With nearly 45 years of heavy metal experience under their studded belts, Judas Priest has just released Redeemer Of Souls, the 17th studio album of the band’s illustrious career. Featuring 18 songs, the deluxe edition of the album can only be classified as timeless heavy metal that is as relevant today as it would have been at any other point in the band’s enduring history, proving that the “metal Gods” can still “deliver the goods” with the best of them.
During the recent Judas Priest Town Hall on Ozzy’s Boneyard on SiriusXM, Rob Halford discussed the writing process that the band has used since its inception – two guitar players and a singer. According to Halford, “the best elements come out of being a trio.” The formula that has worked so well throughout Priest’s career is still intact, albeit with a noticeable change.
Diehard Priest fans understandably think of the writing trio as Halford, Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing. While Downing will never be forgotten for all of his contributions throughout his years in the band before retiring, it can be argued that Redeemer Of Souls never would have come to fruition without the addition of his replacement, Richie Faulkner. Said Tipton, when discussing why Epitaph didn’t end up being the final tour as billed, “Richie has infused a shot of adrenaline into the band, and gave us the motivation to keep going.”
It’s hard to imagine any guitarist replacing the legendary Downing, but Faulkner has admirably filled some very big shoes on Redeemer Of Souls. Though he is a relative newcomer, he made his presence felt in a notable way on the album.
For generations, Judas Priest has flown the heavy metal flag and influenced every band in the genre in one way or another. Faulkner clearly was influenced by Priest, as his chemistry with Tipton is undeniable, but he also brings other influences into the band with his playing, which may or may not have been intentional.
Redeemer Of Souls is a quintessential Priest album from the first track to the last. The signature dual-guitar sound that is synonymous with the band is alive and well, and can be heard throughout the album. Crunchy power chords and dirty riffs harken back to the Point Of Entry days, while many of the guitar harmonies are reminiscent of those heard on Sad Wings Of Destiny. With this album, Priest has created new material that takes the best elements of their previous work and infuses it with influences from other metal legends like Metallica and Iron Maiden.
While the guitar work is extraordinary on Redeemer Of Souls, it wouldn’t be Priest without Halford’s timeless vocals. During the Town Hall, Halford revealed that he does nothing special to keep his voice in shape, which is somewhat shocking considering that, at the age of 62, his voice seems to have defied the aging process.
Whether he is belting it out in the higher register on tracks like “Halls Of Valhalla,” “Metalizer” and the title track, delivering an energetic, melodic anthem like “Sword Of Damocles,” or showcasing his lower, more melancholic vocals on songs like “Hell And Back” and “Beginning Of The End,” Halford proves that he still has one of the greatest voices in metal today.
Lifelong Judas Priest fans and young metal fans alike will love Redeemer Of Souls, but maybe not for the same reasons. For lifelong fans, the album is another stop along a nostalgic journey that began several decades ago, and for younger metal fans, it represents the foundation of every band that they have listened to on their own metal journey.
Most bands would never think to put out an 18-song album nowadays, but then again, Judas Priest isn’t most bands. Who else would end a relentless metal assault with a beautiful, subdued power ballad with lyrics that intimate a swan song by a band that has clearly shown that they have a lot left in the tank? If Judas Priest’s career was a movie, “Never Forget” would be the perfect song to play beneath the closing credits. For the sake of metal fans the world over, let’s hope that there are more sequels to come, and that Redeemer Of Souls is a new beginning, not an end.