REVIEW: JUDAS PRIEST – “Firepower”
As a lifelong Judas Priest fanatic, nothing gets my blood flowing more than new music from the greatest heavy metal band to ever grace this planet. While my expectations were raised considerably with the online release of the title track, ‘Firepower’ and “Lightning Strike”, I was pretty downcast to find that the rest of the album didn’t quite match those lofty heights.
While ‘Firepower’ gets off to a suitably fiery start with the one-two punch of the aforementioned tracks, the pace drops significantly soon after. The rest of the album moves squarely into Fight and Halford territory with very little resembling vintage Judas Priest. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the bloated nature of many of the following tracks makes for a fairly tedious listen.
However, there are a couple of crackers to be found, especially towards the album’s latter half. “Spectre”, for example, sees Halford in especially fine form as his venomous vocal delivery perfectly complements the sinister vibe the song exudes. Similarly, “Never Surrender”, which sounds like it was plucked from ‘Point of Entry’ and injected with a beefier production job, also manages to bring the heat.
It’s clear that Halford runs the show all throughout ‘Firepower’ by favoring his still excellent mid-range. This is easily the best he’s sounded since ‘Angel of Retribution’, although the material behind him doesn’t quite match those standards.
Unfortunately, the same issues that plagued Redeemer of Souls seem to be present here as well. While Firepower on the whole is a bit of a step up, at least in my opinion, it’s still a very uneven album. The strong tracks like the title song, Lightning Strike, Spectre, Never Surrender and Lone Wolf are noticeably a cut above the rest.
The ponderous and almost lethargic nature of “Children of the Sun”, “Rising From Ruins”, “Sea of Red” etc. tends to rob ‘Firepower’ of much of its, well firepower. In a textbook case of ‘sometimes less is more’, whittling the album down to a solid 8 songs could have certainly given it more oomph. Even the muscular, modernised production, which seems to be Andy Sneap’s calling card, doesn’t really cut it. It worked for Accept to some extent, but Priest has always been a more dynamic band that needs room to breathe.
As much as it pains me to say it, this isn’t Judas Priest at their best. ‘Firepower’ would probably fit snugly somewhere in between Halford’s ‘Crucible’ and Fight’s ‘War of Words’, but without the staying power of the latter. But hey, I’m just glad they’re still around. After all, the metal world would be a poorer place without Judas Priest at the helm. And with Tipton sadly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, there’s a good chance this could be their swansong.
In any case, their status as bonafide metal legends will never be in question and hopefully they still have one more album in them to go out on a fitting high.