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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.