AL­BUMS

Fire­power COLUMBIA

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - DOM LAW­SON

Ju­das Priest, Be­tween The Buried and Me, Myles Kennedy, Min­istry, Mon­ster Mag­net, oceans of Slum­ber, Nightwish and rolo To­massi are among those go­ing un­der the Ham­mer, err… ham­mer.

Birm­ing­ham’s heavy metal pi­o­neers re­stock their arse­nal

While Sab­bath re­main the genre’s undis­puted orig­i­na­tors, Ju­das Priest have con­trib­uted more than any other band to heavy metal’s sound, vi­su­als, vo­cab­u­lary and cul­ture over the last four decades. Since Rob Halford’s re­turn to the fold in 1999 not ev­ery­thing they have re­leased has raised the rafters, but 2005’s An­gel Of Ret­ri­bu­tion was a tri­umph and there were more than enough great mo­ments on the bloated but in­ter­mit­tently bril­liant Nostradamu­s and 2014’s bullish Redeemer Of Souls to keep such an ex­tra­or­di­nary legacy in­tact. At this point in time Priest have ab­so­lutely fuck-all to prove and could jus­ti­fi­ably plun­der the nostal­gia cir­cuit un­til, pre­sum­ably, gui­tarist Richie Faulkner

– who re­placed the leg­endary KK Down­ing in 2011 – is the last man stand­ing. In­stead, they’ve just made their best al­bum in 25 years.

The first thing you’ll no­tice about Fire­power is how in­sanely huge it sounds. Andy Sneap hardly needs an in­tro­duc­tion here, but both he and co­pro­ducer Tom Al­lom de­serve to be ac­knowl­edged for draw­ing the finest, most fiery per­for­mances imag­in­able from a band that, with all due re­spect, will be cel­e­brat­ing their 50th an­niver­sary in 2019. Just as he brought Ac­cept back from the dead and nudged Me­gadeth to­wards the tri­umph of Endgame, so here Sneap’s in­tu­itive but metic­u­lous ap­proach has had a pro­found im­pact. Fire­power is ruth­lessly con­tem­po­rary and gleams with an al­most fu­tur­is­tic pol­ish, de­liv­er­ing more punch per square sonic inch than Priest have wielded in a long time. The cam­paign to get

Andy Sneap be­hind the con­trols for the next Me­tal­lica al­bum starts here.

But as daz­zling and mon­strous as the pro­duc­tion is, Fire­power’s true bril­liance lies in the songs them­selves. Com­fort­able in their own stud­ded leather clothes, this is the sound of Ju­das Priest re­con­nect­ing with what they do best: hon­ing and craft­ing songs un­til they hit peak metal­lic ef­fi­cacy and, for the most part, leav­ing ex­per­i­men­ta­tion to one side. The first sin­gle, Light­ning Strike, has been rap­tur­ously re­ceived for pre­cisely this rea­son; it sounds like clas­sic Priest, but up­dated and given a 21stcen­tury power boost. Halford sounds fuck­ing great and back to top form, Faulkner and fel­low six-stringer Glenn Tip­ton serve up glo­ri­ous so­los and some sublime twin-lead histri­on­ics, the rhythm sec­tion is tighter than a shrew’s anus and it’s all done and dusted within three and a half min­utes. Heavy metal per­fec­tion, ba­si­cally, and it’s a trick that they pull off re­peat­edly on Fire­power; not a sin­gle one of these 13 songs passes with­out de­liv­er­ing a gi­ant cho­rus and at least one riff that will make you want bang your head un­til it snaps off. There are balls-out ragers (Evil Never Dies, Ne­cro­mancer, Flame Thrower), an­themic mid-paced rum­blers (Never The He­roes, Ris­ing From Ru­ins) and even a low-slung and gnarly doom metal tune (the frankly mag­nif­i­cent Lone Wolf ). Mean­while, brood­ing closer Sea Of Red could well be the finest bal­lad Priest have writ­ten in 30 years.

So we’re call­ing it now: this is the best al­bum Ju­das Priest have made since Painkiller. Yes, it’s that good. If you love heavy metal as much as they do, you won’t want to miss this im­mac­u­late cel­e­bra­tion of what is, let’s face it, the whole rea­son we’re all here in the first place.

FOR FANS OF: IRON MAIDEN, AC­CEPT, ARCH ENEMY

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