The mighty Judas Priest have held a top spot in my personal metal realm for 30 years. They were my first real metal concert during the Defenders tour in 1984.

Along with Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, they have influenced countless minions in their 40-plus year career, myself included.  While their history has had its fair share of rough patches, they have never lost the status that they earned in the early and mid years of their career. Throw out Ram It Down and Turbo, and you’ve got quite possibly (and arguably) some of the greatest metal albums ever released in the ’80s. Painkiller, Screaming for Vengeance, Defenders of the Faith, British Steel, Stained Class, Hell Bent for Leather  … need I go on?

Redeemer of Souls is the maiden voyage for KK Downing‘s replacement, Richie Faulkner, and although he is 30 years younger than the rest of the band, he delivers with his new, youthful energy.  While 2008’s Nostradamus was overindulgent, Redeemer of Souls brings Priest back to a form they haven’t been to in over 20 years.

Amid cracks of thunder, “Dragonaut” leaps out of the speakers. Although fresh, it sounds like it could have came right off of Screaming for Vengeance or Painkiller.  It has the catchy lyrics, hooks, melodies and screaming guitar solos that make a Priest song a classic.  The title track and “Halls of Valhalla” continue this path, and Halford’s trademark screams still bring chills. Glenn Tipton showcases what his capabilities, and his and Faulkner’s riffs and solos are perfect.

“Sword of Damocles” keeps the fire burning and the guitars screaming, and “March of the Damned” is a lighter, more radio-friendly song. “Hell and Back,” “Battle Cry” and “Down in Flames” keep the traditional feel going with  a massive arena sound. “Crossfire” brings a more bluesy feel to the album hearkening to the Priest of old, while “Cold Blooded” slows the tempo but retains its catchiness.

The deluxe edition includes five extra songs that continue the metal attack. “Snakebite” is upbeat and catchy, “Creatures” is massive sounding and haunting, and “Never Forget” is a slow, emotional ballad.

While Redeemer of Souls may never reach the status of the classics, it is certainly a viable Priest album, and, in my opinion, their best since Painkiller.  Yes, the band is aging, but they are doing it gracefully.

Redeemer of Souls is out now on Sony Music.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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