Judas Priest's 18th studio album, FIREPOWER began under inauspicious circumstances. First, guitarist Glenn Tipton, diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a decade ago, found it necessary to retire from the road; second, they lost out to Bon Jovi for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; and finally, former drummer Dave Holland passed on before this set's issue. But the sound of FIREPOWER remains unbowed.
Some bands have the ability to change the course of history and have paved the way for others to achieve similarly great things. There's Dio, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest are on that list, too. Where the sub-genres of metal dominated in 2017, Firepower is highly welcome, harnessing as it does an early, back-to-basics fabric of classically full-throttled heavy metal.
As the rockers of the 1960s and 70s enter their dotage, we spend our idle hours wondering how they might be coping with the stresses and strains of modern-day life. Now that Jimmy Page has become Led Zeppelin's self-appointed archivist, we often imagine him down the local vegetable patch, metal detector in hand, searching for hidden treasures. (He got a whole allotment of love.) But truth can be stranger than fiction.
When Painkiller hit the racks nearly three decades ago, Judas Priest succeeded in taking their fanbase by surprise. And not for the first time, their refusal to play safe saw them take emerging guitar synth technology for a test drive on Turbo (1986), a gamble which paid off in the main, but drew criticism from more hardcore supporters. Ram It Down (1988) struck a more even balance, not least via its thrash-paced title track, but, as with the Spanish Inquisition, nobody expected Painkiller.