On February 11, 2018, Judas Priest announced that guitarist Glenn Tipton was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Tipton was first diagnosed with the disease in 2008. Less than a month after the announcement, the band released their 18th studio album, Firepower (2018) on March 9, 2018. Tipton did play on the album, but unfortunately, he couldn’t participate in the tour because of Parkinson’s worsening his playing ability. On tour, he was replaced by the band’s co-producer for Firepower, Andy Sneap. However, Tipton did pop up here and there for a few dates to perform tracks like “Living After Midnight” and “Breaking the Law” with Judas Priest.
The line-up that played on the album includes Rob Halford on vocals, Tipton on guitars, Richie Faulkner on guitars, Ian Hill on bass, and Scott Travis on drums. Without further ado, let’s get on with the music!
The album is off to a great start with the title track. There are some similarities to “Painkiller” such as the double kick drum technique from Travis and the “wah wah” guitars, but it’s not as overbearing and in your face like “Painkiller.” However, it’s still a great track and Halford sounds really good vocally, which is impressive considering his age. Next up is the first single from the Firepower album, “Lightning Strike.” In my opinion, it’s a great blend of the 80s Judas Priest with the modern Judas Priest.
“Evil Never Dies” is just brutal, man! You can hear Halford growling in the line, “evil never dies” and it’s awesome! I love the down tuning/lower key of this song because I think it gives the track more of an edge. However, I have one question, what the heck is voodoo? “Never the Heroes” has a slow headbanging feel to it and in a way, it’s a more laid-back track. I really like the chorus, which is really simple and powerful at the same time. I love the intro for the song too, with the hi-tat and toms kicking off the groove.
After a slight breather with “Never the Heroes,” Judas Priest comes back in your face with “Necromancer.” The lyrics are so spooky and flat out evil: “Born out of hell from the depths of Gomorrah / Purging new graves and defiling the souls / He satiates with such vile and dark horror / Omens of dread on this night of the ghouls.” Plus, the dark tone of the song really adds to the storytelling. “Children of the Sun” is another laid-back track and while I’m not crazy about the chorus, the bass parts are really good. Especially in the quieter moments of the track, that’s when Hill really gets to shine on the bass.
“Guardians” is a short piano and guitar instrumental that leads into “Rising from Ruins.” I love how the guitar slowly starts blending into the track halfway through, plus the piano melody is so pretty. “Rising from Ruins” is an anthem for those that were misunderstood or picked on as kids. It has such a positive vibe that’s not done in a cheesy way and I love it! Even the guitar solo has a joyous vibe to it. The song is also a slow headbanger, which is great.
“Flame Thrower” gives me “Breaking the Law” vibes, which turns me off a bit. They both have that same low-key vibe where Halford is singing in a lower register and acting like he’s about to do something bad, both have really simple choruses, and even the melodies sound similar. On the plus side, the guitar solo was good and I liked when Halford screamed, “Don’t you believe you stand a chance in HELL” before the chorus is sung for the last time. “Spectre” is another slow headbanger, but with a twist. The tempo speeds up a bit for the guitar solo before the last verse. The guitar melody is really interesting and I don’t know how to explain it, but just trust me when I say it’s awesome!
“Traitors Gate” starts off on the quieter side until the guitars kick in at the 0:27 mark, followed by the drums shortly afterwards. The song has a chugging riff, which blends in nicely with Travis’ double kick drum technique. I got wrestling match vibes from this track and it wasn’t the first time that happened with a Judas Priest song. “Traitors Gate” has such a dark and heavy vibe that can be used to introduce a wrestler entering the ring. I can picture it now with the chorus playing and the smoke coming out in the background, while the wrestler growls his way into the ring, intimidating his opponent.
For some reason, “No Surrender” wasn’t released as a single for the album, which is nuts because it’s a great radio friendly track. It’s uplifting, but not boring, and the chorus is insanely catchy. I talked about this song in my Songs with the Same Title – Judas Priest Edition post and it actually made me want to get the Firepower album. That’s how good “No Surrender” is. “Lone Wolf” is an ok track, it’s a bit slow, but not enough to bore me to death. It’s just that the previous track was so good and it would’ve been nice if the album ended with just that.
The closing track is probably the worst and mellowest song on the album, “Sea of Red.” I mean, the drums kick in slightly during the chorus, before going all out midway through the second verse, but other than that, it’s a pretty boring song. Especially with the heartfelt lyrics, this sounds like the type of song you’d hear at a high school graduation and nobody wants to relive high school, trust me!
I enjoyed 11.5 out of the 14 songs (“Flame Thrower” got half points), which is about 82 percent. With that in mind, I’ll give Firepower a rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars. I think there are too many songs on the album. 12 songs were fine, but I think the band was pushing it with 13 tracks and onward.
On the plus side, this is the highest rating I gave a Judas Priest album so far, beating Sin After Sin (1977) with 4 out 5 stars. Another positive is that most of the songs on here are really good and really intense, and I give props to Judas Priest for still kicking butt so late in their career! I heard that the band is working on a new studio album, so we’ll see how that turns out sometime in the future.
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