Sunday, March 18, 2018

Judas Priest (review by MMB)

Judas Priest
March 9th, 2018
Columbia Records
I like the album, but what is missing is Judas Priest. It has the guitar tone, the voice, the sound of Judas Priest; it’s a case of: it quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, sounds like a duck and everyone says that it is a duck, but people are prisoners of the moment, and are glad to have a new album, especially because the band is a very old and legendary name, and the elderly rock icons are in bad health, dying, nearly dead or in the grave already.
The problem is clear. Longtime guitarist and founder K.K. Downing is not here. The other longtime guitarist Glenn Tipton is unable play guitar competently because of his illness. Thus, the heart of the sound and the creators of the sound are no longer here. What we have is Richie Faulkner, a capable guitarist by all accounts; Andy Sneap, a veteran guitar master, as producer and undoubtedly an important contributor to the album in more ways than one; and Glenn doing as much as he can within the limits of his very serious illness.
However, there is no way to recreate the chemistry, personality, style, the feel, the intangible sound that was Judas Priest’s twin guitar identity.
Business is business; the show must go on; egos have to be stroked; people don’t know when to quit; corporations want money; fans don’t want to accept the end; nobody wants to die; being on the stage is a glorious experience; individuals have family and careers and want as much money as they can get; the green in your eyes is the love of money; old people don’t want to sit at home as elderly citizens when they can worshipped by thousands of drunk metalheads.
Does the album sound bad? Of course not. Does it have good singing? Of course (Let’s leave aside the issue of how much studio magic technology has been used to shore up the sound of a senior citizen singing). Does it have good guitar soloing? Yes. Does it have terrible songs? No.
What is the problem? The guitar work, for one. The guitar work, again while competent and professional, is missing the specific personality and chemistry that is Judas Priest. For instance, the guitar tone is Judas Priest, but the interplay of the masters of the guitars is not there. I don’t hear that communication where the two masters read each other’s minds as songwriting partners and where they took turns at the finger-twisting solos, in which the solos are a song within a song, in which you look forward to hearing the interplay between the two guitarists, working together. That’s not here, and that is indisputable.
Another problem is the songwriting. You can definitely hear the difference and the lower quality in the songwriting. There is no way to make up for K.K. Downing’s missing contributions and there is no way to make up for the fact that Glenn Tipton is not able to play guitar at the level required for Judas Priest, which affects the songwriting and the execution. What do we have then? Musicians who have consciously tried to cut, copy, paste, rewrite, recreate, reformulate, reconfigure bits, pieces, segments, details, trademark licks and riffs to repackage them, and they have done a good job of it. I won’t comment on the fact that the album has quite a bit of a midtempo and groove vibe that is foreign to the sound of Judas Priest, but this element is certainly a big part of the new album.
Things have not been right with Judas Priest for a long, long time, but I am not going to go into that here. I’m talking about this particular album. There is no need to be hostile to the album or to exaggerate the criticism of it. There is also no need to act as if the album is a total failure; it is a solid, good album by the Rob Halford Band, paying tribute to Judas Priest.

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