Album Review : Judas Priest - Firepower (2018)
There are no bands like Judas Priest anymore. Don't even try to find one because the mold is broken. It was smashed into piece sometime around 1992.These guys have embodied what it means to be a rock star for 48 glorious years now. It's over a decade longer than the time I've been alive. And here they are, older than my fucking dad and showing even more passion and energy on their latest record Firepower than I ever did in my entire life. And I'm energetic myself... for a millennial, you know?
How the fuck can grandpas rock so hard? That new record can teach us a thing or two about that...
The two words I'd use to describe Firepower are: bombastic and predictable. Priest doesn't offer you anything groundbreaking on the album, just a more refined, aggressive and... well, bombastic version of what we all know and love from the band. Think Painkiller, but without any room to breathe and analyse what the hell just smacked you in the face. There are their trademark heavy, chunky guitar riffs; crazy dueling guitar solos that both have emotional and technical appeal and a majestic vocal performance by Rob Halford. Seriously, what the fuck is that dude eating for breakfast? He sounds younger and angrier than thirty years ago.
There are plenty of highlights on Firepower. The title track, for starter, begins with a Resurrection-era guitar riff and an Halford shriek being gradually pitched in. He sounds like a goddamn eagle swooping in. The follow-ups Lighting Strike and Evil Never Dies just come out of the gate angry and roaring, leaving you vulnerable before hitting you with the more nuanced and better structured stuff. Songs like Never the Heroes and Rising from Ruins build up to such simple, but emotional choruses, it doesn't even make you self-conscious for singing them: We're standing as ooooone/We're carrying oooon/Riiiiisiiing from Ruiiiiiins.
There truly isn't any music like Judas Priest being made anymore. Unapologetic, emotion-purging rock/metal that draws meaning from the entire performance rather than just for the lyrics. I mean: walking through fire/fate's in my hand/waiting for lightning to strike is just corny if there aren't battle-axe guitars and a confident, over the top delivery to go with it. Songs like Lighting Strike and Necromancer are respectively about facing a demon and someone who raises the dead back to life. Nobody writes about that anymore, but they aren't just fantasy-themed. They are allegories for the human experience and nobody allegorizes with the theatricaliy Priest does nowadays. That's why they're still appealing to a large crowd.
People need a theater for their own lives. They need to be a hero, at least to their own self.
My favorite song in that regard was the bluesy, sassy, but heavy-as-fuck (and unfortunately named) Lone Wolf, which is a dialogue between a man and his dark inner self. The opening lines are so. fucking. commanding: Hey, I am the voice of your anger/ Hey, I am the voice of your pain. Everyone has this powerful, but destructive inner self that could either kill someone or build an entire city. Learning to master that dark inner self can lead to great things and songs like Lone Wolf, Necromancer and Lightning Strike are really about acknowledging and confronting it. Metalheads who are reading this understand what I mean. We live to find songs like this. It's a form of empowerment.
If there's a weakness to Firepower, it's one you see sometimes in great heavy metal records. When you're going pedal-to-the-metal for an entire album, every song needs to one-up the other, otherwise a listening fatigue is going to build. Firepower is not exempt from that. Songs that are more linear and straightforward like Children of the Sun, Sea of Red or Traitors Gate don't really have the necessary bite to stand out. They easily could've been B sides to such a face-shredding record. Anyway, Firepower is fucking awesome. It goes right there in my Priest hall of fame with Screaming for Vengeance and Painkiller.
Oh yeah, I went there. It's that good.