“Redeemer of Souls”

By Dr. Abner Mality

A lot of conflicting emotions arise in me when I contemplate this CD. Now Judas Priest is my all-time favorite band and with the exception of Black Sabbath, no group has had a larger hand in shaping the genre we all love. That being said, there’s a huge range of style and quality over the length of their career and I’ve heard many loud voices decrying “Redeemer of Souls” as one of the lesser Priest offerings.

At first listen, I tended to agree. I can’t put “Redeemer of Souls” in the same class as timeless epics such as “British Steel”, “Stained Class” or “Painkiller”. For one thing, the production is shockingly poor for a band of this stature. It just seems flat and dry, with none of the richness necessary for great heavy metal. The production is the one albatross hanging around the neck of “Redeemer of Souls” and I sure wish the band would have gotten Tom Allom or Chris Tsangarides to do this. Also, this is the first Judas Priest album ever to not feature the legendary K.K. Downing on guitar. His replacement Richie Faulkner had a great chance to carve his own style here, but his playing is workmanlike and doesn’t particularly stand out. I was hoping that he would give Priest the same kick that drummer Scott Travis did when he joined the band.

So on the face of it, “Redeemer of Souls” seems average. But I found the album to be a grower the more I listen to it. True, the reliance on mid-paced songs kind of takes a little energy out of it and at 13 songs, it seems overlong. But every song here is rooted in classic Judas Priest style and is 100% heavy metal. There is no trendiness here, nothing like what the band tried for on “Turbo”.  When this album is at its best, it compares favorably to the Priest of old. My favorite song here by far is “Crossfire”, which has a bluesy feel to it and sounds like it could have easily fit on “Hell Bent For Leather”. The chorus is excellent and the part where the band speeds up from mid-paced to fast should please every Judas Priest fan.

Wading through the bad production, you can find some real gems here. “March of the Damned” is kind of a cool commercial stomper with good vocal hooks. “Metalizer” is the fastest song and a quick injection of adrenaline that reminded me of the faster songs from “Angel of Retribution”. “Battle Cry” has an ornate sound like “One Shot At Glory” from “Painkiller”. And possibly the most original and well constructed song is “Cold Blooded”…that is one that takes several listens to appreciate. And from what I can tell, many so-called “fans” are not taking that time.

Rob Halford clearly does not have the voice he had years ago, but he’s like a boxer who has lost his power punch but made up for it with clever strategy. “Redeemer of Souls” will not rank with his god-like work but there’s nothing here to damage his immortal legacy.

If you consider yourself a fan of Judas Priest, pick this album up. It is straight up heavy metal and absolutely true to the Priest creed. Just don’t expect a blowaway release.