Sjak : The sad news that about ten years ago Parkinson’s disease was discovered with Judas Priest guitar player Glenn Tipton has of course overshadowed the fans’ euphoria for this new, meanwhile nineteenth full-length studio album ‘Firepower’ to a large extent. Nevertheless I’m glad to see that the successor of the in 2014 released ‘Redeemer Of Souls’ has again become a mighty fine work of art. Despite of the fact that the guys are reaching quite a notable age, that absolutely isn’t shown on this album as the material on offer sounds very fresh and fits seamlessly in the meanwhile very extensive Priest catalogue. Maybe that the influence of “young gun” Richie Faulkner has played a part in this, because he’s of course quite a bit younger and of a different generation than the other band members. The fact is and remains that this ‘Firepower’ has become a truly great Judas Priest album, which will certainly be to the liking of the many fans. The band has of course a reputation to live up to here, but still you have to be able to do just that.
The production duo Andy Sneap (who will replace Tipton as guitar player during the upcoming tour) and Tom Allom have really created a crystal-clear sound, which contributes enormously to the listening pleasure presents the song material in a great way. The record opens very strong with title track ‘Firepower’, which is followed by the also great first single ‘Lightning Strike’. The strong, razor-sharp riffs of the duo Tipton/Faulker are skull-crushing and form the very solid base of the great song material. On top of that both gentlemen create the so-called icing on the cake by means of lovely, fresh sounding guitar solos. But not only the instrumentalists prove to be playing at their top game, because also singer Rob Halford shows that he hasn’t lost anything of his power during the years. His characteristic voice still sounds as robust and energetic as in his younger years and there is absolutely no sign of wear and tear yet. With ‘Evil Never Dies’ and ‘Necromancer’ the headbangers among us are getting quite spoilt, while at times they sound quite subdued on a song like the semi-ballad ‘Rising From Ruins’.
At times they somewhat divert from the usual path by incorporated some progressive elements in the music, like for instance in tunes such as ‘Traitor’s Gate’ and album closer ‘Sea Of Red’. That only positively contributes to the variety and creates quite an enrichment of the material on offer in my opinion. For me personally ‘Lightning Strike’, ‘Evil Never Dies’ and ‘Rising From Ruins’ are the highlights of this great album, but the true strength of ‘Firepower’ is as a matter of fact the consistent high quality level. There are just no weak songs to be found on the record and that is not often accomplished anymore nowadays.
The great song material, the excellent instrumental interpretation thereof and strong vocals make sure that ‘Firepower’ has once more become a fantastic Priest album, with which the band only confirms and reinforces its position as leading heavy metal institution. An essential purchase I would say!