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Initially, I wasn't going to include Live in London in my coverage of the Judas Priest discography, because, frankly, I couldn't be bothered to track it down and add it to my collection after being underwhelmed by the very similar '98 Live Meltdown. But, thankfully I've got friends who are far more thorough and obsessive than I am over particular bands, and as it turns out, Live in London is actually a step better than its predecessor in terms of delivering a more memorable performance from the newer singer. Not so much that I would plunk my money down to find a copy, but enough that I could recommend it over Meltdown to anyone seeking out it's probably the definitive 'Ripper' Owens Priest experience without actually being there in person.
This was issued as both a DVD and CD, and as usual I'd advise everyone to just go for the DVD since that has extra footage and multi-sensory rewards. The caveat is that I believe this audio double disc has more actual songs from the set than the DVD incarnation. Either way, it's Ripper's last official release with the band, and the last that would be issued through SPV/Steamhammer before Priest returned to the major Columbia for the reunion with Rob Halford. Unlike the other gulfs between live efforts, Live in London was only five years after '98 Live Meltdown so the set list hasn't changed a lot, and in fact about 19 of the cuts are retreads from that double album. Some of the Jugulator material ("Bullet Train", "Death Row", and "Abductors") and Painkiller ("Metal Meltdown", "Night Crawler") selections have been nixed here in favor of Demolition pieces like "One on One", "Feed On Me" and "Hell is Home", and a few added classics, but in general this is mostly a similar experience in terms of its flow and content.
However, I think Live in London unquestionably sounds superior, in both the tightness of the musicians' performance, and the swell of the crowd's volume. This is because it was all taken from a single set at Brixton Academy in December of 2001, and thus you don't have all those constant edits to mix and match tighter tunes from numerous gigs. This is how it played out, on that night, and we get to experience it forevermore. But most importantly, while he's still not and never will be Rob Halford, Tim Owens sounds far more refined here than on the previous double-live. His tone is better, his pitch richer, and he relies more or an inherent sense of melody than the angrier disposition he had a few years before. He'd apparently come a long way with the band by this point, and likely thought he was in it for the long haul, and quite frankly if he had kept moving in this positive direction he might damn well have deserved it. In particular he gleams on the classics like "Electric Eye" and the unexpected "Desert Plains". I don't give much of a damn for the Demolition material, it's one of the worst of Priest's discography, but even these songs sound a little more alive in this setting, despite their dullness.
Technically it's not a huge difference from '98 Live Meltdown, but I feel as if the band played tighter, the chugging of the guitars and the force of the chords was more impacting, and it feels more genuine. It's without any doubt my favorite audio of this band with Owens (studio-wise I'll stick with the Winters Bane record Heart of a Killer), and if you've got to choose any live offering from the Metal Gods post-80s, then it might not be a poor decision. There are flaws, there are imperfections, and there is still that pervasive sense of a band covering itself due to the different vocalist, but there is more content here than Touch of Evil: Live, and the swarthy sound of the mix sounds great coming from the speakers. Not bad, and a fitting way to send this lad off, and set the band back on track after the whole sidestep that was 1996-2003.
This double album, for fans of Classic Priest, does not disappoint in that the bands play the songs with as strong of musicianship as the originals. I don't have the dvd, so I don't know if Ripper actually comes out on a Harley, but it sounds good as hell on the cd!
This album's pretty much the Metal Monster you'd expect from 90's era Priest, with all the aggression, if not more, than it's Live Meltdown '98 counterpart. It's genuinely a great concert with Priest at the top of their game.
Now for the shortcoming. With these first 2 paragraphs, you'd think this review would read like a high 80s maybe low 90s. Unfortunately, this is not true. Here are the cons:
-Ripper Owens, while possessing a great set of pipes, cannot hit those notes Halford basically invented. This is made pretty embarassing considering my next point.
-THE BAND IS TUNED IN SOME NU-METAL SHIT TUNING! This is what kills this album for me....GAH IT'S HORRIBLE. Nu-Slayer....sure. Nu-Metallica...meh yes it's there. But Nu-Priest!?! That's fucking blasphamy. But it's true.
While the classics are all played excellently, the tuning completely ruins the classics. Yes, it is that bad.
On another downside, Ripper's Jugulator and Demolition tracks do not gel very well with the Halford Classics. It's like Priest...lost their equipment, had to borrow the Nu-Metal opening act's gear, then every 4 songs, a shitty Metalcore band comes in and plays their supposed "Hit song" all those 14 year olds love.
This album is DECENT, but if you lust to hear Priest classics played how you know and love them, go get Unleashed in the East...hell even Priest...Live! is better than this.
Probably for completists only.
If you do feel you need more Live Priest, just get Live Meltdown '98. It has no Demolition songs, so it's about a gazillion times better.
The first thing that came to my mind when buying this DVD was whether or not Tim "Ripper" Owens was a worthy replacement for Halford live. The answer to this is simple - yes he was. He had some big shoes to fill, but man, did he fill them well.
By the time Metal Gods is done, you already have a good feeling about the whole DVD - the band plays very tight, the crowd are well into it, and Ripper is very impressive. Though at times Ripper seems somewhat laid-back and even boring on stage (his stage antics somewhat resemble those of Halford), otherwise he's into it, and he really nails some massive screams. The scream after the calm interlude on Victim of Changes ("VIIICTIIIIM OOF CHAAAAANGEEEEES!!!") is hit with incredible power, surpassing Halford's original by far. Ripper sounds very good in the lower registers, but it's when he screams that you really get to see what he's made of.
The DVD is of suitable length, with plenty of great Judas Priest classics and newer material from Demolition. The stage and lighting is very simple but effective. The band look very good and play well on stage. There are a few flaws on some solos (Tipton on Painkiller being the most obvious one) but mainly the songs are executed to perfection. A few tracks from the concert are left out, which is a shame; I am especially disappointed that Beyond the Realms of Death was left out.
The bonus material isn't all that worthwhile - it's nice to watch, but nothing that special. However, that's only a minor flaw - the concert is the main thing, and that part of the DVD is executed in splendid fashion. The show is interesting from start to finish, and Judas Priest and Ripper really show what they're capable of.
Definitely a DVD worth getting for Priest fans, and it is also a good introduction to Priest for others, despite not having Halford at the front. Excellent release from the one and only Judas Priest.