I feel like I have give a quick view on this given that I’ve been playing it pretty much non-stop since it came out last Friday.
I have a bit of an unusual relationship with the Priest as I came to them through “Turbo” and seem to be part of a small but vocal minority who think that synthfest album is amongst their greatest work. This and other examples stop Judas Priest from the accusation of playing it safe over the years, they released a concept double album about Nostradamus for fucks sake. Frankly the fact that Judas Priest aren’t afraid to push themselves new music and place it front and centre of their tours places them far beyond many of their rock music contemporaries.
And while Firepower is a return to roots of sorts, it too experiments in places and is not afraid to update the classic Priest sound with a modern production scene. The opening one-two punch of “Firepower” and “Lightning Strike” is up there with the best that heavy metal can offer. Halford spits fire and Faulkner offers a soloing style which complement Priest brilliantly but is his own against the giant Downing and Tipton back catalogue.
But its the riffs on the slower songs where this album really shines as far as I’m concerned. “Evil Never Dies” I can take and leave and I think the lyrics of “Never The Heroes” are nonsense but the riff on that song is something else. The intro to Necromancer in the hands of a modern band would fire off into blast beats, but in Priest’s hands moves into heavy metal riffage. “Traitor’s Gate” “No Surrender” and “Rising From the Ruins” are similarly rifftastic.
For the sake of nitpicking though, “No Surrender” Halford proclaims that he is “keeping it real” something which I don’t think is true about anything he has ever done in his 50 year career. I mean that isn’t the point of heavy metal at all FFS. On “Lone Wolf” he complains about being “left out in the cold” which seems an odd choice given that he already has a song to sing call “Out in The Cold”. And a few of the songs build a chorus around the title. “Necromancer, death’s his guiding light.” “Waiting for Lightning to strike.” Come on mate, bit obvious.
But these are frankly insanely small faults in what is an otherwise brilliant album of pure heavy metal with “Children Of The Sun” being the height irrepressible riffage. Alongside Accept’s “Rise of Chaos” and Saxon’s “Thunderbolt”, Firepower signals halcyon days indeed for heavy metal and I’m insanely excited to hear these songs at Bloodstock.
Verdict: Insufficient breakdowns, but oh my god the riffs.