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Judas Priest > Invincible Shield > 2024, CD, Sony Music (Deluxe hardcover) > Reviews > Soul_Sucker_666
Judas Priest - Invincible Shield

Heavy Metal Attack! - 94%

Soul_Sucker_666, April 2nd, 2024
Written based on this version: 2024, CD, Sony Music (Deluxe hardcover)

This is truly a momentous occasion – something that's almost hard to believe and is profoundly admirable. Judas Priest, a leader in their genre, with a discography boasting numerous releases, some revered as masterpieces and pillars of the genre, has now, in their mid-70s, accomplished the improbable feat of delivering yet another extraordinary album for the second time in a row. And let's be clear. "Invincible Shield" isn't average good; it's top-tier, elite heavy metal at its finest. It's the kind of album that doesn't come around often, even from the legends of our beloved music scene. How did Judas Priest manage to pull off such a triumph, releasing an album of pure heavy metal magic immediately following the success of another just a few years ago? Yes, "Firepower" was exceptional, a true haven of heavy metal essence that could easily stand alongside the group's classics. However, "Invincible Shield" not only matches its excellence but, dare I say, surpasses it.

Describing the music of this album is a breeze – Heavy Metal. Plain and simple. "Invisible Shield" is a collection of pure, straightforward, killer heavy metal songs. There's no experimentation here, no modern elements (songwriting-wise), no soft, pop, rock, or progressive influences. It's straight-up, good old-fashioned '80s heavy metal. I disagree with those who argue that this album is a more progressive successor to "Firepower." I struggle to find even the slightest progressive element here. Sure, there are some keyboards sprinkled in, but that doesn't make it proggy. It's just straightforward heavy metal throughout. Let's emphasize the word heavy. The riffs are undeniably heavy, enhanced by a modern metal guitar sound (thanks to Andy Sneap's signature touch) that leads to a heavy metal eargasm. The guitars are the shining stars of this album and the main reason for its brilliance. It's full of killer heavy metal riffs and solos. The latter are in the typical Judas Priest style – a bit rock 'n' roll, a bit neoclassical – all delivered with technical approach, aggression, and melody. And this time, they're all the result of a huge amount of both inspiration and hard work. The album is packed with utterly enjoyable and addictive guitar solos. It's amazing how guitar solos never get old or boring when the guitarist knows how to compose and deliver a solo that complements the song and speaks to the listener, creating a little piece of music/art within a song. And that's precisely what's happening here. Richie Faulkner delivers a master class on classic heavy metal guitar solos and how to complement the songs without flexing unnecessary technique. I assume it's Richie Faulkner who plays, if not all, most of them, considering Tipton's limited playing abilities now and Andy's role limited to as the producer and a session live member. The riffs are reminiscent of classic albums like "Screaming for Vengeance," "Defenders of the Faith," and "Painkiller," much like "Firepower." It's this signature heavy metal style – aggressive yet melodic, delivered with palm-muted power chords and melodic hooks, along with rhythmic patterns and syncopated accents that add catchiness and memorability. In other words, it's an evolved, heavier, and more aggressive version of their hard rock influences.

Absolutely, the guitars are undeniably the highlight of the album, but they're not the only elements contributing to its brilliance. Every instrument delivers a precise and focused performance, working together seamlessly like a well-oiled machine, all in service of the common goal without any ego or unnecessary showboating. Scott Travis, in particular, knows exactly how to complement a metal riff with the perfect beat, enhancing its metal essence without feeling the need to showcase versatility in other genres. Together with the bass, they form a heavy rhythm section that compels relentless headbanging. As mentioned earlier, the keyboards don't introduce a progressive touch as some may suggest. Instead, they add a more melodic or even atmospheric layer, firmly rooted in traditional metal. They evoke a distinct '80s vibe, reminiscent of classics like "Turbo Lover," enhancing the overall classic heavy metal experience. The guitar melodies and harmonies, whether delivered as solos or riffs (like those in "Trial by Fire"), are incredibly addictive and catchy. Rob Halford reaffirms his status as a metal legend, showcasing why he's a reference for anyone attempting to sing in a metal style. His voice remains powerful, still capable of delivering his signature high-pitched screams, thanks in part to the comfort and luxury of the studio environment. He effortlessly crafts catchy vocal melodies and transmits metal passion through his voice. We should feel immense gratitude for the opportunity to witness that at his age. RESPECT. Overall, the album sounds incredibly cohesive, focused, and tightly knit. It's remarkable that there are no filler tracks; even the bonus tracks are outstanding.

Some songs that I want to specially mention are 'Panic Attack,' 'Crown of Horns,' and 'Trial by Fire.' 'Panic Attack' is a metal hymn that kicks off with a beautiful synth intro, leading into a heavy metal banger that causes panic attack to metal unbelievers. It's heavy, aggressive, and up-tempo, with a simple yet powerful refrain and a plethora of amazing solos. When Halford screams 'Panic attack... Digitally criminally insane...' and the solo kicks in, that's the essence of metal – what we live for! 'Crown of Horns' is a softer, super addictive melodic track. It's filled with catchy melodies, both in the guitars and vocals, and its refrain is an instant sing-along classic. 'Trial by Fire' is another standout track, brimming with guitar melodies. It's more mid-tempo and groovy, and the way Halford spits the words 'Trial by fire' is enough to bring tears of joy. Every track on the album is awesome, and it's truly remarkable that artists of their age can still produce music so youthful. You don't have to be a teenager to create music bursting with such energy and passion, like heavy metal. All you need is talent and, of course, the flame still burning inside you. I genuinely believe that this album isn't just a product; it's an honest artistic expression. Judas Priest still love heavy metal and still have the passion for it, because it makes them feel alive – and that's exactly what they transmit to the listeners. And that's why it's so damn good.

The band has never been known for delving into deep philosophical subjects or profound thinking in their lyrics. They're straight heavy metal, maintaining authenticity while avoiding being cheap or hollow. The same holds true for 'Invincible Shield.' Their lyrics typically revolve around themes like their love for the heavy metal lifestyle and music, rebellion and independence, emotional and personal struggles, subtle social commentary, and of course, fantasy and mythology. Judas Priest once again prove they can be metal as fuck, even in their lyrics. I adore them for it. When it comes to production, only two words are needed: Andy Sneap. This guy has practically defined the modern heavy metal sound. It's killer, cool, heavy, and crisply clear, sounding relevant and pleasant without feeling too artificial, despite the mainly digital work involved. 'Firepower' and 'Invincible Shield' are among Andy's finest works, epitomizing the modern heavy metal sound – and by that, I mean traditional heavy metal. This is how heavy metal is meant to sound and should sound. Perfection.

One thing I'd like to address is the question many may have raised about how truly Judas Priest this album is. With Tipton no longer able to be 100% active and the older members not typically known for writing the music, what's left? Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap? I believe this question is somewhat misleading. Richie Faulkner has been with the band for several years now, proving himself to be incredibly talented. This album serves as the ultimate proof of his skills and passion, affirming his rightful place in the band. As for Andy, well, that's the job of a producer – to guide and assist the band in creating the best possible songs. It's naive to think that Halford, Hill, and Travis have no real contribution. They're in the studio, contributing ideas, and playing an important role in shaping the songs. The same goes for Tipton, who's credited in all the songs. Though he may not be able to play live, in the studio, he's still the band's leader. I can't help but wonder how the album would have sounded if KK Downing was still in the band. Would it be better, worse, or no different? Nobody knows. Personally, I believe he should be back in the band, but even without him, Judas Priest manages to release such great albums that it doesn't really matter. The point here is that, even without Downing, this album is 100% Judas Priest and not just an album created by others and presented as a Priest one.

Closing, I want to emphasize that "Invincible Shield" is a privilege and a luxury for anyone who identifies as a metalhead. We should all be grateful for receiving this music from Judas Priest at this stage of their career. Heavy metal is more than just music – it's life itself, a passion, and a way of life. And "Invincible Shield" is the undeniable proof that Heavy Metal never dies.