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JUDAS PRIEST Invincible Shield

By Jay Roberts, Massachusetts Contributor
Sunday, March 24, 2024 @ 8:30 AM

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Invincible Shield

Epic Records

When word came out that JUDAS PRIEST was set to release what is their nineteenth studio album, you can be sure that it hit like an explosion. I mean, it is pretty hard to not get excited when you can get some more molten metal from The Metal Gods, right? With producer Andy Sneap back behind the board (and Tom Allom co-producing a couple of tracks as well), this promised to be a great sounding album too.

What helped stoke the fervor and fire of metal fans everywhere was the song "Panic Attack", the first track released ahead of the album itself. As luck would have it, the song happens to be the lead track on Invincible Shield as well.

And it is the first of the trio of songs that open the disc with a burst of frenzied metal. "Panic Attack" begins with an extended intro before giving way to the more volcanic and fast paced guitar attack you've come to know and expect from JUDAS PRIEST. The song announces the band's presence and return with a full-throated roar of authority. And that kind of opening salvo continues forward with both the album's title track and the song "The Serpent and the King". The latter track is both fast and pretty heavy, while the "Invincible Shield" song has a ripping pace and energy level that never flags.

While the first three tracks on the album give ample demonstration of the more razor sharp howl of Rob Halford's vocal performance, the song "Devil In Disguise" sees the singer put forth a bit more of a growl in the vocal take. The song leans a bit more towards being a hard rocker type of song but it is still pretty darn heavy at the same time.

The song "Gates of Hell" is a fast moving rocker, though there is a tiny bit more of a downshift in that fiery pacing in comparison to the first three tracks on Invincible Shield. Not to worry though, it still has enough of an explosive nature to keep you hooked. Plus, there's a very cool sounding chorus that immediately captured me from the first play through of the track. It is one of my personal favorites on the album and I thought the imagery that the lyrics and music conjured up by this track would make it a perfect song to appear on the soundtrack if Marvel ever made another (or should I say a GOOD) Ghost Rider movie.

I'm not much for anything resembling religion so when I saw that STRYPER's Michael Sweet was praising JUDAS PRIEST for "having the courage to write a song about Jesus", my eyes were rolling at the thought of having to listen to some pedantic puke of a song while wondering what the hell they were doing. But that's why you listen to the songs! The song "Crown Of Horns" is actually a damn good song. Setting aside my disdain for the concept behind the song, I just listened and the track has a great tone and sound throughout. It turned out to be the antithesis of what I expected it would be. My natural skepticism wanted to hate the song on general principle, but dammit, it's really good!

The full on aggressiveness that fuels "As God As My Witness" helped make this another song I loved. As I spent some time listening to this particular track I can't decide if this is a thematic counterpart to "Crown of Horns" or if it is supposed to serve as a counterpoint to it. Either way, it is a killer track. And man does Halford sound great on this track.

The opening to "Trial By Fire" gives the song a far heavier sense of dramatic flair but that cinematic feel gives way to the more uptempo driving rock tempo soon enough. I will say that this song felt familiar to me for some reason. I can't place my finger on why it does but I am chalking it up to JUDAS PRIEST just writing such a darn good song that it only takes one listen and it feels like a classic PRIEST track already.

While the song "Escape From Reality" has its moments of sonic explosiveness, there's a definite heavier tone woven into the music as well. While the guitar playing is phenomenal throughout the album, there was something about the solo work on this song that I rather enjoyed.

Rob Halford gives another growling and menacing vocal take on the song "Sons of Thunder". It's got a relentlessly driving pace with some heavy music as its foundation and again the guitar playing is fantastic. There's a great hook to this track and it helps get you that much more amped up as you listen to it.

The closing track "Giants In The Sky" is both heavy and fast. Despite being barely over 5 minutes long (the fourth longest song on the album) it has an epic feel. That kind of song Priest has been using as a closing number on a number of their albums in the past.

The 11-track edition of the album is the version I bought myself, but there's a Target exclusive edition of Invincible Shield that has three bonus tracks. I wasn't buying two versions of the album so when I saw that JUDAS PRIEST dropped lyric videos for all FOURTEEN tracks on YouTube, I went to the site to check out those three bonus cuts in order to have as complete a review as possible.

The first song is called "Fight of Your Life" and it has a great little hook to it. Uptempo throughout, there is a choice vocal delivery from Halford while the guitar work, particularly in the solo, certainly stands proud as well. If this was the 1980's, I could see this working nicely as a single for the band.

The track "Vicious Circle" is an angry burst of metal combined with a set of lyrics that live up to the first half of the song's title, there's a level of aggressive menace threaded in this track that will get your blood fired up with a righteous fury.

Last but certainly not least is the song "The Lodger". Far more measured in its delivery and infused with a creepy feel to the music and lyrics, this song feels like it is an audio horror story. Horror not being my thing, it did take me a bit to grow an appreciation for this particular song but in the end I did like the way this song came out as it does show a different aspect of the band's creativity beyond the screaming metal anthem side of the ledger.

If you were even the least bit worried that somehow JUDAS PRIEST would somehow fail to hit the high level of quality that fans have come to expect from the band, Invincible Shield is a defiant statement from Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, Richie Faulkner, Ian Hill and Scott Travis that will cast away any doubts with an energetic ease and a full dose of metallic vim and vigor. This is a furiously paced great album that will have heads banging and fists pumping in the air!

5.0 Out Of 5.0

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