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Still defending the faith! - 95%

Xyrth, October 4th, 2010

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!