Redeemer of Souls – Judas Priest 2014
(3 / 5)
I understand their last album, the utterly ridiculous and contrived double album “Nostradamus” was not well received but that was six years ago. Why bring it up at all? It’s not like the band hasn’t been churning out live albums, special editions of classic albums, and greatest hits packages in the interim. The mighty Priest has put out so much crap with their logo on it, quite frankly part of me forgot Nostradamus even exists.
Thanks to Black Sabbath’s album “13” they have apparently started a bullshit trend with bands nowadays that includes Disc 1 of the set featuring “the album” and Disc 2 featuring five more songs that are apparently not “the album.” Or is it?! In both cases they could have fit all the songs on a single disc but claimed the other songs didn’t fit or would be a distraction. Apparently these old heavy metal bands think my fucking head is going to explode if I listen to more than an hour of their music at once. Even though I end up loading the CD’s into my computer, and then doing what? Listening to all the songs on both discs in sequence every time I listen to the album. It’s a rip off and it’s should not be ignored.
Once you get past how laughably bad the cover is you may notice the back cover features a short passage about this “Redeemer of Souls” that comes off more like a warning than anything else. “Powerful, unflinching and bearing the eternal force that will proclaim and assert metal’s deliverance – The Redeemer of Souls!” Let’s just say I miss the days when Judas Priest at least pretended to be cool.
I open up the CD and guess what? It’s a horrific triple-gatefolded mess that is a beast to deal with. Every time I try to take a disc out I’m afraid I’m either going to bend the case or scratch the CD because they are so tightly stuffed into the paper sleeves on both sides. Whoever came up with this idea that gatefold is a good format for CD’s is wrong. I don’t get it, also I actually did manage to bend the booklet in half while apparently committing the crime of trying to pull the discs out so that’s great.
On the inner sleeve there is yet another page of text telling you how special “Redeemer of Souls” is. Listen to some of this: “Redeemer of Souls’ marks a very special milestone for us all and once again Judas Priest presents the heavy metal created out of our time honoured endeavors.” Is this really how they think of themselves? I had no idea an album featuring such an idiotic concept could be so, so pretentious.
You gotta hear this next part. “Over the decades we have thoroughly enjoyed making fantasies and realities scream out to the world!” I’m wondering if I’d give Halford a pass if I heard him say this live in between songs with a scream at the end and have decided I would still laugh. What makes it worse is that someone in this band sat down and wrote this shit knowing full well it would be read by everyone who purchased the album. There’s quite a bit more on equally poorly-written text about “the metal” and making “the metal.”
Musically this album is very reminiscent of “Painkiller.” A lot of people seem to think “Painkiller” is all as blistering as it’s title track but that album is mostly in the vein of power metal, the same is true of “Redeemer” except it lacks a song as ferocious as that title track throughout. Also it’s not as good as “Painkiller” in any way.
I think it’s Scott Travis’ eager double bass drumming that turns this into a power metal album. If they had a more straight-forward drummer it would probably sound more like “British Steel.” If I do have a criticism it is that Travis is at times too busy, and seems to want to play fast on every song. The thing is Judas Priest is a band that has a lot of different sounds and tempos that they’ve proven they can pull off from their back catalog. I wish he would pull back and change the vibe now and again. Even on a mid-tempo rocker like “Crossfire” he is entirely over-playing that song. The drum fills are too much at times.
Rob Halford sounds good vocally, yet I feel it worth mentioning he has lost a bit of range and versatility in his voice. He’s not quite as smooth in transitions and seems to be in a hurry to get into his comfort zone one every track. That range nowadays seems to be varying degrees of mid-range. There are a couple high screams on this album but if you’re expecting anything like “Hellrider” and “Demonizer” from the past you will be disappointed.
New guitarist Richie Faulkner fits in extremely well. Bidding farewell to a founding member had a lot of people including myself worried. They seem to have found the man for the job because I felt right at home listening to this record. There a couple new sounds here and there and I’m just going to assume that’s his influence because the booklet sadly does not credit who plays the solos where and I’m not such a Priest maniac that I can decipher who’s playing what at all times.
From a production standpoint I think this album would have benefited from a more punchy and crisp sound. Oftentimes the guitar tracks seem to bleed together which I think most heavy metal fans would agree is not a good thing. The bass also seems to be turned up a notch too high. It’s by no means a deal-breaker but it can also become overpowering. “Angel of Retribution” continues to be the gold-standard as far as producing Judas Priest in the modern age goes. Just listen to two-seconds of “Deal with the Devil” and you’ll know what I’m talking about. They may have done away with all the keyboards from the last record but I still think there’s way too much reverb and these echos are just bouncing off each other in the background, muddling things up.
As far as standout tracks go I liked “March of the Damned”, especially for it’s inventive and catchy chorus. That’s about it. The rest of the songs are power metal and sound the same. I think the saving grace of this entire album is “Snakebite” which is curiously omitted from the first disc. This straight-up fist-pumping hard rocker is the only song from this set that truly has me coming back for more. I have cranked this song at least thirty times since this album came out and it’s still not growing old. I’m in love with how Halford delivers the verses and it pays off spectacularly with a great chorus.
The lyrics are standard power metal fare, swords, dragons, battles throughout. It’s kind of a shame they’ve brought themselves to this because Judas Priest is a band that has written some great lyrics about many different themes. I’m not asking for them to rewrite “Victim of Changes” or “Beyond the Realms of Death” but it’d be nice if there was any kind of effort for a mature subject now and again. Most of the band is in their sixties, it would seem natural to write about those topics but no, we get songs like “Creatures.”
“Redeemer of Souls” ranks somewhere around “Ram it Down” and “Jugulator”, which would put it somewhere near the bottom. It’s repetitive both thematically and musically.