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JUDAS PRIEST Firepower

By Alex Yarborough, Orlando Contributor
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 @ 6:30 AM


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JUDAS PRIEST
Firepower

2018 Epic Records




By now, you‘ve probably either heard this album or at least heard a song or two from it. Maybe you’ve already made up your mind where it falls in the career of JUDAS PRIEST and how much you like it? If you’re a fan, maybe you’ve already bought the CD or digibook. If you’re a hardcore fan, did you already buy the double red vinyl?

You probably also know the album was produced by industry standard bearer Andy Sneap (ACCEPT, OVERKILL, CARCASS, etc.). His production skills have smoothed things out a bit and without question streamlined these songs significantly. He has absolutely improved over the lackluster production that plagued Redeemer Of Souls. It’s worth noting longtime producer Tom Allom (British Steel, Point Of Entry, Screaming For Vengeance, Defenders Of The Faith, etc.) has also returned to add production here. Gone are any intros or any other extraneous ingredients; what’s left is all necessary and these songs get right to the point. There are a couple of “epic” tracks, but they never extend over the five to six minute mark.

Firepower is an awesome title for sure. When I first heard this title, I knew we were in for something special; the gloves were coming off, and PRIEST was back in attack mode. Surely, this is due to the continued input from guitarist Richie Faulkner. I find the first three songs on the album to be among my favorites here, and these are the same songs JUDAS PRIEST are playing live on their current tour. The song “Firepower” is among the best on the album, and one of the fastest tracks the band has ever recorded. It’s basically thrash in parts, and it’s a great album opener. The band lets it rip on “Lightning Strike” (video on KNAC.COM HERE) and “Evil Never Dies” as well. We get a couple more “beasts”, such as the “Necromancer” and the “Spectre” – both solid tracks. I like “Flame Thrower” and “No Surrender” as well. At least half of this album is classic PRIEST songs. I don’t think there is a need to release a 14-song album; this album could have been trimmed to 10-11 of the best tracks, but it’s like they are giving the fans the bonus tracks up front.

Rob Halford hits a few high notes here and there, particularly on “Flame Thrower” and “Lightning Strike”. Otherwise, he sings in his usual register. Drummer Scott Travis turns in a solid performance, his best in the past few albums in this fan’s opinion. The rock, Ian Hill, plays bass perfectly to fit the songs as usual. This is the second album without guitarist K.K. Downing. As I mentioned, Richie Faulkner has truly stepped up, and delivered even more than on Redeemer Of Souls. The solos here, full of runs, whammy bar and dive-bombs, are probably mostly his. Exactly how much guitar did Richie Faulkner perform on this album? I’m guessing quite a lot. There is some question (as hinted at by K.K. Downing) of how much Glenn Tipton plays on this album, since his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. And did Andy Sneap (who is taking Glenn’s place on tour) perform any guitar work? I’m sure we’ll find out one day, but for now we’ll just enjoy the ride.

Honestly, buying this album is a no-brainer. I think it’s the best studio album the band has done since Halford’s return. Where it will rank in the band’s 18 studio albums is up to the listener. I know I would put it closer to the top than the bottom. It’s what I expected from the band at the end of the day. Fans are going to love some songs instantly, while some are growers that take a few listens. Even Claudio Bergamin’s cover art, which I initially wasn’t a huge fan of, has grown on me. Overall, Firepower is a very good album for a band approaching its 50th anniversary. There’s no guessing how much longer JUDAS PRIEST will go on after this album, so take advantage of the chance to buy the album and see them in concert. As the band states, “Our union thrives, so go to hell!”

4.5 Out Of 5.0


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