Judas Priest, "Redeemer of Souls" (Epic)
It takes a lot for a band to make up for a "farewell tour" that ended up not being a farewell after all. But on its new studio album, Judas Priest has redeemed itself nicely.
Simply put, "Redeemer of Souls" is the best album this band has done in over 20 years. Powerful, fierce, captivating and clever, this could be the hard rock/heavy metal album of the year.
It opens with a roar with "Dragonaut" and the melodic but still rocking title track.
But things really get interesting on "Halls of Valhalla." Priest's one concession to age is that Rob Halford's air-raid siren vocals have given way to mid-register singing. The wails of "Painkiller" or "The Sentinel" are few and far between here, but they do surface in a glorious way on "Valhalla."
And "March of the Damned" has the same bottom-heavy groove as "Metal Gods"; it even has similar sound effects of heavy items bashing against each other and scraping on the floor.
So, if you thought Judas Priest was done -- like the band briefly said it was -- you've got another thing coming. And that's just fine.