Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls

by Cory Van der Pol
August 16, 2014 –

judas_priest-redeemer_of_souls

Judas Priest contributed much to the science of metal riffing. Where Black Sabbath strung together power chords into long phrases, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden re-introduced lead picking to this role as well with guitars that harmonized each other; Iron Maiden focused more on melody, where Judas Priest narrowed its exploration to the use of structure in riffs to get around the predictable patterns and rhythms still inherited from rock music. The band straddled the line between rock, hard rock and heavy metal.

Over the years, the band has unlike any other metal band explored any influences it could make meaningful. In the 1980s, Judas Priest explored electronic sounds and applied them to a type of hard rock/metal tinged with industrial and synthpop influences. In the early 1990s, the band took on Slayer and death metal with perhaps its highest musical point, Painkiller. Two decades later, the band both returns to its roots and attempts to find new directions for an artform which has lost sense of its urgency.

Redeemer of Souls begins with a pure hard rock track that shows off bluesy guitars and familiar rhythms and riff forms from 1970s-1980s radio hard rock. Perhaps the idea is to start the album slowly, or to have some track that can make it onto radio, but this track probably turned off most actual music fans because it is the metal equivalent of a cliché. After that, the band launches into more ambitious fare that quotes from the past styles of Judas Priest but tries to work in the rock appeal that marked its earliest albums. Hints of Ram it Down merge with a mainstay of pulsing rhythms from the Painkiller and Jugulator years slowed down to fit within the more sedate pacing of early Judas Priest.

Occasional citations can be heard to diverse metal bands including Metallica and at least one riff that sounds like later Iron Maiden. The band experiments with a number of variants on the theme citing mostly from rock favorites, such as the ballad and classic country, as well as working in a number of rock tropes in lead guitar and rhythm. Halford’s vocals take on a more restrained and sentimental approach. Tipton’s influence emerges through a style that fits classic Priest with a leaning toward the bluesy over the progressive or more metallic structured solos of the past. Where more intensive metal riffing emerges, it tends to lead not to an expansion on the same, but to a more vocal-centric and slower-paced take.

Redeemer of Souls like many later albums from groundbreaking bands revisits many successes of the past and mixes them in with known crowd pleasers, but seems focused more than Judas Priest in recent memory on fusing rock and metal to escape the sterile and eclectic but unfocused material of the jazz-lite fusion years of recent metal. While Redeemer of Souls has moments of power, its focus on breadth and variety leaves it feeling less like an album and more like a collection of singles, and experienced Priest fans may find it both approximates past releases too much and fails to leap to their level of intensity.

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20 comments

  • Lord Mosher

    The album does seem like a collection of singles. Song like the 3rd track Valhalla, track 12 Battle Cry and track 6 Down in Flames, reminds me of the Painkiller era. The slower songs are like outakes of middle 80s Priest.
    .
    Yet, this album fucking slays! The problem I feel, is that after the 3rd track the album takes a dive into a slower more mainstreamish direction that leaves a bad aftertaste; but then the album takes off again around track 6 to 12 and it fucking slays!
    .
    This one is better than Brittish Steel, Ram it Down and pretty much everything after Painkiller. On par with Hell Bent and Screaming for Vengeance. Below however than Priest’s 70s material.

  • asd4

    addendum:
    “In the early 1990s, the band took on Slayer and death metal with perhaps its highest musical point, Painkiller.”

    No way dudes. Sad Wings, Sin After Sin and Stained class are much more musically interesting. For all Painkiller’s bombast, it lacks songs that really go anywhere at all.

    1. Number 9

      “One Shot at Glory” doesn’t go anywhere? “Between the Hammer & the Anvil”? It’s a great album…granted I agree that “Sad Wings” and “Stained Class” were better (not “Sin after Sin”).

  • Sokka of the Water Tribe

    this: ” Redeemer of Souls has moments of power”…
    Indeed. Contender for best of 2014 with Sammath.

  • John S.

    its focus on breadth and variety leaves it feeling less like an album and more like a collection of singles

    And thank god for that.

    Priest’s attempts at thematic albums made them horribly unmusical and dull.

    This is a lot better (although derivative).

  • tiny midget

    brett you’re very cryptic.
    so, is it a good album or not? did u approve or not? im confuzed.

    1. Brett Stevens

      The first track is appalling. The album improves both stylistically and musically from that point onward. It at least attempts to hit the 1980s Judas Priest standing at the intersection of hard rock, progressive rock and heavy metal. I thank you and others for your commentary of an insightful nature here. Sometimes we explore alternative topics to get them out there in the air for discussion, but cannot of course allow interview subjects or others to be hauled in for a close-range beating by comment-writers. We’d rather they get a chance to have their say and others contemplate that and take their conclusions with them everywhere they go. We also try to be open-minded and consider everything first, then analyze it and make our conclusions later. Many of these people will also over time slowly hammer tin scraps into works of art, but it will take decades of subtly re-organizing the assumptions of society through indirect means. Thus our articles do not ever constitute face value acceptance or rejection, but we seek to further this process by amplifying our understanding of metal, those who love it, those who study it, and its interaction with society at large.

      1. trystero

        I do understand and apprecite what you are saying, but the eventual response DMU must give in that instance is negative no? Right on my right are links to long essays where you basically refute every academic up till now and what this website is supposed to lead people to eventually no? The DLA reviews? Am I wrong?

        Nevertheless I understand and will refrain from any extra negativity or abrasiveness, I will hold myself to silence, or try at least, but I will not think well of it and neither will your real audience (apparently not your target audience?).

        1. Brett Stevens

          Our audience has borne with us in previous experiments and hopefully will do so here as well. We will see.

          We must continue to grow or we die. That includes mastery of what is so that it can become what should be.

          The DLA has to stay somewhat independent of anything but a total distrust for society because it is a bungler. What it values is usually wrong because what people value is usually based on social appearance and self-aggrandizement rather than focus on the real.

          1. trystero

            I dont believe your audience is sticking through, but yeah we shall see. There are always new audiences.

            The grow-or-die mantra is a modern error, there is no such need. It applies to little things as much as it does to societies. That is the threat that liberal capitalism gives us, either we grow (with mass immigration etc.) or our economies die.

            1. Brett Stevens

              I don’t think it’s a desire to grow, only a desire to be heard, and to explore all that is happening in metal so we avoid being entirely a retrospective site. Our primary goal remains the archive and that handles the retrospective idea sufficiently.

              1. Climate Clinician

                It’s hard to be heard when you’re pushing the unpopular stuff.

                You know that most people listen to music as background noise to accompany their inner-narratives. That’s why easily digestible music is prefered to the masses. Metal has the same faults: it’s subject to being social/glitter because of the 90% of listeners that only look at the surface aspects.

                Most people aren’t deep; they’re hardly even shallow. “True metal”, as you call it (DLA), will be discarded by the majority.

                So, what is the purpose? What are the results to the labors? Have you actually found a “middle way” which enables you to be a referee between the majority and the minority?

                This is all just an experiment.

                1. witten

                  What you say is true, but it is possible to curb the excesses of the mainstream society. Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven are still widely regarded as the pinnacles of musical art, even though the masses have no deep understanding of their music. Of course with metal the situation is widely different, but the idea that the masses are dumb so we can’t make any change shouldn’t be the final word. Really, where does that idea lead us?

      1. trystero

        Battle Cry in particular is a powerful song. Real post-Painkiller stuff in there, but it has shitty stuff in it too.

        1. Lord Mosher of the Solitary Pit

          Let’s just clear that the video on this article does not have the correct track order.
          This video here does:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dd_t4GVxFI
          .
          The article is spot on. I think this album´s a grower.
          The first time I listened to it I dismissed it as another gay release. After repeated listens however I found myself really getting into these tunes.
          Halford’s vocals are heroically emotional that carry these songs to safe haven.