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JUDAS PRIEST - Firepower

Release date March 9/18 (Epic)

It's always difficult reviewing new albums from legacy bands, but especially so for one of the stature of Judas Priest. It's not often that you're confronted with a new release from one of the most important bands in heavy metal history after all. The reviewer should first ponder the release on its own merits before comparing it to the band's own repertoire. So here goes.

Firepower is a great heavy metal album. It stands shoulder-to-shoulder with this year's other premier traditional metal release (Visigoth's Conqueror's Oath) ... quite the accomplishment given Tipton and Halford's respective ages. With a total of 14 tracks and a running time of over an hour, my first thought was of dread of having to sort the chaff from the wheat. After consuming this numerous times, however, I can surprisingly ... nay, incredulously ... report that there's not a duff track in the bunch. Hell, I'm hoping that Priest play the whole album front-to-back on their upcoming tour. It's that good.

Variety is the key here, as The Priest serve up aggressive fare ('Necromancer', 'Flame Thrower' and the title track), as well as epics that build to emotional choruses ('Never The Heroes', 'Rising From Ruins' and 'Traitor's Gate'). Elsewhere there are lumbering quakes that kick the crap out of anything on Sabbath's 13 swansong (refer 'Children Of The Sun', 'Spectre' and 'Lone Wolf').

So we're done with the album-on-its-own-merits part of the story, but what about where it stands in the Priest repertoire? My guess is that it will depend on what era you were weaned on the band. I'm an old guy, so I will always point to the Sad Wings to Stained Class trifecta, along with British Steel and Point Of Entry (listen to the songs dammit!) as the prime slabs. The younger set will likely point to Painkiller and Screaming as the band's highpoints. Regardless, it's safe to say that Firepower will be considered by most as the best Priest album since Painkiller. It'll be interesting to see how this rises in stature over the course of time. In the meantime, enjoy!


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