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Judas Priest > Jugulator > Reviews > TheHumanChair
Judas Priest - Jugulator

Too Toothless and Clawless to Pierce the Jugular - 25%

TheHumanChair, June 22nd, 2022

After Halford decided to leave Judas Priest, the band had a half decade break before coming back with Tim Owens on vocals to release "Jugulator." Let me first say that Owens is a good vocalist, but he's out of his league trying to follow Rob Halford. Almost no one would be able to fill the shoes he left, but Owens doesn't really have the best 'feel' for Priest. At least Priest as we'd all know it. Owens is a good vocalist at his best, and a horrible vocalist at his worst. Unfortunately, there's more of his worst than his best. Both albums with Owens on vocals try hard to fit in, and his voice does the same. It's hard to say how much of that influence is Owens himself, and how much of it was the band directing him on where they wanted to be.

The bottom line is that "Jugulator" is a terrible album. To me, the Tim Owens albums are the exact opposite side of the same coin as "Point of Entry" and "Turbo." Where the later two tried incredibly hard to be poppy and cheesy to get mass appeal, all "Jugulator" and its successor do instead is try and hit this pompous and cringe worthy "tough guy" attitude to try and reach a broader appeal instead. Instead of satisfying their fans, Judas Priest tried to do this to try and be 'hip' with what they thought was cool at the time. They tried desperately to reach a 'new generation' of fans instead of pleasing the fans they'd already made for two decades before this. What they didn't get is that it wasn't cool then, and it hasn't become cool with age, either. "Juglator" is the musical personification of the dad that tries too hard to relate to and fit in with his kids. Instead of just doing what they do best with a new singer, they really shot themselves in the foot.

This time around, everything feels thin, too. KK and Tipton's guitars come off as lower and less focused than previous albums, and where, on "Painkiller" Scott Travis had this blasting heavy drum sound, this time it also feels paper thin and incredibly fake. His drums almost feel plastic sounding to me. While Owens has his own brand of impressive high notes, he also feels the need to throw in these distorted growls like a half-assed death metal singer in most songs. I just cannot express hard enough how cringe worthy this album is. There are few albums that make me want to curl into the fetal position out of second hand embarrassment more than "Jugulator" does.

"Burn in Hell." Really? If that doesn't tell you how much this album panders, I don't know what will. Sure. An extreme metal group that has instrumentals to fit that kind of mood might be able to make it work without making you cringe, but this lineup of Judas Priest? They had absolutely no chance at all. The riff and bass work on "Burn in Hell" is some of the albums best, but Ripper's pathetic tough guy melodies are horrid. It sounds like a kid who learned his first curse word just saying it all the time to try and sound cool. Just mention guns and shooting someone and you'll fit in with all the cool kids, right? The whiny chant of the chorus after the high note completely misses the mark and offers no atmosphere like it intended either. Absolutely dreadful. "Dead Meat" follows suit. With a boring dime-a-dozen riff, all Ripper does here is talk about cutting and stabbing instead of shooting to try and sink his point across here. Once again, the vocals are cringe inducing for the entire run time. Just change one tough guy topic and insert another and you have "Dead Meat." There's not one note or second of this song worth listened to.

If that wasn't bad ENOUGH, the band also has to throw in tracks where they have obnoxious introductions to try and sell this same tough guy mood. Let us next look at "Death Row." I might have never heard anything more cringe inducing in my entire life than the intro for "Death Row." It's truly that horrible. It's supposed to make you feel like an inmate in death row, but they're so bad at making the mood right that instead it feels like going through a haunted house some guy put on in his backyard. It's cheap and it's pale. The chorus is also pathetically vomit worthy. Once again, a band who knows how to use atmosphere and effects could have easily pulled this off. It's not that the band decided to be atmospheric that caused the problem. It's the fact that they tried it without the tools in their arsenal to make it feel believable and real. "Brain Dead" follows right behind. They had to start their song with a car skidding across the road and sirens. Why? Because running from the law is "cool," right? They did "Breaking the Law" and everyone loved it, so lets just double down on that and we'll sell millions with the kids, right? Again, it has no substance. No worthwhile riffs and nothing decent vocally either. Just more of Owen's usual stuff and his annoying growls.

The worst the album has to offer is "Blood Stained." And considering how bad the rest of the album is, being the worst is really something of an accomplishment. I genuinely struggle to listen to this song. It's the combination of everything that sucks about this lineup. The chorus is a repetitive onslaught of the same tough guy talk AND Tim Owens has to do his growl across every word too! "Blood Stained" is an utter assault on the ears from every direction. It's easily in contention for the worst Judas Priest song of all time. And last, because I'm sounding like a broken record, "Decapitated" keeps the trend going. It's probably the least offensive of everything I've talked about up to this point, but like "Blood Stained," we once again have the same story. Tim Owens ranting about some kind of tough guy violent act while he throws in sickening growls behind it to try and sell the mood. Being repetitive is bad enough, but they felt the need to be repetitive with some of their worst songs, too. Oh, they needed a comedy spoken word part mid way into the song, too.

Now...you might be asking me...is there ANYTHING decent off "Jugulator." No. The short answer is no. But if you're really going to twist my arm, I can maybe give the title track a pass. If every song on the record was like the title track, it would have merely ended up as a mediocre album, instead of one of the worst of the worst. "Jugulator" at least attempts to be Judas Priest. It still falls victim to some of the same things I'd already mentioned, but I can easily chalk that up to a different style with a different singer. Even if it's not for me, there's an ATTEMPT on the title track. There's effort here. The riffs are solid; the chorus is a lot of fun; and there are transitions and movement to the song. It's mediocre, but it's a shining gem compared to the rest. The chorus of "Bullet Train" is a lot of fun too. The chorus is easily the best chorus on the entire album, for what that's worth. The rest of the song is pretty bad, but having a memorable chorus with some emotion is a positive. I wouldn't recommend "Bullet Train," but I definitely have to give it points for having a chorus that sticks with me some.

So yes. "Jugulator" is horrible. Quite possibly the worst Judas Priest gets. You might have also noticed I didn't talk all that much about the band itself during this review. Why? Because they're just there. Besides a few cool moments, it's just stock metal riffs crammed down your throat. They're almost a non-factor. The successor to this record often gets more hate, but I actually prefer it, if ever so slightly, to this one. But that's a story for another time. The bottom line is, this album isn't bad because it doesn't have Halford. As someone who likes quite a few bands more without their most 'famous' singer (see my Black Sabbath reviews), I'm very open to a new voice. It was just the stylistic changes that came with Owens, whether they were his influence or not, made this record dead on arrival. See what I did there? I can use tough guy words to try and make a point too, guys. The only difference is, when my tough guy words falls flat, I'm just a nobody on the Internet. Not Judas Priest.