are top-notch, as expected, nothing weak or "thereabouts". Even if Mr. Halford isn't screaming out his bollocks, he's got thew. The lyrics are METAL: Horror and monster stories, band and music itself, with some more moving texts.
Damn this album is good! If you happen to enjoy Judas Priest even a bit, then give this one a go. It was such a strong "comeback". Actually it might need more then a go, so why not give it some time, okay? It is worth fig... I mean, it is worth that much.
(Originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com)
I, like just about everyone, was shocked when Rob Halford parted ways with Judas Priest in the 90s. The blokes were really on top of their game. They'd managed to breathe fire and passion into their traditional formula to produce the greatest record in their career, and there was no question in anyone of sound mind's mind that they were and would remain the metal gods we grew up with. But then, like with so many other great acts, it happened. The chicken flew the coop, to land only at a bad series of thrash/groove albums and industrial rock mediocrity that could never compete with or further the legacy he left behind. Eventually, he came to his senses and began putting out heavy metal records again in his eponymous solo outfit, but by then the damage had already been done, the void had widened to the point that, despite his cavalier efforts, Tim 'Ripper' Owens was about to be swallowed into it.
What's not a shock: after two weak albums, the guys would work out their differences and return Halford to the fold. And who doesn't? There was money to be made, nostalgia to be cashiered, and midlife (or past midlife) crises to avert. Of course he was getting back together with the band, barring an untimely death, and it was only a matter of when. The when was 2003, and two years later we had a new studio album in our hands, Angel of Retribution, its proud Painkiller-like winged angel in armor spreading for the artist while it tiptoed through the flames. Metal fire. Metal meltdown fire. Unfortunately, anyone hoping that 15 years of proper studio association was going to inspire a dream comeback record was sadly mistaken, for this is just not that great of an effort. It TRIES to be, and in terms of sheer audio spectacle, it's hands down one of the best produced albums of the band's career, Roy Z more than earning his paycheck, but even after seven years I can't think of a single song on Angel that I would feel compelled to return to were I not concluding this discography of reviews.
This is essentially a lot of old ideas dressed in a sparkling new suit, and I can't help but feel that the band were pushing hard to play 'catch up', to create an album that was just cohesive enough that the fans wouldn't pull their ears off and trample them in the offal. Why else include all the self-referential lyrical bullshit? To that effect, Angel of Retribution is certainly no failure. The songs flow well enough in sequence, the tones are all loud, the album lacks for none of the heaviness of its predecessor while still managing to draw on the more accessible hard rock inflected albums of Priest past. Seriously, this is just as clean cut as anything Z produced for Bruce Dickinson, and more importantly, Halford doesn't sound as if he'd skipped a beat in the 15 years since he'd helmed an album for this lot. The guy kept busy in the interim, after all, and his pipes seem just as capable of hitting their youthful heights as ever, even if he has the maturation to restrain himself for much of the run time.
Unfortunately, while a few of the songs 'rock', they don't exactly roll out the red carpet into my memory. A number like "Deal with the Devil" is pure power metal electricity, only by 2005 the riffs had all been played a thousand times by Germanic groups who were biting off Priest to begin with. "Revolution" sounds like the bastard stepchild of Jane's Addiction's "Mountain Song" and some old Sabbath (like "Sweat Leaf"), only it runs out of steam real quick with its sassy, whiny chorus; definitely feels like something that would have made it onto a Halford solo record as filler. "Judas Rising" is a competent if average opener, the measured charge of the guitars reminds me a lot of how Omen used to structure their songs in the early 80s, though the vocals sound nothing alike and the guitars are less Maiden-esque. "Demonizer" is perhaps the heaviest tune on the album, matching the harder cuts off Jugulator or Resurrection in groove power, but while it's entertaining to hear Rob stretch himself for the chorus, and I love the bubbly lead noises, it's just not as catchy as it needs to be...
Angel of Retribution gets a little ambitious at the end with the 13+ minute "Lochness", but despite the doomed trawl it moves at, there is just no way in the 21st century of making this particular legend cool. Especially if you've seen the Penn & Teller "Bullshit!" episode about cryptozoology, or that episode of Celebrity Deathmatch in which a claymation Nessie battles Bigfoot. Still, at least this experiment is 'contained' to some slow, steady riffing and harmonized choruses, unlike the following double album Nostradamus where they bit off far more than they could chew. The worst here is probably "Angel" itself, because as competent as Halford is, I really have no need for a Judas Priest power ballad anymore. "Eulogy" also uses clean guitars, but it's shorter and more downcast in nature (though not much better). Others I could skip on include the pedestrian rock of "Worth Fighting For", or "Wheels of Fire" which is an attempt to recapture the pacing and catchiness of "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" (at least one lick in there seems strikingly similar).
All told, though, this is not an utter fuck-up for a comeback effort, and even the weaker tracks are far from horrible. I just didn't care, and still don't. When I can dial back a few years and listen to Resurrection, or even a few of the better songs on its successor Crucible, or anything 1990 and earlier from the Priest canon, there's no need for something sub-par. I don't think there's a single song on this album that anyone would consider a 'hit'. If the British steel-mongers were out to prove that they still had 'what it takes', then I say they followed through. They can still pick up their instruments and write a metal record for the studio. Now let's move past that and write some goddamn screamers again. Is there another "Breakin' the Law" in you, Judas Priest? Another "Exciter"? Because, frankly, the world could use one.
Even though Judas Priest has been a good band from the start (early 70's) in my opinion, they didn't explode until the 90's/2000nds. Painkiller, which had a very big impact on the world of heavy metal in 1990, helped Priest prove that they were far from dead. And in 2005 came Angel of Retribution, maybe not as fulfilled as the pre-mentioned Painkiller, but still a very very good Judas Priest album.
The overall sound of the album is that of liquid steel coming straight from the stereo. Utterly heavy and ferocious (with the exeption of Worth Fighting For and Angel) Angel of Retribution delivers a sound fans of heavy music should love! Fans of Judas Priest's heavier sound, developed from 1990 and forwards know whats coming. Gone is both the gloomy, somewhat depressive 70's Priest sound (small traces can be heard in Revolution though), and the more positive upbeat 80's Priest sound (also this sound can be found however in Deal with the Devil). Angel of Retribution instead delivers metal fit for the 2000nds. Well-produced crisp clear sound with plenty of artistic energy. You might think a band like Judas Prist, that's been along for so long would loose their energy and attitude after so many years in the music buisness, but Priest proves over and over again that they deserve their unofficial, but greatly accepted title "Metal Gods".
When it comes to the songs on the album, Judas Rising, Deal With The Devil, Demonizer, Wheels of Fire and Hellrider are all mid- to fast tempo songs. Aggressive and energetic, these are the songs you are most likely to remember if you don't like slow metal. However, if you do, you might like the rest of the album, which contains some calmer songs, and even two ballads: Angel and Worth Fighting For. These songs are more emotional in their lyrics, opposed to the other half of the album, where the lyrics mostly revolve around demons, motorcycles and heavy metal. Revolution and Loch Ness are the only songs on the album not as energetic as most of the songs, but still not ballads.
So how are the musicians you ask? Glenn and K.K are excelent, as usual. Very solid riffing and many good solos. This is what the duo of Tipton and Downing are famous for, and they don't let their fans down. Scott Travis shows of some impressiv drumming skills, and Rob never seems to loose that high pitched voice of his. Ian Hill delivers some strong base, especialy on Worth Fighting For.
As a whole, I'm not afraid to say this is one of Judas Priest's strongest albums. As one of my personal favorites, I give Angel of Retribution a score of 90/100.
I was really expecting to like this record; Painkiller's been my favourite Priest since time immemorial and I've always been somewhat enamoured, or at least more sympathetic than most, of the Ripper era. At the end of the day, I prefer the newer, heavier, stupider version of Priest over that old bunch of nerds that did Victim of Changes and shit. This breaks the streak of good Priest albums though; it's quite mediocre, in fact maybe not all that good, in fact maybe it's up there with Turbo and RiD as the worst Priest ever written (haven't heard Nostradamus yet, probably won't).
Musically, it's rarely truly horrible (Angel being an exception, it's the worst ballad they've ever done); most of the songs have a lot of almost-there moments with a predictable stumbling block. 'Worth Fighting For''s effective, bummed out road ballad (feelin ya there, Halford) vibe ends up going nowhere very quickly- i'm not sure what annoys me so much about the bridge in that song but it does get irriating quick? 'Hellrider' has a brilliant instrumental section that's ruined by.. the rest of the song. Demonizer's retarded chorus, Lochness's close-but-no-cigar shot at Candlemass-esque despair and grandeur, well, the band tries hard on this album, but none of the songs do itt- musically speaking.
I say "musically speaking" because while Downing, Tipton and co generally hover around the mediocre mark here, that's not the main issue with the album. As mentioned earlier I've generally preferred Priest at their heaviest and stupidest (Painkiller is my favourite Priest song, after all) but here there's just too much stupid without the heavy- or at least without quality music, anyway- balancing it out. By and large, my philosophy has been one of "I don't care about lyrics but if they're really bad they can drag an album down", and here's all the proof of said train of thought. Demonizer (OUT DEMONS OUT), Lochness, Wheels of Fire- probably the best song on here, with it's rocky British Steel esque good times- not musically awful, not brilliant, but not bad- but the lyrics, man. They just kill it for me! Wouldn't be bad if this was a death metal album, or they were soaked in reverb, mixed down and what have you, but they're there high in the mix, highly audible, and meant to be sung along with.
I daresay if you can ignore the lyrics you will, at least, find this passable and mildly entertaining in sections. For the rest of us though, the stupid/heavy ratio is just too shitty. Avoid, as it's basically a really bad version of Painkiller.
That’s right my metal brothers and sisters! That’s what this monster of a band has kept on doing for more than 30 years now! And that’s also the task the Metal Gods themselves (well, perhaps only in my mind) have bestowed upon me, by defending this kinda underrated album and its quality! So don’t believe the naysayers, here I’ll tell you why…
In the first place, this was the reunion album the metal masses were craving for after Iron Maiden did their thing at the turn of the century. And the Judas guys knew this. They knew they had to come up with a killer album. So their approach to this was creating a record that encapsulates most of the elements of their long, influential and productive career. Maybe they did it for the fans, trying to please everybody, but I’m convinced they did put a lot of true passion and worked hard to come up with something worthy of being labeled “Judas Priest heavy metal”. The result, in my opinion, is one of the strongest albums in their repertoire.
“Judas is Rising” starts with a “Victim of Changes” like guitar intro. Then Scott Travis double bass start to pound and as soon as you ask for it, Rob’s ever-powerful vocals enter the equation. That’s right, I said “powerful”, and though he’s past his prime, the Metal God still delivers in an awe-inspiring way. Add a Priest signature guitar solo as only the masters Downing and Tipton can craft and you end up with an ass-kicking opener. I firmly believe that the blond-haired pair of guitarists is responsible for the most memorable guitar solos in metal. Well, they still have the magic, believe me.
The rest of the album follows in magnificent form, and since other reviewers have already written song per song descriptions I shall only point out the best tracks here, each of them representing a different Priest style.
“Worth Fighting For” is the best of their hard-rocking numbers (the others being “Wheels ofFire” and “Revolution). While perhaps it lacks a cool solo, the chorus and structure of the song are really worth listening to.
The passionate “Angel” is the best calmed one here, and one of their all-time best ballads, high up there with “Beyond the Realms of Death” and “Dreamer Deceiver”, with powerful lyrics performed by Rob. This one really is emotive when played live.
For those speed metal craving maniacs, here comes the “Hellrider”, totally in for the kill, which kicks-off with a memorable fiery guitar intro, even better than the one in the opener, devastating top-class solos and Scott’s trademark bursts of double bass. Images of raging red-hot metal beasts clashing come to my mind every time I listen to this one. While obviously this is no “Painkiller” it could easily fit into that album. That’s my favorite song of the album.
I cannot fail to mention the closer, and epic in the true sense of the word, “Lochness”. Their equivalent to “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (I hope not to end up being crucified for that comparison) came a bit late in their career and it’s something different of what the band usually have us accustomed to. But I think it’s a nice experiment gone well, a doomy, memorable and menacing as the monster itself helluva song and a great way to end this album, slowly fading out just as we imagine Nessie submerging its dark hide into the pitch black waters of the famous scottish loch.
The only song here I think is a bit weak is the other ballad, “Eulogy”, though I think the lyrics are rather cool, mentioning Priest songs of old (something which happens frequently in other songs of this album).
All in all, this album is a varied but excellent recollection of the different stages and styles the band has explored in their never-ending quest for metal. I even recommend this to any one not familiar with the band, since here they can witness the versatility and power of this titanic band, and taste the different flavors of Priest’s metal. Sure it’s no Painkiller, but to expect Pankiller II at this stage of their career is a rather foolish thing. I’d say Angel of Retribution is more akin to Defenders of the Faith, each song memorable within it’s own style.
I think this masterpiece is the best 2005 metal album, one of the finest comeback albums ever, and a nice starting point for a Judas Priest newbie, though I strongly recommend it also to any avid Priest fan that hasn’t listened to it yet. Get it now and embrace the faith!
Expectations were fairly high when Halford returned to Judas Priest. After all, was the band ready to deliver a “Painkiller” part II? Had the band the motivation, the will and the talent to compose another great record? And so, is “Angel of Retribution” any good?
Yes, it is good, that's for sure, it is a very good record, in fact. This album still sounds somewhat fresh and powerful, the typical heavy metal the band had performed for years blending perfectly with a pure classical rock sound deeply incorporated in this piece. “Wheels of Fire” is a perfect example of a song that while containing many heavy metal elements, still carries a strong classic rock vibe. The variety of “Angel of Retribution” is also a plus, with the presence of some ballads and even an epic number, which speaks about the Lochness monster (how power metal-ish, boy!).
Halford can't do that high pitched screams often again and that is clearly shown here: don't expect a Painkiller-like performance by him, bear in mind that he's older now. He still delivers a very nice performance, though, songs like “Angel” benefit a lot from his emotional, heartfelt performance: he still sounds passionate and lively throughout the entire record, good work, Rob! The same thing goes to the pair of guitar players, as this record is filled with intense riffage and blazing solos... Ok, not as blazing and intense as the ones on, say, “Metal Meltdown”, but still energic and headbangable. Scott Travis is not the monster he used to be (at least the performance here doesn't match the level of intensity he was able to put into the music in some of his past performances), but still a solid player, expect lots of double-bass parts and such.
Highlights? There are no weak songs here, nor pure masterpieces, but there are some great numbers that are absolutely worth mentioning. “Judas Rising” mananges to be a pretty good and intense opener, thanks to the raw drum work of a powerful Travis and to the catchy chorus: “Judas is risiiiiiing”! Yeah, I think so! “Deal with the Devil” is another powerful song, a typical heavy metal take filled with some good solos, recalling the golden past of the band. Another saddly underrated song is “Hellrider” that despite sharing a similar intro with “Judas is Rising” is a great track, one of the heaviest of the album. Its lyrics also recall the Painkiller times (“Hellrider” - “Hell Patrol”). All those songs also benefit from a pretty good production, which highlights the guitar work and the vocals. The bass is, again, inaudible, but oh well...
“Demonizer” is, simply put, the best aggressive, straight forward song of the album, its outro absolutely brings the track to heaven (“Demonizer!! Out, out Demons out!” - fantastic vocals, indeed).
However, there's also a couple of more calm, more laid-back songs, that still sound pretty good, and turn this album into a varied listening experience. “Angel” is a nice little piece, even containing some tasteful acoustic guitar licks and also featuring a passionate vocal performance. “Worth Fighting For”, despite also being a ballad, is a bit different, mainly because of the use of the drums, since “Angel” is a 100% drum-free tune. Anyways, “Worth Fighting For” isn't a great song, all in all, despite being the one where the bass guitar is more audible (tehre's even a bass intro, yay!). “Wheels of Fire”, despite being a lot heavier than, say, “Angel”, is a bit different than the other powerful, straight forward songs of the album, as it is one of the tracks that carries a lot of classic rock elements, the same thing going to “Revolution”, the single, a tune that is INSANELY catchy and vicious. About “Lochness”, it sounds like a decent, almost atmospheric, metal take, but not a masterpiece, far from it unfortunately. The chorus is pretty epic, though, but the song could be better if it was written about some other subject. Meh, I guess that there are other bands that write even more stupid lyrics, so nevermind.
Conclusion: after years and years of composing music, Judas Priest manages to create a new album that still sounds fresh and interesting, after all. Forget Halford's high pitched screams of the past and prepare yourself for a varied and tasteful listening experience with “Angel of Retribution”. The production is amazing and there are no really weak tracks, so every song is solid in its own way and deserves a listen. Another good album by one of the bands responsible for the creation of one of the best music genres ever: heavy metal (the Manowar spirit!).
Best Moments of the CD:
-The explosion of “Judas is Rising”.
-the breakdown of “Revolution”.
Decent, solid and worth listening, all in all.
No time like the present to explain why I worship the Priest. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any other band that has managed to release a substantial catalogue of 15 studio albums, each of which manages to be distinct from the other whilst shifting dramatically between styles amongst groups of albums, and yet still remains distinctly Heavy Metal - Judas Priest style. Angel Of Retribution continues this pattern, and does so very well if you ask me. But will there be new elements that could put off some listeners? Eyes down to find out, dear reader...
This album seems to be a microcosm of Priest's entire career, in the way that it shifts between styles. This is not to say that different songs on here sound overtly like they're from older albums. Though heavier songs such as Demonizer and Hellrider have the aggressive, razor-sharp elements of Ram It Down and Painkiller, and the relatively more laid-back songs hark back to the catchy yet punchy British Steel era, this is a distinctly new Priest album.
The album has it's own distinct sound, and does the full range of traditional Heavy Metal songwriting within it. Angel redeems every soppy ballad you've heard dragging down a Metal album with evocative lyrics and a brilliantly paced crescendo throughout the song. Worth Fighting For and Wheels Of Fire represent a laid-back, 'driving music' style of rocking - the former quietly, almost semi-acoustically (in terms of lack of distortion, not campfire guitars), while the latter packs more punch with distorted chugga riffing. From there we have the middle ground rockers that should please everyone, including the chorus-filled Revolution. Anthemic stadium rocker or just too repetitive with the choruses? It just boils down to how you feel about those kind of songs! The heaviness is upped with the aforementioned Demonizer and Hellrider, before culminating with the epic Lochness. Clocking in at 13 minutes (16 if you count the brooding, tranquil Eulogy preceeding it), it's length alone is a first for Priest. It lumbers along almost like the beast it describes - awkwardly? Maybe. Helping ground this monstrosity is a crazy pinch-harmonic riff, something I haven't heard from Priest before, unless I happily overlooked it on one of the Ripper albums. All in all, something for everyone. Luckily it all merges together into a coherant whole - no good having something for everyone if they hate the stuff that doesn't suit their exact taste.
I feel obliged to point out the 15 years between this and Rob Halford's previous album with Priest, Painkiller. What's apparent from his return? For starters, the shriek from bygone years seems to be reserved for the choir of backing vocals. The lead vocals are mostly mid-range, though all the different pitches in the background suggest that Rob had great fun in the studio making all sorts of noises. A Fight-esque grunt is even apparent on Hellrider, indeed some of the riffing is reminiscent of the Fight project. However, they do not dominate the album. The traditional twin lead guitar attack is still the cornerstone of Judas Priest, and Glenn and K.K. do more than just trade solos here. Lots of meedly-meedly playing off each other, yes please.
Something else older fans will pick up on is the recycling of lyrical ideas from previous albums. The Hellion, Painkiller, sad wings, the Tyrant ramming it down, the Sentinel's stained class...it's all there. The lyrical theme of Deal With The Devil even harks back to Made In Hell from Halford's Resurrection album. The continued association of Halford with producer Roy Z gives the album a thick and chunky sound similar to that of Resurrection, and don't we just love the way it leaps out of the speaker. Do we? (some don't...) *ahem* anyway...recycling lyrics...lazy and unrewarding to hear? I dunno...when you're familiar with the artwork and sounds associated with these, it helps to evoke some pretty dramatic images. Take it as you will.
Maybe it's a loaded review, because as a Priest fan I'm instantly going to jump on what's good about the album. I do honestly think, though, that Angel Of Retribution pulls off enough tricks to satisfy both the grizzled, bitter old fan, and the n00b. Bring on the next one and another tour passing through Plymouth, I say. Can't get enough of this stuff...
Originally written for http://www.metalmongrel.com
For some inexplicable reason, Priest's return-to-form and first record with high-flying vocalist Rob Halford has become something of a whipping boy in the metal community. Doubtless a great deal of this is backlash from a number of fanboys heralding it as the greatest thing since, well, Painkiller, and we've seen this same sort of reactionary swing in regards to the three Maiden comeback albums as well. Fortunately, *most of* this criticism is *mostly* unwarranted; and, while this is by no means the greatest thing in Priest's back catalogue, it is a fine collection to any metalhead's collection.
Things kick off in a big way with the intro track "Judas Is Rising", and almost immediately one senses the return to a sort of camaraderie long missing in Priest's 90's output. Featuring a trademark wail over a riff that is nothing short of molten, Halford makes himself a welcome addition to the Priest fold. "Deal With The Devil" follows, and slows things down a tad while hearkening back to Priest's mid-80's sound - and there's a lot of that all over this record: as one past reviewer has put it, it does try to please everyone, and, for the most part, it works.
"Revolution", the lead-off single, is one of the lesser tracks on the album, but not bland enough or commercial enough to be called filler. Fortunately it is brief, and segues nicely into a trilogy of excellent tunes, "Worth Fighting For" (one of the better ballads the band has recorded) and two smoking cuts in "Demonizer" and "Wheels of Fire". The former sounds like a synthesis of Painkiller and Jugulator, and, while this might sound unappealing for the old-school metalhead, it works surprisingly well and also happens to be my favorite track on the album. "Wheels of Fire" is slower, but no less powerful, featuring an incredibly crunchy and slightly-dissonant riff and a vocal line so contagious that I've been humming it since I first heard the record two years ago (and my throat is quite sore, I must say).
"Angel", unfortunately, is an almost intolerable ballad: Priest has never been good at this sort of thing ("Dreamer Deceiver" notwithstanding), and one would hope that they'd have realized by now that balladry is quite outside their niche. Things pick up, however, with "Hellrider", which does sound a great deal like a Painkiller cut, but with far more atmosphere than anything on that record save for "Nightcrawler" and "A Touch of Evil" - the choir-like refrain in particular is suitably dark. "Euology" is yet another ballad, but much more suitable than the aforementioned "Angel", and "Lochness" closes the album on an epically high note, both literally and figuratively, albiet one laden with cheese.
This is not a bad album. Neither is it exceptional. What it is is a heartfelt return by a band that had strayed from the straight-and-narrow and returned to it in fine form. While it is no doubt grating to see fanboys shrieking about how this is one of the best albums of all time, it is just as annoying to detect the trace of resentment in individuals who feel the need to downplay the album in reaction. This is a very good - not great, but very good - record made by a great band. Let us be happy, at least, that it marks the end to Priest's stylistic heresies.
Bring on Nostradamus.
Judas Priest fans, the wait is finally over! The mighty Priest has come roaring back with a brand new Dual Disc that is absolutely stunning. From the killer theme of the cover and packaging to the “Reunited” DVD disc side to most importantly, the awesome actual album itself. “Angel Of Retribution” is a show stopping listen as the group once again joins forces with vocalist Rob Halford in order to create what could possibly be considered to be the defining Judas Priest album.
There is a vibe that flows through this record that gives you the impression that nothing ever changed with the band and the time Halford has spent away seems to have resulted in a bout of creativity and focus that is unparalleled in the group’s tenured history. This is a record that long time fans of the group have been hoping and praying for and it does not disappoint in any manner whatsoever. From the blistering metal anthem “Deal With The Devil” to the harmonic and truly beautiful ballad “Angel”, this album has everything that fans love about the band and then some.
Rob Halford’s high pitched scream seems to have a rejuvenated power on the first single, “Revolution”. Here, the vocalist uses his signature dynamics in order to create a powerful ambience that shows exactly why he is one of the most highly regarded singers in the history of metal. Speaking of history, Priest do much to rewrite their own history by nailing tracks like “Worth Fighting For” and “Judas Rising” with a feeling they only can create, expanding on sounds they originally created on “Stained Class” and “British Steel” to a high degree of success.
The massive, doom laden strains of the 13 minute tour de force “Lochness” in one song, manage to symbolize everything that this record, and for that matter, Judas Priest are all about. Powerful harmonies, crunching guitars of steel and gigantic beats all mesh perfectly on this track, summing up the album with an enormous point of exclamation that screams “Priest IS heavy metal!”
The DVD side of this disc is worth the cost alone, featuring interviews with the respective band members on the reformation of the metal gods along with some superb footage taken from the band’s 2004 “reunited” tour that show the band back on stage in fine form, Harley-Davidson, leather, spikes and all. This lengthy documentary includes clips of classics like “A Touch Of Evil”, “Diamonds And Rust” and a version of “Living After Midnight” which displays an enthralled crowd with fists firmly in the air pogoing to the song with savage intensity. The greatest part about the DVD is the opportunity to hear the members speak passionately in regard to the reformation, which makes for some truly memorable moments. As an added value, the DVD side also contains the entire “Angel Of Retribution” album in it’s entirety in enhanced stereo sound. While each individual track plays, a different screensaver featuring the astounding art which graces the album cover and liner is displayed. Although Priest is known for metal, well known as the band that originally took metal to its most extreme in the 70’s, they truly shine on the mellowest track you will find on “Angel Of Retribution”, the haunting ballad “Angel”. This cut is quite simply, one of the best songs the group has ever put together.
Omnipresent keyboardist Don Airey also makes a guest performance on the eerie “Eulogy”, bringing warmth to the track with a somber piano performance. As the preeminent godfathers of metal, Judas Priest manages to accomplish here what few others have, a reunion effort that outmatches the greatest works of their career. That in itself is no small feat for a band that has created so many classic songs.
“Angel Of Retribution” reestablishes Judas Priest as a heavyweight in the metal world, and for long time fans of the band this album will resonate with tremendous force for quite some time. All hail the metal gods!
All right, as you now know by now Rob Halford has rejoined the Judas Priest fold. Which translates to 80 percent of their mullet-headed, brain dead fanbase “forgot” that they actually had another singer, you know that guy from Akron, Ohio? Ergo, “Priest is back!”
Anyhow, surely by now you have either dusted off your Defenders of the Faith vinyl or remember that there actually IS a Judas Priest album out there called Jugulator, surely you have all heard the call for the Priest. Angel of Retribution, the first Judas Priest album with the “original lineup” in 15 years, so can the almighty Priest do it? Can they break the habit of releasing a stagnant album in the aftermath of a stellar reunion tour? Yes and no.
I won’t lie to you kids, even the Metal Gods themselves are still mere mortals and just like the rest of us they piss the bed from time to time. However, they don’t totally fall into cruise control. We start off with Judas Rising. We get a nice guitar intro that builds up and up and then the drums kick in. I have to say that despite that divided stance that fans have taken from the 97-02 years, this is DEFINITELY the song that screams Priest is Back!
You have it all, the guitar crunch of Glen and KK, the hammering low end of Ian and Scott and of course, the wails of the mighty Metal God himself, Rob Halford. Some will say that by song title alone, its nothing more than self indulgent dreck but to you I say shut the fuck up, even Judas Priest can indulge in self indulgence once in a while.
Coming up next we have Deal with the Devil. Listening to Deal with the Devil right after Judas Rising is like coming down from a speedball: the rush isn’t as intense but it’s still there. A few references to past accomplishments aside, it holds its own in Priest-dom.
Next we have Revolution. This is a question for those wrestling fans out there: you know how once in a while you’ll see a wrestler that has a vintage image? You know you laugh and you remember the good times you had back then? Then you remember the here and the now? Revolution is that song. It’s not bad, it’s just simply too much nostalgia too early in the album for a band that never really went away.
Next we have the red headed stepchild black sheep of the album: Worth Fighting For. This falls into the same category as previous songs such as Before the Dawn, Night Comes Down, and Out in the Cold: you'll either love it because it shows a tender side of Priest or you’ll hate it because it shows a tender side of Priest. This writer does like it but for those that have not heard the album you have been warned and for all the jackasses out there that will continue to bitch, I told you so.
Next we have Demonizer which continues the rapid fire (no pun intended) approach that we had with tracks 2 and 3. When putting the terms Judas Priest and kicks ass together, I don’t have to explain much. However, I would like to note that judging from the lyrics, we finally get to see a written out story of the cover of Metal Works, you know where The Hellion, The Metallian, and Painkiller are duking it out? My money is on Painkiller.
We keep the adrenaline rolling with Wheels of Fire and to modify my previous statement, when the term’s adrenaline and Judas Priest go together, I don’t have to explain myself.
Next we get Angel, which in all actuality sounds like a nice distant cousin of their revamped revamped version of Diamonds and Rust. As with Worth Fighting For, listen at your own risk and I told ya so.
Next we have Hellrider. This song reads more like a copy of Judas Priest’s Discography for Dummies more than it does Judas Priest circa 2005. Next we have a song called Eulogy. I am suddenly reminded of a previous album featuring an ANGEL on the cover, this ANGEL looked very SAD, he had something wrapped around his WINGS, I think it was called “The Angel Who Was Sad About Something”.
In all honesty, not a bad song and definitely a nice build to the album finale: Lochness. Now the epic metal song is something that Judas Priest doesn’t really do. However, for a band that has built its reputation for the past 30 years on whips and chains and heavy metal, they do pull it off.
To understand the scope of the song, it’s about the Loch Ness Monster. A creature that was supposedly seen in one of Scotland's many lakes and many scientists have theorized that perhaps it is a surviving creature from one of those ages when dinosaurs walked the earth. The song has the perfect buildup required of a heavy metal epic; you can actually picture the creature rising out of the gray mists of Scotland. I have to admit that the chorus is pretty damn catchy and at least for this writer, it does leave a sense of longing for what he knows amongst its listener.
Alrighty then, the album is now over. I’ll be honest; this album is a bit of a builder. When I first bought the album the only two songs I cared for was Judas Rising and Demonizer, but it has since grown on me as a whole.
I’ll be honest with you: there are going to be those that completely embrace this album because its Judas Priest; and there are going to be those that do in fact call it self indulgent dreck; there are going to be those that are going to be disappointed because we didn’t see Rob’s newly acquired interest in black and death metal get a bit of Priest injection. However, there are going to be those that will actually LISTEN to this album over a period of time and let it grow on them in some manner and not automatically dismiss it as some 13 year old girl saying its worse than Turbo.
At the end of the day if you like it, keep listening to it. If you hate it and can’t stop bitching about it, then get your Cheeto-moustached ass off the computer and go to a used CD store, they do exist for a reason you know.
I pride myself on being objective about metal records. True, I can't resist dropping in my fanboy moments (look away from that Train of Thought review), but on the whole I like to think that I'm one of the more objective reviewers on this site. Pure oozing metal man-love is a nice read, but does it help you choose what records are good enough for your hallowed collection? At the least I try to offer something in my own particular idiom. Now that that's out of the way... Angel of Retribution.
AoR is a record that is aimed for the long time Priest fan, which is all things considered the way it should be and probably the only way to go because Priest's reputation has suffered over the years with the mainstream. So, like good little elves, Priest stuffs every nook and cranny of this record with references to older works. You can scarce go ten feet in any direction without stumbling over tyrants and painkillers and sentinels soaring down on sad wings from blood red skies, and frankly its a little distracting. I appreciate that they are embracing their history (if not so much revisiting it), but when you reference say, "Deceiver", you invite comparisons to past triumphs that you more than likely cannot top. But hey, they don't have to anymore do they? FINALLY, Judas Priest is in a position where they have general good faith on their side. All they had to do was beat Demolition and Jugulator and people would be glad to worship at their (w)heels. Mission accomplished guys.
Truth be told, Angel of Retribution is an admirable record in a lot of ways. Yep, I ADMIRE a Judas Priest record. That fact alone is enough to make this entire Angel of Retribution experience worthwhile for me. I admire them because they decided not to ape their old sounds and ram a whole album worth of British Steel or Painkiller-lite down our collective throats. This stuff is pureblood heavy metal, with a welcome side of classic rock, and the results are occasionally lovely. "Worth Fighting For", for example, houses no truly innovative thoughts but my fucking God, its mellow Judas Priest that manages to be moving. I don't give a damn about the lyrical content (which is actually quite good on this track) or the story being told, I am moved by the purity of these riffs, by the warmth and passion in Rob Halford voice, by a solo that (no lie) can put a hitch in my throat by being so honest. Honesty alone, something that has been lacking from Priest's work since Hell Bent for Leather is enough here, the sheer absence of artifice and pretension helping me to accept Angel of Retribution into my heart.
There's a sweet naivetï¿½ here, a nostalgia invoked even on tracks that are utterly alien to the Priest catalogue. "Lochness" is a bloated, overwrought piece of epic doom that has such a silly base (its about the fucking Lochness Monster!) that you laugh and accept Priest at face value because they conceal nothing from you. We're writing songs about children's stories, and we're writing them with utter seriousness and considerable heaviness. Well okay Priest, I'll let it pass and rock on without regret. Yes, the song is artificially extended (most ill-advised faux-fade out ever) but Halford is so thespian, his performance of these words so inspired and those riffs so damned heavy and propulsive that even this befuddled boggy abortion becomes worthy of the thirteen minutes spent on it. And hell, lyrically it isn't even that bad. Were it not for the screaming fact that this song is being written about the Lochness Monster, these lyrics would rank as perhaps the best on the album.
Rob Halford rarely shreds his upper register as he did on past triumphs, but in exchange he delivers a heartfelt and impeccably chosen performance that leaves a deep impression. Halford was often saddled with the job of saving the band from its own stupidity, the man gifted with an innate ability to deliver us from the demons of cheese, his undeniable talent and sheer presence making us forget words like 'vaporapeize' and songs about forced oral sex. He faces his greatest test here on "Angel", wherein he is charged to stand alone and redeem an irredeemably sappy song. Seventh-grade quality poetry, and an opening few minutes in which he is near enough acapella, left to endure the attentions of the unbelievers who inevitably laugh at the fragility of it. Rob Halford delivers a sobbingly emotional performance, raw and yet perfectly shaded. The way his voice wavers on those opening few bars, almost tricking us into believing he hasn't got what it takes to make this thing work, then grows stronger and more confidant as Tipton & Downing contribute a stirring Spanish-flavoured acoustic guitar line underneath, building up to the point where it works in spite of itself, like "Lochness". "Angel" reminds me of works like "Last Rose of Summer" and "Dreamer Deceiver", and although it is not a classic by the very fact that Priest is able to evoke such tender memories of their 70's output I am compelled to honour their effort.
Priest doesn't neglect the more extreme aspects of their sound either, immediately obvious from the opening of "Judas is Rising"/"Hellrider"... err, sorry, they apparently forgot that they used that trebly guitar intro twice on the damned record, but in spite of this little lapse the trio of 'intense' Priest songs ("Judas is Rising", "Demonizer", and "Hellrider") is highly impressive. Of the three, my favourite is "Demonizer" which features quite a lot of vengeful preaching which I as always dig, particularly the delivery of the line "Its Gideon's quest to take Satan's throne!". Now, I always thought that Gideon was a guy who distributed little red bibles to school kids, but I guess I was wrong. "Demonizer" is all evangelical fire and brimstone and the riffing is deadly, both of which can be said about "Judas is Rising" which is actually pretty damned good lyrically. Itï¿½s always interesting when you get power metal through the looking glass, generally from bands who predate the form and know how it SHOULD have been done. "Hellrider" is the weakest of the trinity, being too much of a construct in some ways, too pseudo-Painkiller in a way that "Demonizer" somehow isn't, but even so the almost churchy outro riffery is bloody brilliant.
And wonder of wonders (he says, gleefully hopping to a new topic), Tipton & Downing have excised the wretched modern soloing of the Owens years and have created varied, interesting, and memorable solos of a quality at least on par with the Painkiller album. Consider closely the solo-riff section of the deathly catchy "Revolution", or the jagged Dave Mustaine-like whammy-wrecking first few seconds of the "Demonizer" solo which descends into hearty shredding, more riffing, and an almost "Victim of Changes"-like solo fill which churns into more riffing underneath a shattering Halford vocal.
And oh, oh... "Deal with the Devil" is another one of those freshly unoriginal tracks that kicks ass. It gives off vibes similar to Maiden's "Wildest Dreams" (one of these days I'll review Priest without mentioning Maiden, I fucking swear it...), its a 'we built this city on [metal] 'n' roll' type lyric, its a standard quick-but-not-speed riff, with standard darting solo-fills coming out of the woodwork (Scorpions were probably best at this)... and its just so effortlessly crafted that it seems timeless. It is perfect for driving down the road to a concert, gettin' juiced on heavy rock, hanging out with your buddies. And if Rob talks about whips and chains, who's to know and who'll judge? Not I.
If it sounds like I'm making excuses left and right for Angel of Retribution, well, I'm not. Angel of Retribution is cheesy at times, poorly thought-out at others, even laughable ("Conjures up an ageless spell/guarded by the sentinel" in a ballad ferthaluvvagawd) but it rises above (on sad wings or something) this to be their best record since 1984. Most times when bands try many different styles on one album, they're just throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks and more often than not the only result is a shitty wall and a half-baked album. Others have every song the same and the effect is lost (Painkiller, Dehumanizer, Reign in Blood, etc.). Here, Priest has made a diverse album that has an impressive array of stylistic changes track to track (the first four tracks particularly), and if it isn't as overflowing with ideas and ethereal creativity as Sin After Sin, at the very least it makes me think of that record.
Judas Priest has made a record that is flawed, but not deeply so, and good, but not profoundly so. It is a record that takes steps forward by refusing to stagnate, by denying the sins of the 90s, by not being afraid to be metal in all of the commercial suicide glory of that word. They even launched this record in the same week 50 Cent's massively popular The Massacre was released. So as an album, it was quite good and worth your hard-earned dime. As a testament to Judas Priest, and as an album that creates a comforting warm in my belly, Angel of Retribution is worth more than words.
Stand-Outs: "Worth Fighting For", "Demonizer", "Deal with the Devil"
I've been shocked by some of the criticism this release has received. I know shouldn't be, but damnit, I just am. There is a little bastion of people out there in the Metal community who like the idea of setting themselves up as the most tuned-in, finger-on-the-pulse people there are, the sort of people idiots like me need to tell them what's good. The sort of people who - quite rightly - dislike the automatic high marks releases like Angel of Retribution are going to get from the mainstream Metal media (alliteration, kids!), but then do the most fucking stupid thing imaginable by convincing themselves the opposite is true. They then proceed to trash the album with the same horrifying delight (behind a facade of feeling let down, of course) that your average Kerrang! hack takes in spewing his sycophantic praise over it.
Now I'm not saying that every negative review of the album is based on this premise, but we all know who these people are and how they get their kicks out of feeling more enlightened than everyone else.
Anyway, rant over, onto the review. Is this Stained Class? No. Is this Painkiller? No. Is this easily better than the depressing attempts at staying young Priest put out in Halford's absence? Fuck yes. Without wanting to belittle the excellent Tim Owens, Jugulator is one of the most embarrassing CDs in my collection. I know this isn't exactly a refreshing thing to read, but Hell, it’s true. The fact is, the return to a classic Metal style by Priest after Halford's return would have been better than their 90s output almost by default. Even Turbo part 2 would have been acceptable, and it pains me to say that.
The good news is that this album is good. Not classic, but seriously, very good. Better than Turbo by some way and simply pissing on the dreck Priest put out when trying to latch onto the Thrash Metal sound ten years too late. The album opens with Judas Rising and after the quiet build up this song just kicked my arse. Yeah, after a few listens it did occur to me that a slightly faster opening track may have been a better idea, but this is a great song. And just listen - duelling guitars in a Judas Priest song. What a novel idea. Fucking late 90s. Anyway, the second song is Deal With The Devil and it keeps up the kicking of my arse from the first track. Not as memorable as its predecessor, but Angel of Retribution definitely opens with the essential 1-2 strike of Heavy Metal album.
And then? Yeah, Revolution sucks (See! I can criticise this album!). Worst song on the album, easily. The same boring, generic rock riff over and over again. I did start to worry a bit on hearing this one. I've got no problem with making an obvious single, but Christ, at least make it a GOOD obvious single. The only plus point is that this is maybe the first time in Priest history you can clearly hear Ian Hill.
Worth Fighting For has taken a lot of stick, mainly for not being heavy enough, which is one of the most gormless things you can criticise Judas Priest for. I mean, Screaming For Vengeance was hardly necro was it? The song is ballad-esque (the power ballad on this album is yet to come) and is about struggling on bravely when you believe in something and all that jazz and damnit if it doesn't get the old hairs on the back of the neck standing on end. Priest have done this sort of song before in the past, and better too, but that doesn't detract from how enjoyable this one is in its own right.
Next up is Demonizer and my arse is well and truly kicked once more with this little slice of Painkiller. This is the closest thing on the record to that album where Priest flamed out so gloriously, with Scott Travis' double bass pedals getting a good exercise for the first time since the opening track, and the guitar is oddly reminiscent of when Slayer were a good band.
Wheels Of Fire is an up-tempo rocker that feels more like British Steel/Screaming For Vengeance era-Priest than anything else. Not exactly memorable though. Next up is Angel, the previously hinted at power ballad. This is not what the band is really known for, but it works. I like it. The gentle acoustics eventually give way to electrics and disappointingly, not much of a solo, but Halford's emotional vocals really shine on this track... "Put sad wings around me now...” Aw, Hell yeah.
Hellrider gets the tempo up again with another nod back to Painkiller. KK and Glenn just fucking smoke on this track, and Rob's double-tracked vocals screech with serious menace. We then move onto Eulogy which, while good, perhaps could have been better. The piano on this mournful tribute to the rise and fall of bands (at least that's what I got from it) is played by the returning Don Airey. I like the feel of this song; I just wish Priest had gone a little further with it. It's gone almost before it has begun, if you know what I mean.
And then...THEN...it’s Lochness. The naysayers can shut the fuck up - this song is immense, and it just isn't a second too long. A 13 minute song about the Loch Ness Fucking Monster...how can it not be incredible? Alright, I jest - this song could have been a disaster, but the fact is that it's not. From the Sabbath-esque riffing at the beginning through to some truly incredible vocal melodies that mask the admittedly silly lyrics, this song is a beast of the proportions of the titular creature. I can't recommend it enough, it's just so haunting, menacing and strangely tragic. Really awakens the overly-sentimental Scottish bastard in me.
So...Angel Of Retribution isn't Judas Priest's best album. Did we have any right to expect it to be? I don't think so, not after a 14-year gap in the writing process. This is still a top, top album and easily one of the better releases of 2005 so far.
For fans of: Iron Maiden, Dio, and just Heavy Metal in general.
Top songs: Judas Rising, Demonizer, Lochness
You know, I really wanted to give this album a good rating. I really did. Nothing woulda pleased me more than to be able to say that "With Halford back in the fold, Judas Priest will once again rule the metal universe! 10/10, 5 stars, 100%!", but there is no way I can do that after listening to Angel of Retribution.
The album doesn't start off too bad with Judas Rising, the anthem declaring that Judas Priest has returned, and the only song on this record that deserves to be included in the band's live set when they go on tour. I really don't like the guitar riff, which is downtuned and repetitive, sounding like something ripped off from *insert bad modern metal band here*, but other than that, it's a decent song.
The second track, Deal With The Devil, in contrast to Judas Rising, opens with a classic Priest riff, and is a solid fast number... Until you get to the chorus, which reminds me of Devil's Child, the closing track off of Screaming For Vengeance. Not that Devil's Child is a bad song, it's just a slow one, and its chorus is definitely outta place here.
The next song, Revolution, follows the cliched 80's hard rock/pop metal pattern of "Hey, let's have just the drummer play on the verses, and then we'll all come in for the chorus! Yeah!". Sorry guys, but it's been done ad nauseum...
So, one third of the way into the album (well, trackwise, anyways) and I'm no longer seeing Angel of Retribution as Priest's return to form. I'm thinking that there's no way it gets 100 percent, but maybe a 75 or an 80, which isn't bad. Unfortunately, it gets worse from there.
Track 4, Worth Fighting For, starts off with a good bass riff from Ian Hill... but unfortunately, it's a ballad, and not a very good one, either. The next two tracks, Demonizer and Wheels Of Fire, sound like Ripper Owens material, with downtuned guitars, and Halford sounding like a bad cover band singer. Hell, if those two songs were recorded when Ripper was still in the band, all the Halford lovers would probably think they sucked, too.
So, after two mediocre rockers, what comes next? Another ballad, of course, and perhaps the sappiest one Priest has done to date. As a longtime fan, I honestly think that Angel is the worst Judas Priest song ever (with Halford that is, I won't even get into the Owens years...) - yes, even worse than Eat Me Alive and Turbo Lover! I can't even imagine what coulda been going through the guys' heads as they were recording this one... "Look out, world, Judas Priest is gonna take over adult contemporary radio!" Yeesh!
Fortunately, they manage to save grace (somewhat) with the next song, Hellrider, which sounds like a reject from the Painkiller sessions, making it the only song on this record that woulda fit on Painkiller. I don't care for the backing vocals on the verses, but it's the first decent song I've heard past track 2, so it's only a minor nuisance.
Next comes Eulogy, which might as well be called "The Epilogue To Beyond The Realms Of Death". They even find a way to slip the words Stained Class into the lyrics. Fortunately, it only lasts for 3 minutes.
So now, with the record almost over (or so I thought), I figured I had to reevaluate my position. I was thinking about giving it a 60, or maybe a 65, tops, when along came a song that could challenge Angel for worst Priest song. Loch Ness is Priest's attempt at writing a power metal epic (a la Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, perhaps?). Well, either that, or Sony told them that they weren't gonna settle for anything less than a 52 and a half minute long record, and when the band had 9 songs clocking in at less than 40 minutes, they decided to play one great big long song to take up the rest of the time.
There is just so many things wrong with Loch Ness. First of all, the lyrical content. I mean, the Loch Ness Monster? Not surprisingly, I've never heard a metal song about it before, seeing how it stopped being believable, or even interesting, for most people when they turned 10 years old. (Grow up, Rob!)
Another annoying aspect is the operatic backing vocals on the chorus. They work fine for the likes of Blind Guardian and Virgin Steele, but sound terrible behind the aging Halford's wails. (Perhaps it's time to admit you're not Bruce Dickinson, eh Robbo?)
But, without a doubt, the worst thing about this song is the fact that it drags on, and on, and on, and on, until you're about ready to take the CD out of the stereo and bash yourself over the head with it. I mean, the first "ending" (since it seems like the song will end) around the 8-10 minute mark (I forgot to make note of the exact time) was lame enough, what with the choral singing, and all, followed by Halford showing us how long he can hold a note for... but then the song keeps going! For another four fucking minutes, no less! By the time it finally ended, my mind was made up; I had no choice but to give Angel of Retribution the first failing grade of any album I have reviewed for Metal Archives.
Now, I don't normally slam records just for the sake of slamming them, but, honestly, Angel of Retribution ruined my day. This was my most anticipated release of the year, what with Halford being back in the fold, and all. Having left us with Painkiller, and then going on to release an excellent solo album in Resurrection, I was expecting more of the same from Halford here. And, while the vocals weren't the most disappointing element of this record, I was really bummed out after hearing it.
Having thought about it for a while, I suppose what makes this album so bad is that Judas Priest, as a creative entity, seems to have stagnated. All the songs on this record sound either recycled, or just unPriestly in the first place. Maybe it's time for the boys to stop putting out new material and just stick to the touring circuit. Me, I never thought I'd see the day when I'd say that Iron Maiden was way better than Judas Priest, always having been more of a Priest fan, myself, but comparing Angel of Retribution to Maiden's latest, Dance Of Death, would be like comparing Poison's Look What The Cat Dragged In album to Bethoven's Ninth Symphony. That's how wide the gap is between the two NWOBHM legends these days. Needless to say, I no longer worship the ground Rob Halford walks on.
Now, in case I haven't made it obvious, I'm pretty bummed out about this record. So much, in fact, that I considered taking it back to the store after one listen. I didn't, however, although I did go to a used record store and picked up Fight's '93 release, War of Words. Maybe if I can fool myself into thinking that it's the new Priest record instead of the piece of trash I purchased a couple hours earlier, I'll be able to convince myself to shell out 50 bucks when (if?) they come to town in support of it...
The Priest is back!!! Rob Halford is back in the trenches of the metal war with Downing, Tipton and Hill and the band has finally found that rock and roll groove that made them a powerful force in the late 70's and early 80's. Sure, the fucking nerds (you know who you are you pencil necked pieces of shit) will whne that this isn't "Painkiller" but this...in my opinion is MUCH BETTER in many ways. THE PRIEST OF THE 70'S ARE BACK!!! The production is tight (possibly a little too tight)
I normally don't do song by song breakdowns...but with a record of this size it's absolutely fucking nessecary. So here we go...jumping on the wings of the "Angel of Retribution"...
1. Judas Rising: This is the records classic. No doubt. The opening tribute (but not rip-off) to "Victim of Changes" flows gently like a stream and eventually builds into an epic boiling sea of guitars and drums that function more like a classical piece than a piece of heavy metal. Rob's lyrics and summoning voice bring out the apocalypse and it's forms making this song the albums TRUE epic and an emotional opening to the return of the Gods.
2. Deal with the Devil: There is no doubt that this is the catchiest number on the record. The hammering opening riff and catchy vocals show that Priest can still deliver the goods like anyone else. The chorus will stick in your head for the next year and thats what really matters here. This is probably the catchiest thing the band has done since "Jawbreaker".
3. Revolution: This call to arms is the worst track on the albums but is by no means bad. The band sway and crunch through a strange 1970's styled song that works new things into the old "United" style anthem. It's a lot of fun, but hardly the reason to buy this record.
4. Worth Fight For: This odd 1980's ballad will please many and piss off even more. It's not a metal tune, but is quite creative despite what seems to be a slight Kreator nick. Otherwise...it's a quality ballad type tune if you dig that sort of thing.
5. Wheels of Fire: This is one of my faves...total rock and roll and lyrics to set burn rubber and leave the world behind. This track is a total rock and roller that the "Painkiller" fans with hate, but the fans of the great rock and roll past will love. Eh...fuck'em!
6. Demonizer: Whoa...this megaton "Stained Class" meets Slayer monster has some rather silly lyrics but is a catchy cruncher overall. This will take a listen or two...but the groove and shouts of "...out demos out!" will win the masses over with nary a moment!
7. Angel: This second ballad is quite powerful with its references to "Sad Wings" and it's sad vibe that hooks someone in and shows them the softer side of Rob Halford's voice. If one needs a comparison, the bonus track "Turn on Your Light" from "Defenders..." is the closest song to this. Rob puts on a clinic of notes here that needs to be recognized for it's catchy chorus/melodies.
8: Hellrider: This is another classic that mixes the classic 1970's vibe of Priest and mixes it with an intense Slayer vibe. This is a classic despite the rather silly lyrics and Rob shows that he is in firm control of the mic. Such dramatic delivery from the Metal Gods show that even in his mid-range he understands the epic nature of the chord changes.
9. Eulogy: This little ballady piano piece is quite fun but the lyrics are leading up to the guffaw-inducing final track. This should be listened to on it's own...as the lyrics aren't have as offensive until we move into...
10. Lochness: HA! The music on this piece if amazing. The opening strains of guitars-as-babpipes and the ominous main riff rule the house. Sadly...the lyrics will please the geeks and give them a "monster" to enjoy. This is sad really...and I only hope that Rob himself has a sense of humor about the whole affair. We can't explain it at all...but...the music and vocals rule...right?
For all you geeks, nerds and video-game losers who wants another record built for drooling and not-getting-laid I'm sorry. This album isn't for you. Get lost, go play your dungeons and wagons crap and get the fuck out of my face. Judas Priest has found the rock and roll lust that drove them intially and delivered a quality slab of heavy fucking metal that might not challenge their legacy...but it sure as hell fucking rocks.
Buy or die ya geeks!
WHY? That's the only word my tortured mind could muster after the last track on Angel of Retribution came to a close. A legendary band with killer albums under their belt, back from the dead with the one and only Halford returned at the helm...and THIS is what came out of it? What a horrible, horrible disappointment.
After waiting expectantly for a chance to give a listen to the newest album from one of my favorite bands, I finally got my grubby little paws on it and excitedly hit play. Judas Rising started slowly, gradually building up to an explosive riff that made me sigh nostalgically and think of classic Priest songs. After a great opening track, Deal with the Devil kicked in and I said to myself "Ah, Priest is back!"
Revolution came right after and after a promising intro, I waited for it to coalesce into that wonderful musical point that makes Judas Priest the classic band they are. And I waited for an entire four minutes and forty-two seconds before I realized that the song was over and there would be no point. And that's when it all turned to shit.
Each and every track from Revolution on was a pile of worthless rock crap. It dragged on, bored me to tears with lackluster riffing, lame-ass drumming and in many of the songs I was even disgusted with Halford's vocals. He has far too much talent to be reduced to a horrid mallcore reject. Those familiar with Halford's piercing high notes and dynamic range will be sorely disappointed by his monotonous vocal delivery on most of the tracks. Worth Fighting For nearly made me cough up blood with is sheer vileness, being reminiscent of a cookie-cutter pop rock track that wouldn't feel out of place on a Bon Jovi album. Demonizer attempts to revive the album, but the pace it sets is quickly destroyed when the riff-work is recycled throughout the song so many times it loses it's appeal. Hellrider suffers the same fate, and Wheels of Fire makes no attempt at interesting the listener by basically using the same riff throughout the song coupled with elementary drumming. Angel and Eulogy are so disgustingly boring I died a little inside. A ballad should add another level to the album, not be a tedious obstacle to work through. The solos on the album feel contrived. They feel interjected, as if the band added them simply because that's what metal bands are supposed to do, not in any effort to add texture to the song. They're nearly always located at the same point in the song (3/4 of the way through) and last for approximately the same amount of time. While technically not bad, they are neither impressive nor at least engaging. The album ended with the vomit-inducing Lochness where, alongside Worth Fighting For, Halford gives his most uninspired vocals. Finally, the torture was over.
It was clear how much of a loser this album was when I turned it off and I was in actual physical pain. Angel of Retribution is so bad, you feel as exhausted as if you had been running a 100km race, if not more so. It was an insult to not only my musical taste, but also to my intelligence. It was entirely too watered-down and formulaic, which is not what a good metal album should make you think. And, there's a difference between dabbling in rock n' roll style, which is what Priest has done in the past, and incorporating lackluster modern rock into a majority of your songs at the expense of originality. In order for me to EVER listen to this again, I'd either have to be insane or dead. It really isn't worth it for the two good songs, either. The only place this album should be found is at the bottom of a trash can. Waste. Of. Time.
This, this is what you call a comeback! The Priest is back! Oh man am I thrilled to hear a new Judas Priest record in the year 2005, with Rob Halford back on vocals! Seeing these guys at Ozzfest last year made me believe hard and strong they still had it, well Im glad to say I was right!
Right from the start you knew Priest was back with a vengeance(This line was used but it was the first thing that came to my mind) and ready to rule the metal world once again. The opening of the record comes off strong, with some light guitar playing that could give a man chills. Halford comes tells it like it is on the first track, Judas is Rising! Man this guy can still sing like this? I couldn't believe it when I had the honor of seeing them live, but shit!
If you think it's over better think again! Yes! If you think it is over, well think again buddy. Priest are calling you for an ass kicking. "Revolution" the first single on the new record. Now when I heard it I will admit, it took some growing on me. I did not hate it at all, but I was hoping for more of a painkiller sound to it. Well each and every time I heard I liked it even more. Just knowing the Priest was back and still putting out quality work like this was good enough for me.
"Deal With The Devil", boy oh boy my favorite track on the album. Now I will admit there is nothing special or amazing about this song. The thing that gets me is the classic sound it has to it and with Robs awesome voice...damn does it capture me. The duo of Tipton and KK is just top notch. Lets not look over the drums though, really nice loud beats that stand out. The song is the total package for a classic in the making. "Demonizer", the name along sounds Priest like. Really just a full out assault of the ears from all over. OUT DEMONS OUT!
"Worth Fighting For" and "Angel" are both the more mellow tracks of the new record. Both songs give the album a real nice break from the pure aggression the other songs have in them. Robs voice is truly one of the Gods. After all these years he can still sing like this, god damn! Really beautiful songs that make me love Judas Priest even more. Angel is more of the standout mellow track as the guitars are really toned down while Robs voice is powerful yet mellow as can be.
"Hellrider" is the final track right before the 13 minute behemoth that is to come. This sounds like something you want to hear when you are about to march into war! This very easily could have been on Painkiller 15 years ago, just awesome stuff right here. Again, another song that fits Judas Priest so well. You want riffs? HELLRIDER! The final track on this epic is the 13 minute plus track "Lochness". Really a fine way to end such a great album, mellow, strong, fast, mellow, strong, fast. Again the guitar duo of KK and Tipton are just awesome and with Rob just doing what he does best it really makes you wonder how these guys still do it.
This ladies and gentleman is classic Judas Priest that is coming to you in the year 2005. I know I sound like a damn sales person here, but I am trying to make you all believers on Judas Priest returning to the top. This album is what metal is all about, excellent vocals, lyrics, solid guitar playing and when you got Judas Priest doing it....you can't go wrong