REDEEMER OF SOULS
Judas Priest has a lot to atone for in the eyes of all fans except for Jim "Nostradamus" Bartek. Given the fact that Bartek's 524 day listening streak to NOSTRADAMUS probably doubled the count of the rest of the Priest fanbase combined, it's clear that the once Mighty Priest needed to do something very, very metal this time around or it might just be time to call it a day. Not only was NOSTRADAMUS a bomb, but it also marked the moment that the dynamic duo of Tipton and Downing split in half, as KK decided to take his skills to the golf course and leave the band behind. With that said, and given that Priest fans have gone 9 long years without a good Judas Priest release to listen to, there's a ton of expectation on REDEEMER OF SOULS.
Well, I will give them this. They did record a metal Judas Priest album. There's no question that many of these songs will sound great in the live setting. Sadly though, they are going to have to, because the production on REDEEMER OF SOULS is abysmal. Songs like "Halls Of Valhalla" could easily have become favorites from the band, but the production is just bad. The sound is just terribly thin, in parts sounding like demos. The guitar volume is all over the place in spots, and in others the sound just sounds very raw and far too unpolished for a typical Judas Priest release. Other songs, like "Sword Of Damocles" quite literally sound like a mess of noise in parts. On all levels - guitars, drums, bass (where is it) and even vocals, the production is shoddy at best, demo like at worst and throughout. Even compared to their releases from the 70s, this is worse. Simply, this is unacceptably bad for a band of Judas Priest's stature in 2014.
That's too bad too, because there are some truly solid songs here. The previously mentioned "Halls Of Valhalla" is probably the best of the bunch, but other songs like "March Of The Damned" rock as well. While it's somewhat strange to get an entire Priest release with almost no Halford screams and full of the singer in the lower register, he's still passable and still more than fulfills the "Metal God" persona. "Down In Flames" is a good song with a really terrible guitar mix on it. In fact, this is probably the worst sounding guitar ever on a Priest release. To be honest, this is a big problem throughout the release. When they tag team solo, guitarists Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner just sound off. I'm assuming that Faulkner is the 2nd guitarist in on the solos (at least on this song), and his guitar just sounds terribly raw. It's far too contrasting for the Tipton's parts, and it doesn't work. "Hell & Back" is another really good song that is plagued with crap production. It's the lone time on the disc where Ian Hill's bass really shows up, but it's so loud and mushy that it's distracting. As for drummer Scott Travis, he seems to have gotten screwed over the most on REDEEMER OF SOULS. Normally, Travis brings a huge, arena-like drum sound to the studio. Here, he's so muffled in the mix on most songs that you'd almost never know it's the same guy from previous releases.
PITRIFF RATING - 52/100 - To say the least, REDEEMER OF SOULS is a disappointment. While it has some good songs on it, the production is an absolute killer. Sounding more like demos than a studio ready Priest album, this one goes up on the shelf next to NOSTRADAMUS; filed under "rarely if ever listen to". What a bummer.