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Worth fighting for. - 86%

Uebermensch, December 10th, 2007

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.