Judas Priest - Firepower
Columbia
Heavy Metal
14 songs (58:10)
Release year: 2018
Judas Priest
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

After the failed experiment that was Nostradamus and Redeemer of Souls' overly safe return to form, it's something of a pleasant relief to have your socks blown off completely and utterly by Judas Priest, returning for their 18th full-length since forming in 1970. Sure, you simply can't ignore that Judas Priest are no longer youthful, Glenn Tipton now 70 and recently diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, while Ian Hill and Rob Halford are both the wrong side of 65; tragically, even metal gods grow old. Counter that, however, with the fact that Priest here often sound like a band less than half their age, the addition of Richie Faulkner as KK Downing's replacement in 2011 a shot in the arm culminating in Firepower: the heaviest Judas Priest album to be released since Painkiller and possibly even better than it in some ways.

Yes, while Painkiller was and is a terrific album it's evident of a mid-life crisis in retrospect, Judas Priest trying to prove their continued relevance in a changing musical landscape. In contrast, Firepower shows the band with nothing to prove but going out in a blaze of glory nonetheless; comfortable in themselves and their sound, making an album that could have been released in their eighties heyday. Opening with the heavy, pounding title track, a wail from Halford and some nicely crunching riffage thanks to Tom Allom and Andy Sneap's joint production (far, far better than that of Redeemer of Souls) you're welcomed in with a hook-heavy track that sounds like a streamlined version of Painkiller, riff-driven and with plenty of exuberant vocals. Halford uses his voice well, mostly mid-range but allowing higher pitches and rolled 'r's to make for a fun, intense performance - there's more variety in the following Lightning Strike, which has a Hammerfall-esque power metal vibe - yet the guitarists are equal stars, the likes of Evil Never Dies laden with gorgeous lead widdling expertly placed to avoid encroaching on Halford's many moments to shine, not least on a Locked In-esque catchy chorus.

This is a very intelligently-written heavy metal album, giving you reasons to love each song from the outset with plenty of instantly catchy moments, contrasting with other recent Judas Priest albums where you would often a struggle to find a positive. Never the Heroes is an insanely catchy ballad in the Blood Red Skies tradition, albeit more upbeat and with a little 80s groove at the base to keep the energy high. Necromancer keeps the energy up with a riff-driven mid-paced stomper that's closer to Iced Earth than the pop-rock that the band once flirted with, before the terrific Children of the Sun surprises you with a pounding classic doom song that's very close to Dio-fronted Black Sabbath. At your most critical some tracks could seem repetitive and drawn-out, but the album seems so much like some lost 80s gem (between Ram It Down and Painkiller, perhaps? Or even as a Turbo replacement...) that you quickly forgive them. Even sole interlude Guardians is good enough that it leaves you wanting more, and could have been allowed much longer than its minute and six seconds before the grooving prog-tinged Rising From Ruins comes in with its epic power metal, somehow very much like latter-day Iron Maiden. That hint of Maiden-esque grandeur doesn't end there, the six minute Traitors Gate having more than a hint of Bruce and co, while the groovy Lone Wolf takes a more Metallica-like approach complete with vocal "hey!"s from Halford. Album closer Sea of Red is a real standout, the closest to a traditional ballad on the album but backed up by solid riffs and leaving the album at just a touch too long at 58 minutes long - if there's one track I'd have cut, it's this. Yet even so, Judas Priest just shy of their 50th year of existence are remarkably solid, and Firepower only gets better with each subsequent listen. As vital as their classics, if not quite as good as the 70s and 80s peaks; if this is to be the final Judas Priest album then it's a hell of a way to close an amazing career and the band can consider themselves duly proud - metal gods reaching deep for one last blast.

Killing Songs :
Firepower, Lightning Strike, Never the Heroes, Children of the Sun, Traitors Gate
Goat quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Judas Priest that we have reviewed:
Judas Priest - Redeemer of Souls reviewed by Thomas and quoted 70 / 100
Judas Priest - Killing Machine / Hell Bent for Leather reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
Judas Priest - Screaming For Vengeance reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
Judas Priest - Stained Class reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
Judas Priest - Sin After Sin reviewed by Phil and quoted CLASSIC
To see all 21 reviews click here
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