Archive for Rob Halford

Album Review – Judas Priest “Redeemer of Souls” 2014

Posted in Album Reviews with tags , , , , , , on July 21, 2014 by Lightning Slim

JudasPriestRedeemerSouls  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

Album Review – Judas Priest “A Touch of Evil – Live” 2009

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , on August 9, 2010 by Lightning Slim

  Throwing together a nice mixture of post-reunion tracks and old chestnuts in a bare-bones package, A Touch of Evil Live works exactly as advertised. Fun new songs like “Hellrider” and “Prophecy” contain the enthusiasm and juice of a band happy to be doing new material, but it’s also a nice surprise to hear old-school scorcher “Riding on the Wind” peeled off like it ain’t no thing. Brutal ballad “Beyond the Realms of Death” gets rare airtime here, and “Dissident Aggressor” shows old dogs with still-sharp teeth (this performance rightfully won them the 2010 Metal Grammy). 

There’s one mis-step in a tired-sounding attempt at “Painkiller”, a song that deserves better than a less-than-lethal run-through. Even Metal Gods can have an off-day, but they shouldn’t be captured for posterity. Not the end of the world – if you like live albums this one’s a good choice. 7 out of 10

Weekend Wrap-Up: Heavy MTL 2010

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2010 by Lightning Slim

I’ve had a week to decompress and collect my thoughts about the second edition of Heavy MTL. I think it was a tremendous success by anyone’s standards, featuring some great performances by a truckload of bands and the legendary hospitality of Canada’s hippest city. I initially tried to put everything into a coherent, travelogue-style narrative, but then I decided that would bore the pants off y’all. Here’s the meat of things: 

It's the one that you wanted.

Big Hit: Rob Zombie wiped the floor with the place. In these sorts of festivals, bands usually have enough time and presence of mind to  wander out, play a few songs and disappear again. Not so Mr. Zombie, who brought all the robots, pyro, costumes and video that make him the proper heir apparent to Alice Cooper (Cooper himself didn’t fare so well, conjuring up images of an elderly, croaking transvestite). All this stage mummery didn’t diminish the playing chops of Zombie’s band, who didn’t hide behind their makeup and treated us to a huge committed rock show filled with that thing metal sometimes forgets about: fun. It was interesting to juxtapose the maniacal stage personae with the perfect gentlemen signing autographs earlier in the day. 

Big Miss: Fear Factory, after delivering what might be the record of the year, fumbled their soundcheck badly and then went through the motions in a badly truncated set.  I went in looking for the icing on the tasty cake of FF’s return, only to find it was straight out of the tin. 

Skeletonwitch's Chance Garnette spends some time with Slim's crew

Great as Expected: Skeletonwitch, Testament, Halford, 3 Inches of Blood, Lamb of God and Slayer made the most of their stage time. All these bands have reputations for delivering consistent live performances, and they kept the faith in MTL. 

Pleasant Surprises: Airbourne, as the sole whiskey-rock band between two armies of Metal and Emocore, did much to lighten the mood and gave people their second wind for fun on Day 2. Hail the Villain conquered the crowd with self-deprecating humour and heavier versions of their radio sound, and In This Moment grabbed no small number of new fans with an arresting performance on the third stage. Speaking of third stages — 

Organization Bad: Three stages in competition. I’m old-fashioned, I guess, but I think that every fan should have the chance to see every band. Chimaira in one ear and 3 Inches of Blood in the other isn’t enjoyable for even the most indiscriminate fan. 

"Patches" was sad that he had to pick and choose 😦

Organization Good: Almost everything else! Polite security staff, almost-reasonable  concession prices, on-time performances, great selection of bands. Some might quibble that Day 2 was Emo Day, but I say if you’re gonna have this thing and you want it to thrive you should cram in as many bands as possible. I know that may contradict my thoughts on multiple stages, but it brings me to my next point: 

The Vibe: More important than any one performance or memory, Heavy MTL represents a gathering of the metal community. It puts like-minded folks together to bang their heads, have a beer and talk about the music they love in a safe, positive and party-like atmosphere. Canadians love (and play) metal as well as anyone else, and we need this festival to continue. It’s like our Wacken or Milwaukee, done in our smaller, more polite way. 

Indeed.

So when Heavy MTL 2011 comes around, I won’t be going for any particular band, although I have a ton of suggestions if anyone’s listening. I’ll be going for the good times, good company and that rare chance to be amongst one’s own. 

That’s all for now – I was always taught not to over-analyse anything good. \m/ \m/! 

Don't recall it being "metal -on- your ass", but a'ight.

Box Set Review – Fight “Into the Pit” 2008

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , , on April 19, 2010 by Lightning Slim

What: Four-disc set containing all of Fight’s output.

Selection: No problem for completists. Both studio records are here in their entirety, along with the Mutations EP and a live DVD. An easy feat for a short-lived band. 9 out of 10

Packaging: Nothing to write home about. DVD digipak with a large lyric booklet. Good art by Marc Sasso throughout. 6 out of 10

Sonic Manipulation: Now here’s a conundrum. A typical bottom-heavy revamp by Roy Z works wonders for A Small Deadly Space, a record which I didn’t like before but now listen to regularly. The same treatment does not work for War of Words, which now seems slower, less thrashy and thinner through the middle where room has been cleared for Halford’s vocals. We know the man can sing, but back in the day it was kind of nice to hear him do a noisy thrash record. 7 out of 10

Rarities/Extras: None to speak of. There are a couple of commercials and tour-diary style videos of backstage and day-off shenanigans. 2 out of 10

Overall: An economical and complete look at Halford’s period in the American wilderness. Some interviews on the DVD or some artist-penned bio might have shed more light on the implications and lasting effect of Fight on his solo and Priest careers. 7.5 out of 10

Decade Review: Ten Bands that Rocked the 2000’s

Posted in Album Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2010 by Lightning Slim

Decade Review: Ten Bands that Rocked the 2000’s 

This isn’t a best-of, more of a reflection on who had a good decade in my musical universe. Some artists are old masters making a comeback, some are newer bands that hit right around the Millennium, and some are just hard-working dudes who cranked out a good ten years’ worth of tunes without having any kind of meltdown. 

  1. Amon Amarth – With every record, they just keep getting better and better. Not too shabby, especially when they keep banging them out every 20 months or so like clockwork. While the past few years have been their time to shine, AA’s pagan thunder has people excited to see what’s next.
  2. Ministry – After starting the decade in rehab and stumbling out of the gate with Animositisomina, Al Jourgensen roared back into focus with his “Dubya Trilogy”. Ministry’s best moments have always been collaborative, and these supposedly final slabs of finger-pointing are fortified with the likes of Tommy Victor, Burton Bell and Paul Raven (RIP). If he really is done this time, the Alien has capped off his career with head held high. 
  3. Iron Maiden – In early 2000 I received a promotional postcard with a picture of Eddie on one side and one sentence on the other: “Bruce is Back.” Exciting, but that wasn’t the whole story, as Dickinson brought songwriting partner Adrian Smith with him and the band kept bonus guitarist Jannick Gers. Now a six-piece, the big boys of metal released three albums in the Zeroes. All of them are long, noodling and by no means The Number of the Beast, but at the same time they are consistently better than anything since Seventh Son. Maiden were also smart enough to realize that the new material isn’t as rousing onstage – their solution was elegant and ingenious: Dust off your ass-kicking 1985 World Tour gear, pack it on your own  jet plane and just do it all over again. This is captured in all its glory in the highly recommended documentary Flight 666.  
  4. KMFDM – In 1999 KMFDM released Adios, their farewell album. They’ve cheerfully made fun of this while making six studio albums and about a bazillion singles, remixes and side projects since. Bringing in Lucia Cifarelli brought an end to hired-gun female vocalists as well as adding another songwriter to the fold, and the often underrated Tim Skold had his fingerprints all over their third decade of bold-faced rip offs “conceptual continuity”. Still political, still angry, KMFDM have nonetheless loosened up a bit, presenting a little more Blackadder than black leather. 
  5. Amorphis – If Entombed and Chrome Division define Death n’ Roll, Amorphis created a kind of DoomPop with Tuonela, a record filled with the rich textures, lyrical imagery and saxophone (!) you’d normally get from artists associated with the singer/songwriter world. It’s the heaviest U2 album ever made. After that, things got a bit weird with two straight-up psychedelic releases before Eclipse, Silent Waters and Skyforger returned us to the land of the Kalevala with Tomi Joutsen as our upgraded tour guide. By mining the national epic for narrative, Amorphis became a band with stories to tell, the Neil Young of the metal world. 
  6. Arch Enemy – Obviously, it’s been a good decade for the “A” section of my shelves, and AE really got cooking with the addition of pint-sized punk menace Angela Gossow. Debate as you will about who did what first, Gossow has become the poster girl for female contributions to extreme metal. She’s made enough of an impression that the Arnotts have retroactively made her the sole vocalist of the band by putting her up front in early-hits redux record The Root of All Evil. Sorry, Johan! The band put out four studio albums in the Aughts (two great, one good, one so-so), toured relentlessly and recorded tons of live material. We don’t know what the Teens will bring, but as of right now, they are Kind of a Big Deal. 
  7. Rob Halford – I wonder if the Metal God likes to make lists? If he made one for the 2000’s, it might look a bit like this: Reunite legendary metal band Judas Priest – check. Successful solo records praised for their heaviness (thanks Roy Z!) – check. Clothing line, recording studio – check and check. Just for fun, make a well-received Christmas album – check. Do all of this as a gay man in his fifties – ka-check!
  8. In Flames – I’m still learning to love 2004’s Soundtrack to Your Escape (and might never), but otherwise it’s been full speed ahead for the Jesterheads. Arguments over which of Clayman or Reroute to Remain is better are futile, since both are excellent. The choruses have gotten punkier over the years (they do tour with hardcore bands a lot) but the band still lays a firm claim to their piece of the Gothenburg Sound.
  9. Danko Jones – He’s “big in Sweden”! Thus Danko complains to typically lackluster Toronto crowds whenever he plays at home. He can be moody with his non-emotive Canadian fans but it hasn’t stopped him from releasing several chunks of straight-up rock. They’ve all got some great numbers on them, and very little filler. Danko’s also one of the few guys operating today who sings about girls without sounding either emo or femicidal.  
  10. Apocalyptica – There’s that “A” again. 2000 was the year Apocalyptica stopped depending on cover songs and took off on their own with Cult. Each subsequent release added new elements to the cello quartet’s classical sound: Reflections has drums and a touch of piano, Apocalyptica throws in some vocalists and Worlds Collide finally fully embraces the big goth-rock mess of the genre they basically invented. I’m not as much a fan of the latter album, thinking that they lost some of their unique charm by putting too many kids on the vocal side of the teeter-totter. As a whole, however, they make this list by rising above the tide of “A Gimmick X Tribute to Band Y” to become their own masters.

 Honourable Mention: Motörhead, but then, it’s always their time.

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