At this point in their career, Judas Priest has nothing to prove – they’ve set the standard for all metal bands, but on their 18th studio album, Firepower, they sound reinvigorated and energized, burning through fourteen solid tracks. Maybe it is the reunion of the band with producer Tom Allom, who helmed so many of the band’s classic records in the 80’s, along with Andy Sneap, known for producing the best modern metal bands in the world. This combination of new and old school runs throughout Firepower, as the record treads plenty of classic Judas Priest territory while also sounding new and fresh. Much like their previous release, Redeemer of Souls, Judas Priest has given fans a little bit of everything musically: with plenty of memorable guitar riffs and vocal melodies.
This is apparent on the opening title track, a blistering slab of metal done in a way that only Priest can, with precise, catchy riffs and the wailing vocals of Rob Halford, who sounds like a man half his age. The guitar tag-team of Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner have really coalesced on Firepower, as the two rip through rich dual guitar harmonies and plenty of finger-busting solos on nearly every track.
Musically the band is certainly not going to reinvent themselves, but they do manage to cover every facet of their sound. There are plenty of groove rockers that harken back to classic records such as British Steel and Screaming for Vengeance, but there are also plenty of hyper-fast freak-outs that recall the band’s endearing Painkiller album.
Overall the guitar work is stellar as is the steady bass playing of Ian Hill and the thundering drumming of Scott Travis. One of the most exciting songs comes in the middle of the record in the form of the piano-driven instrumental “Guardians.” Beginning with a gentle piano melody, the song eventually brings in some epic lead guitar work, playing an uplifting melody that would fit perfectly into the score for some big-budget fantasy movie; the song goes directly into the next, the stomping “Rising from Ruins” which continues the epic and majestic feeling. Towards the end of the album there are some different approaches, such as the swaggering “Traitors Gate” which rides one of the catchiest guitar riffs on the whole record to create a slamming metal anthem. As has been the case on recent albums, the record closes with a softer-sounding ballad, this time in the form of the acoustic-driven “Sea of Red.”
Judas Priest has once again turned out a robust collection of songs that showcase the band’s powerful songwriting skills and amazing technical abilities. Moreover, the record is fun, and it bristles with energy on every single track, making for a satisfying listen. For all of this to come from a band that is nearly fifty years old is incredible, and makes Firepower one of the strongest releases of the year.
Photo by Raymond Ahner.