Rob Halford may look like Santa Claus in fetish gear, but his vocal is still the unrelenting, glass-breaking scream of a man 50 years younger, and Judas Priest's Invincible Shield is pristine and powerful

Judas Priest's late-career renaissance continues apace with thundering nineteenth album Invincible Shield

Judas Priest: Invincible Shield cover art
(Image: © Epic Records)

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It was a big year for the UK, 1951. Winston Churchill was ushered in as PM at the eyebrow-raising age of 77; the UK got its first National Park, the Peak District; Russian spy Guy Burgess hotfooted it to Moscow after being rumbled by British intelligence. This, however, would all pale into insignificance come August of that year, when Mrs Halford delivered a son, one Robert John Arthur, who, we must assume, came screaming (for vengeance) into the world. 

Some 72 years later (read that and shake your head ruefully as you remember watching the video for Breaking The Law on Top Of The Pops), Halford and the latest incarnation of Judas Priest are still rattling rafters with this new album of pristine and dauntingly powerful heavy metal. So pure and full of purpose you’ll be reaching for your air guitar before the second track, the excellent The Serpent And The King, has come crashing to an end and really messed with your neighbours’ plans for a quiet night in. 

Elsewhere the dirty churn of Devil In Disguise, with its raised-leatherclad-fist chorus, makes you yearn for the days when you only had to switch on MTV and there were Halford and guitarists KK Downing and Glenn Tipton in headbanging unison, the singer with a thatch of dirty-blond hair, probably heading out to the highway somewhere.

There’s no denying the dynamism that Downing clone guitarist Richie Faulkner has brought to the band, not least live, and the news that Tipton is still very much involved in the songwriting is very welcome, but it’s Halford, looking like Santa Claus in fetish gear, who domineers here. His vocal is still the unrelenting, glass-breaking scream of a man 50 years younger. How he still does it remains a mystery. And it’s not studio trickery, either, as those who saw Priest live at Bloodstock (where his vocals on Painkiller set off car alarms three fields away) will attest.

Judas Priest have retained their magical allure of mixing blistering rock and strangely hummable tunes, and as fullbore as this album might be, it’s always the songs that carry it. Admittedly every time Scott Travis hits the bass drum your teeth judder, but as you’re resetting your jaw you won’t be able to resist singing along to the dense melody of songs like the roaring Gates Of Hell or the relatively sublime Crown Of Horns. Better still is the absolutely unremitting title track, which is the aural equivalent of being thrown off a bucking bronco and into a wall. 

“Blimey,” you’ll think as you dust yourself off, “let me have a go at that again.” It’s that sort of album.

Philip Wilding

Philip Wilding is a novelist, journalist, scriptwriter, biographer and radio producer. As a young journalist he criss-crossed most of the United States with bands like Motley Crue, Kiss and Poison (think the Almost Famous movie but with more hairspray). More latterly, he’s sat down to chat with bands like the slightly more erudite Manic Street Preachers, Afghan Whigs, Rush and Marillion.