When you’ve been in the business as long as Judas Priest, you have an opportunity to reflect upon and work with your longest-standing musical influence: yourselves. And so it is that Redeemer of Souls looks back and well as forward, ending up sounding Judas-Priesty as all hell, and all the more enjoyable for it. The overall feel is the same as what we’ve come to expect post-Painkiller, but there are also bluesy bar-rock riffs on the record that would be at home on Point of Entry, Killing Machine or even British Steel. It’s self-homage without resorting to self-plagiarism (one notable exception is the title track, which is essentially a reboot of “Hell Patrol”).
New guy Richie Faulkner admirably fills the K.K. Downing-shaped hole in the wall, matching Glenn Tipton’s dignified grace and power on the trade-off solos. He’s also heavily involved in the songwriting, which may turn out to be a secret weapon for the band. Having grown up outside the Priest bubble, he’s been listening to the competition. To wit, there are Maidenish touches here and there, especially on “Sword of Damocles”, which is a straight-up Brave New World-era Iron Maiden song that JP appropriate with aplomb.
One elephant in the room: the time of the Rob Halford shriek would appear to be over. We all knew this day would come. Halford does access his falsetto, but it’s during quieter moments, and when he does rage out it’s carefully and gently cradled by the mix and quickly spirited away as if to say “Nothing to see here; move on”. Considering he still has one of the most dynamic ranges around, and his midrange is passionate and full of power, it would be churlish to ask for more.
Be at ease, metalheads. It’s twenty-freaking-fourteen, Mark Wilkinson has yet to tire of painting messianic figures aflame under violet skies, and Judas Priest have gone back to the well to draw forth an album which will be the envy of bands half their age. 8.5 out of 10