As a person who was thoroughly bored with the last few Priest albums, "Firepower" is the first since "Angel of Retribution" that really hearkens back to my youth. Joining fellow metal stalwarts Iron Maiden, Saxon and Riot (to name a few), Judas Priest hits it out of the park with relevant true metal - making he score: Old Guys - 10, Young Whippersnappers - 2. With no disrespect to "Nostradamus" and "Redeemer of Souls" (the latter proving the better), there has been a lack of elements that made Judas Priest so special. "Firepower" centers things, but it certainly isn't free of its own mid-paced duds. There is sufficient "Firepower" throughout the 14 hymns to make the album stand as a modern classic and further proof that Halford is ageless.
First, the elephant in the room....no one is expecting universal praise of any album released these days, but if you read the interwebs and social media for a mere ten minutes, any album that receives any fair share of praise (a/k/a 'overhype') gets an equal (and sometimes overpowering) backlash. Sometimes that backlash is warranted, but sometimes it gets so overly technical that it only serves to get attention, even if you can buy into it. "Sure, the new Priest songs are good, but the guitar tone just isn't the same." Seriously...are you happy that you stand apart as the group of 10 heroes who felt it necessary to point it out? The fact is, these songs range from excellent to solid and worthy of every Priest fan's collection. The young fans can also learn a lesson about relevancy, longevity and sticking to what works - and thank Dio the band stuck around this long to seed new fans.
If you piece together "Firepower," "Lightning Strike," "Evil Never Dies," "Children of the Sun," "Flame Thrower," "No Surrender," "Rising From the Ruins," "Traitor's Gate" and "Sea of Red" and put it out as an album, you can literally trace its origins, style, structure and pure greatness right back to albums like "Screaming for Vengeance" and "Defenders of the Faith." Expecting a shitstorm for that comment, feel free to run the analysis yourself. You have speed, hard rockers, mid-paced pseudo ballads - phenomenal guitar work, well structured songwriting and Halford sounding spectacular.
Yeah, the band is older and members are different, but this wasn't an analysis done without care or justice - so please spare me the fact that decades old classics cannot ever be remade in the modern era and sit down and truly look at it. Everything that made Priest so great in the 80's is right here. For your author, the key to Priest isn't remaking "Painkiller" - its bringing back the variety of styles and utter beauty of "Screaming for Vengeance," "Defenders of the Faith" and "British Steel." "Firepower" has it all...and I dare listeners to prove me wrong.
With a sufficient influx of youth a la Richie Faulkner, Priest has felt remarkably younger and more invigorated in recent times. If you follow Faulkner on social media, there really is no person more dedicated, excited, interactive with fans - someone truly thankful to be where he is at and in a legendary band. His joy is as infectious as his riffs, and Judas Priest has been exceedingly better with him.
What started with "Redeemer of Souls" continues on "Firepower," reverting Priest to the stuff that makes the band the legends we all love dear. This is no "recapturing of youth" failure, where one or two songs overshadow a pile of shit. This is a carefully crafted masterpiece that has origins in the some of the most revered classics in the Judas Priest catalog. Priest's transformation to the past is complete...fight me!
Label: Epic Records (2018)
2. Lightning Strikes
3. Evil Never Dies
4. Never the Heroes
6. Children of the Sun
8. Rising from Ruins
9. Flame Thrower
11. Traitors Gate
12. No Surrender
13. Lone Wolf
14. Sea of Red