Revisiting Judas Priest’s Rebirth With ‘Angel of Retribution’
Few could have guessed how long Halford and Glenn Tipton, K.K Downing, Ian Hill and Scott Travis would stay apart when things first started going pear-shaped back in 1992. Many expected only a brief hiatus as Halford decided to stretch his musical legs with Fight. Instead, it turned into a trying, extended separation.
By 1997, Judas Priest had returned with Tim "Ripper" Owens at the helm, while Halford had folded Fight in favor of the highly controversial industrial project 2wo, and simultaneously announced he was gay. A few years later, Halford resumed a more familiar classic-metal stace with a self-named solo band, even as his former Priest bandmates were nearing the end of the Owens era.
The time seemed ripe for a reunion and, in 2003, the Judas Priest lineup responsible for 1990's formidable Painkiller album finally, officially reunited. The first item on their agenda was collaborating on the Metalogy box set, followed by a well-received tour that included dates in Europe and then the U.S., with Ozzfest. All that was left was a return to the studio. Judas Priest tabbed producer Roy Z., who in recent years had worked both on Halford's and Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson's solo albums.
Together, they completed a set of songs that, in some instances, revisited the thrash-fueled excitement of the Painkiller period (primarily thanks to Travis' trademark double kick-drums) but, for the most part, epitomized the steel-plated metallic purity that fans had not truly witnessed since 1984's Defenders of the Faith. After all, the band had subsequently dived off the pop metal deep-end with 1986's Turbo and, to a lesser degree, 1988's Ram it Down, before exploring rather unorthodox sonic extremity on Jugulator and Demolition.
Among the highlights that still retain every ounce of their "holy crap, they're really back!" excitement all these years later, there's this album's stirring opening salvo, "Judas is Rising"; the infectious history lesson of "Deal with the Devil"; the irresistible melodic hooks of "Worth Fighting For"; and the sheer evil intent of "Demonizer." But, really, diehard Priest fans could undoubtedly make a case for virtually every track on Angel of Retribution -- including the beautifully heartfelt, acoustic-initiated ballad "Angel"; the evocative, piano-enhanced interlude "Eulogy"; and even the somewhat bloated, 13-minute doom epic "Lochness."
In the end, Angel of Retribution seemed to give every Judas Priest fan something of the group's vintage metal lore to lift their fists to, don their leather for, and, naturally, bang their heads to.