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Judas isn't rising - 63%

kluseba, May 15th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2005, CD, Sony Music UK

Judas Priest's comeback record with original singer Rob Halford is quite a mixed bag. ''Angel of Retribution'' is clearly better than the tame predecessor ''Demolition'' or the overlong successor ''Nostradamus'' but it can't mess with the band's classic records at any time. While this record includes a few potent tracks, it includes just as many uninspired fillers. Inconsistency is the key word to describe this release.

On the positive side, the opener ''Judas Rising'' is a glorious and powerful heavy metal anthem that convinces with fierce riffs, uplifting melodies and a strong vocal performance by Rob Halford. This juvenile song goes straight back to the style of Painkiller and sounds as if the band had never been restructured over the past one and a half decades. Still, the band has also kept the more experimental spirit of the studio records with Tim Owens. The calm and bass-driven half-ballad ''Worth Fighting For'' is a real grower and one of the most original tunes in the band's career. The emotional ballad ''Angel'' might be among the best mellower tunes in the band's extensive career and this song underlines Rob Halford's still outstanding vocal skills best on this album along with the opener. The epic album closer ''Lochness'' will divide fans and critics alike. Some might find this song too long, plodding and unspectacular which is perfectly understandable. Still, this song has become my personal highlight of this release. Judas Priest's longest track ever is a gloomy doom metal epic with an extremely heavy main riff, unusually distorted guitar solos and a glorious chorus with majestic proportions of a national anthem. It's a quite unusual track for the band and reminds me a lot of Black Sabbath which happens to be one of my favorite bands. Let's add to the positive points that the production of the record is clear and powerful and that the cover artwork is simple yet appropriate and one of the band's best in my book.

On the negative side, this record includes many uninspired heavy metal tunes that try to go back to the band's earlier records but fail to develop the same authenticity, creativity and energy. These songs aren't memorable at all and would have been bonus tracks at best two and three decades ago. Especially the mid-tempo stomper ''Revolution'' with its annoying chorus is maybe the band's worst single choice ever and sounds like a lackluster leftover from the Jugulator sessions. The most boring tune is the vapid interlude ''Eulogy''. Instrumentally, this track is sleep-inducing, the vocals are powerless and the lyrics mildly amusing as if an inexperienced high school student had attempted to write a poem quoting some Judas Priest song titles in about five minutes. There isn't any valid reason for this tune to even exist.

In the end, ''Angel of Retribution'' isn't a very strong comeback album. It has less than a handful of strong moments, one controversial epic that fans either love or hate and a lot of uninspired mediocrity. This album is only partially going back to the band's origins and also includes more experimental elements of the past two releases which makes the final result sound directionless. Most tracks have a slightly gloomy tone which gives this album at least a little guiding line. Ambitious collectors and faithful fans of long date might buy this record but occasional fans should only grab this average output for a handful of dollars from a cheap storage box.