One of the the heaviest and fastest albums they’ve done

Let’s get right down to it: heavy metal sounds the way it does primarily because of three bands – Black Sabbath, Motörhead and Judas Priest. With the first of those bowing out gracefully last year and the second having died with the departure of Lemmy, it’s up to the Priest to keep the flame of the pioneers alive.

There could be no better way to do this than for them to call their 18th album something like Firepower and open it with a deadset scorcher full of dark, speedy riffing, dual guitar melodies, divebombs and squeals and a menacing vocal with lyrics about retribution and justice. That’s pretty much everything Judas Priest in just the very first song! If Redeemer of Souls was indeed their redemption after the melodramatic misfire of Nostradamus, Firepower is very much the reclamation of their crown from so many pretenders. ‘Lightning Strike’ blazes forth while the title track is still ringing in the ears, another ripping slab of molten metal that can only come from Judas Priest.

This is easily the heaviest and fastest album they have done since Rob Halford rejoined the line-up, a record that is as self-referential as it is new and vital, with the twin production team of Tom Allom and Andy Sneap blending in echoes of the glorious past. The vocal harmonies in ‘Necromancer’ recall ‘The Ripper’ as the riff from ‘Evil Never Dies’ mirrors that of ‘Metal Gods’; the speed and delivery of tracks like ‘Traitor’s Gate’ and ‘Flame Thrower’ matches the likes of ‘Rapid Fire’ and ‘Painkiller’. Halford’s voice maintains the power and gravitas, the depth and resonant menace, that continues to make him the envy of singers across the rock music world and on the high notes of tracks like ‘Evil Never Dies’ he still remains – at 66 – peerless. The interplay between Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner, is, as usual, of the highest standard, something tinged with sadness at the thought that Tipton may never be able to play this way again and the rhythm section is ever rock solid, the always reliable Scott Travers adding some Binks-ian flourishes here and there while Ian Hill drops into the necessary groove when required.

This is everything that has come to be expected from one of the world’s pre-eminent metal bands. Even five decades into their career, Judas Priest remain the very best at what they do. Firepower is excellent.

1. Firepower
2. Lighting Strike
3. Evil Never Dies
4. Never the Heroes
5. Necromaner
6. Children of the Sun
7. Guardians
8. Rising from Ruins
9. Flame Thrower
10. Spectre
11. Traitor’s Gate
12. No Surrender
13. Lone Wolf
14. Sea of Red