So, it has been about one year since the heavy metal pioneers (along with Black Sabbath) rejoined with front man and metal god himself, Rob Halford. While it was great to see the classic Priest lineup do a tour together for the first time since 1991, the real determining factor of whether or not their comeback is complete and truly a success, we must look no further than their new studio effort, Angel Of Retribution. While it is easy to rest on ones laurels, and do tours without putting out a good studio release in a number of years, yet still proclaim yourself legends (read: Kiss, Metallica, Motley Crue, etc.), only with a good solid studio release will the fans and critics alike take your efforts seriously. I am already impressed with the fact that Angel Of Retribution only took 1 year to hit the shelves, while Priest fans in the past were subjected to waiting for what seemed like centuries for a new release. The fact is they weren't always worth waiting for, as was the case with Demolition (released 4 years after Jugulator), which in my opinion seemed like more of a Glenn Tipton solo release, yet also seemed like it was thrown together in one hour.
With that I give you Angel Of Retribution. Let's first start with the versions available on the store shelves right now. There is the limited edition in a hardcover booklet with 2 CD's, one being the new material, and the other, a DVD containing a 40-minute documentary plus 7 live tracks; Breaking the Law, Diamonds and Rust, Hellion/Electric Eye, Touch Of Evil, Metal Gods, Hell Bent For Leather, & Living After Midnight. The normal version CD, which will run you about 6 or 7 dollars less, contains pretty much the same DVD material as the limited edition version on the flipside of the disk. The only difference is that you will get a 30-minute documentary instead of a 40-minute one. Unless you are a huge fan, and are into the collectible thing, save your money and get the normal version.
As for the new material, overall, it is a solid effort, with a few notable exceptions. Let's go through them one by one;
Judas Rising – a great beginning to the CD, as it has all of the classic Priest touches, Rob Halford's trademark screams, the twin guitar attack of Tipton and Downing, and the lighting quick hands of drummer Scott Travis.
Deal With The Devil – great solos by Glenn Tipton, as this song has similarities to his solo album.
Revolution – by going to the band's website, you can see a video of this song. Like the video shows, this has all of the classic elements of Priest, with the exception being that there is no barnburner guitar solos in this one.
Worth Fighting For – not all Priest songs need to be ultra heavy to be good, as is the case with "Worth Fighting For". It has a nice melodic sound to it, ala the intro to "Rock Hard, Ride Free".
Demonizer – this song is simply in your face, no nonsense Priest style metal, in the mold of the British Steel era, similar to "Rapid Fire".
Wheels of Fire – nothing that really stands out about this song, except for the guitar work of Glenn Tipton.
Angel – more melodic Priest, this can very easily be compared to "Dreamer Deceiver "from Sad Wings of Destiny. I guess they enjoyed playing the unplugged version of "Diamonds & Rust" on stage these past few years.
Hellrider – more great drumming by Scott Travis, this one sounds very similar to "Metal Meltdown", complete with lightning fast guitar from Tipton and Downing
Eulogy – here is something I haven't heard from Priest in years, piano! Not that that's a bad thing, as I loved the way "Prelude" led into "Tyrant" many years ago. I am assuming it is Glenn playing the piano. It sounds very appropriate here, similar to the way Iced Earth used the piano interludes a few years back.
Lochness – Unlike "Prelude", which leads into probably one of my all time favorite Priest classics (Tyrant), "Eulogy" leads into a long, tedious, and aimless song lacking any sense of direction. Clocking in at over 13 minutes, definitely the low point of the album for me.
As for the DVD material, the 7 songs that I mentioned earlier are pretty much what you would expect to hear at a Priest show. The video quality and sound of the concert footage are excellent. And it is nice to see Rob Halford without that flowing blond hair like he had during their (gasp) hairband-era Priest Live video in the mid 80's. A few observations;
- I noticed that Rob's screams and higher octave vocals are mostly missing. It is possible that age has caught up to even the metal god himself. Although, when singing normally, he still sounds great.
During the 40 minute documentary, they cut from the interviews to the same concert footage that is already contained in the 7 songs, probably cutting their interview time in half. Lame-O.
All in all, the CD has everything a true Priest fan could ask for, as even Priest stated that their aim was to create a classic Priest album. Taking out the few clunkers from within, and you have another Priest classic CD in the vein of Painkiller, British Steel, Screaming For Vengeance, or Defenders of the Faith. But a very good comeback effort by the Priest nevertheless. Let's hope the next one is even better.
1. Judas Rising
2. Deal With The Devil
4. Worth Fighting For
6. Wheels Of Fire