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Review: Judas Priest - Angel of Retribution
Judas Priest
Angel of Retribution

Label: Columbia Records
Year released: 2005
Duration: 51:52
Tracks: 10
Genre: Heavy Metal


Review online: February 24, 2005
Reviewed by: Michel Renaud
Readers' Rating
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Rated 4.23/5 (84.69%) (64 Votes)

My expectations were pretty low for this one. After the two turds that the Priest delivered during Halford's absence, I had practically given up on the hope of hearing good new material from these guys. So here we are, Halford is back, and it's obvious that he was the missing link. In the first few seconds, one can hear what has been missing in Judas Priest for nearly 15 years: Chemistry. Ripper wasn't a bad singer (personally I didn't care for him, especially not his stage antics – but I digress), but one couldn't hear much chemistry in that lineup. "Angel of Retribution" just sounds right, and I think that chemistry has a lot to do with it.

I have had this one for a little while now, and that gave me the occasion to let the initial excitement die down a bit – especially suffering through Jugulator and Demolition, one could be tempted to call this a masterpiece, since it's such a return to form. In short, it sounded almost excellent at first, but is now down to "very good". That's still not too bad. :) Let's just focus on the problems for now: I had heard the radio version of "Revolution" before I got the album, and didn't like the song at all. The album version is longer and fills some gaps that hamper the radio version. The chorus cannot be saved, however. It sounds like a drag, and it's a drag to hear it. The rest of the song is actually pretty good when you listen closely, reminiscent of late 70s Priest by moment. "Angel" is a ballad. Not a bad one, but I feel it should have been placed somewhere else. After getting your ass kicked and into massive headbanging mode by "Wheels of Fire", to find yourself stopped dead in your tracks by a quiet ballad is a bit disconcerting. This is by far the part I detest the most on the album. "Eulogy" is another ballad, but darker and less cheesy than "Angel" – somehow it flows pretty well in the grand scheme of things, unlike "Angel". The vocals are also more interesting on that one. The album closer, "Lochness", is a long epic that just drags on too long for its own good. It is a great song overall, but still at some point you just want it to end already. There's one moment where you think it's finished, only to have it restart about a second later.

Overall one could compare this material to their late 70s-early 80s output and even a little Painkiller – a mix of all these sounds, actually, dignified by a modern production (which is not always a good thing, but it works great here.) So if you were expecting Painkiller II, you're in for a deception, but then again you're not left starving either. There's a couple of songs that could have been on that album, such as the opener "Judas Rising" whose beat shares some similarities with one song off Painkiller (the title of which I can't remember off-hand, I really need to give that album another spin soon), even "Revolution" has a little bit of a "Touch of Evil" feel to it, and the heavy "Hellrider" would probably fit very well on that album as well. The others have more in common with the band's earlier material "Deal With The Devil" has a more light-hearted beat, it's very upbeat, the kind of song you headbang and sing along to. "Worth Fighting For" is a quiet rocker, pretty catchy, although I find the layered vocals in the chorus sound a bit off at times. "Demonizer" is quite heavy, you can almost feel its weight on your shoulders when you listen to it. "Wheels of Fire" is another upbeat one, a bit heavier than "Deal With The Devil" but sensibly in the same style.

Each song on the album has some kind of reference (in the lyrics) to a song off a previous album. I've found a few (such as a reference to "Painkiller" in "Demonizer"), but not all yet. But no, I don't think you win any prize if you find them all.

The verdict is simple: The classic Judas Priest is back. This is not their best album, but it slaughters a few of their past ones (and especially the two turds, but that's not much of a challenge.) Even with the few quirks, I found myself enjoying this album immensely. OK... OK... I usually went to take a piss during "Angel", but other than that, two thumbs up. ;)

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