Review by Carl “DJ ThunderGod” Pickles
Let’s have it right: although it had good moments, Nostradamus wasn’t a good album. Not one memorable song, or even much in the way of riffs. For Priest, that wasn’t a welcome departure. Not exactly the blaze of glory you’d want KK Downing to bow out on.
The rest of the band, though, were not ready to get on their Harleys and ride off into the sunset. After recruiting Ritchie Faulkner, the band that arguably set the template for the likes of Thrash, Speed and Power Metal set about recording a new album.
To say I was looking forward to hearing this one was something of an understatement. The two pre-release tracks I’d heard, Dragonaut and the title track, Redeemer Of Souls were something of a return to form after the previous album. But it was with a little trepidation I clicked this one into place on the CD player and pressed the “Play” button on the remote once I’d got back to my seat.
The question those of you who haven’t heard it yet are asking is: “Is it any good?”
The answer is a solid, but not quite resounding “Yes“.
Redeemer Of Souls sits comfortably amongst Priest’s classic early 80’s albums such as Screaming For Vengeance and Defenders Of The Faith. It’s definitely better than Point Of Entry and Ram It Down, but doesn’t reach the heights of British Steel. But then again, what does?
Right from the start, it’s obvious there’s something new going on here. There’s a definite urgency to every track. Dragonaut being a prime example of that. The driving riff, the sneered vocals delivered in a way only The Metal God himself can and proper use of stereo! Solos coming through different speakers!
The title track feels like a comfortable pair of (leather, studded!) slippers. Familiar. When the Halford Scream™ makes it’s first appearance, you know you’re home. That’s where new boy Richie Faulkner‘s influence on the writing really does show. This album moves like a PROPER Judas Priest album. It also has room for a little experimentation. Sword Of Damocles, for example.
March Of The Damned is another muscular, lyrically defiant statement of intent. Hell & Back and Crossfire are a couple of mid-paced monsters with grooves you could powerslide a bus down and rather tasty solos. Battle Cry is the sort of song Priest are rightly famous for. No-one does this sort of thing better than them.
It’s somewhat unfortunate, then, that they end the album with Beginning Of The End. Bit of a downer, this one, especially after Battle Cry.
What about the bonus tracks on the Deluxe version, then? Well, Snakebite is a proper throwback. As are the rest, really. Many of these songs feel like outtakes and leftovers from various 80’s albums.
The final closer, Never Forget, is… somewhat hokey. It’s a real lighters-in-the-air song, complete with heartfelt solos (played under a spotlight on a darkened stage with a wind machine ruffling Glenn or Richie’s hair).
I hesitate to call this one a “return to form”… no, actually I WILL call it a return to form, because that’s exactly what it is. OK, it’s not Painkiller, but no other Slayer albums are Reign In Blood, either. What Priest have managed to do with Redeemer Of Souls is take us and them back to what they do best: make good, solid, classy Heavy Metal albums. I read a comment somewhere on the internet that sneeringly called this album “generic”… well, if you’re Judas Priest, you’re allowed to be “generic”, since YOU INVENTED THE GENRE, and as I said, nobody does it better than Priest.