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I no longer worship the soil Rob Halford walks on. - 48%

asklater, March 3rd, 2005

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...