Metal Gods, Judas Priest, certainly the most enduring heavy metal band ever, are back. Jugulator is their second original album of the 1990s, the first, the incredibly ripping Painkiller, was released in 1991. What were they doing between the hammer and the anvil for nearly seven years? Well, considering that they successfully rode out an exhausting “metal leads to suicide” lawsuit and lost their singer for the last 20+ years, Rob Halford, maybe it’s a miracle that the band still exists.
The story of this new album and the current world tour is definitely worth telling. Judas Priest was known for lightning-fast, way-rocking metal that pitted Rob Halford’s multi-octave, opera-metal voice against the supertwins of metal guitar, K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton. While the guitars will go on forever, without the distinctive vocals that scream out “PRIEEEEEEEST!” the metal world might never hear from the band again. My own opinion is that bands with vocalists that characterize the band’s sound become victims of changes and the old songs lose their relevance because the new singer wants to do things his way (can you say Ronnie James Dio?). Good examples are Van Halen and Anthrax. Two bands that decided to change drastically and, in my opinion, ruined a great thing. Iron Maiden is an exception, though, as their last album and tour proved.
The new Judas Priest album, Jugulator, only has ten songs on it — would these ten songs cancel-out more than two decades of ripping metal? I couldn’t imagine going to see this band and not hearing classic screamers like “Beyond the Realms of Death,” “Breaking the Law,” or “Hell Bent For Leather.”
Neither could the rest of the band, obviously, because one wild and crazy night they chose a complete unknown to replace Rob Halford. And where did they find this complete unknown named Tim “Ripper” Owens? Where else but in a Judas Priest tribute band somewhere in Ohio! Talk about a band with integrity and a dedication to continuing a sound that made them one of the most popular music acts in the world! Ripper Owens sounds exactly like Rob Halford! Judas Priest lives!
Oh, what about the new album? Firstly, I was really impressed that they put together a studio album of all-new songs before touring. They weren’t afraid of delivering new goods to the world at all. It’s an extremely heavy album, heavy for Judas Priest, too. I would say that it’s consistent with what heavy metal is in the mid-’90s. Slower, heavier guitars, with an emphasis on “brutality,” but with the distinctive Priest vocals. The songs that will eat you alive most are “Blood Stained,” a screaming for vengeance tirade at politicians; “Decapitate,” which must be about capital punishment and contains a pretty gruesome guillotine-in-action sound effect; and “Burn In Hell,” which is a cover of a Twisted Sister song. No! That’s a JOKE! It’s really a harsh, brutal, ramming-it-down song of revenge. “Bullet Train” is being released as the single, and it’s a great song, too, but the ten-minute “Cathedral Spires” is my choice for best song on this remarkable record. This band serves as the model for honesty and integrity in their music, and a dedication to their fans. CMC International, 5226 Greens Dairy Rd., Raleigh, NC 27616