Judas Priest - Angel of retribution 4/5

Reviewed: 3-25-05


1. Judas rising
2. Deal with the devil
3. Revolution
4. Worth fighting for
5. Demonizer
6. Wheels of fire
7. Angel
8. Hellrider
9. Eulogy
10. Lochness

Here it is: The most important heavy metal CD of 2005. The soldering of the creative forces of Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing for the first time in a decade and a half was perhaps a commercial inevitability. After all, neither the solid Halford solo band nor the watered-down, trend-chasing Owens incarnation of Priest was lighting up cash registers or box offices, and the offers from promoters for the Metal God to return to the helm must have been staggering. But the nagging question was whether this reunion would live up to the hype, or whether it would be another in the long line of half-baked, cash-grabbing retreads by major acts who've long since lost the plot. 'Angel of Retribution' was guaranteed to do big business, given the major label push, the high profile Ozzfest 2004 headlining slot, and most importantly the sacred place of Judas Priest in the heart of every metalhead from the 40 year old grizzled vet who cut his musical teeth on 'Hell bent for leather' to the 14 year old metal neophyte who wasn't even born when 'Painkiller' hit the shelves. But would the new CD be any good?

The answer is resoundingly in the affirmative. On 'Angel of retribution', Priest have foregone the unfortunate pandering tendency that plagued efforts like 'Demolition' or 'Turbo'. They have sagely resisted the temptation to strike out in a new musical direction, as Maiden did with much of their reunion output. Instead, the band committed themselves to delivering a classic Priest CD, giving the people exactly what they want but still spreading their sad wings of destiny along the way.

An unholy quaternary of savage, uptempo classic metal tracks ("Judas rising", "Deal with the devil", "Demonizer" and "Hellrider") sends shivers down the spines of those who worship at the altar of 'Painkiller'. "Judas rising" and "Demonizer", in particular, rank among the finest songs ever reduced to plastic by the band in their storied, 30 year history, melding melody and might to achieve sheer sonic perfection. Instant classics. "Angel" and "Worth fighting for" are an effective ballad and semi-ballad, respectively, with the former featuring a glittering, heart-rending vocal performance from Halford. Not sure it ranks up there with "Before the Dawn" or "When the night comes down" in the pantheon of Priest ballads, but "Angel" is pretty damned impressive nonetheless. Just to keep listeners on their toes, Priest throw us two unexpected curve balls, "Revolution" and "Lochness". "Revolution" is the single, boasting a decidedly 70s feel and seeming a bit out of place, while "Lochness" is a sprawling (many would say "bloated") 13 minute tune that pays homage to Sabbath, but runs out of ideas about halfway through. I don't think either of these two songs work, but I applaud the band for taking chances in a measured way that does not overshadow the glory of the remainder of the CD.

Add it all up, and you get an outstanding CD that is certainly worthy of the Judas Priest imprint. It won't supplant the likes of 'Painkiller', 'Defenders of the Faith', and 'Unleashed in the East' as my favorite Priest CDs, but it is easily competitive with Halford's 'Resurrection' and is almost certain to satisfy even the most jaded Priest fanatic. Ladies and gentlemen, the Priest is most definitely back!




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