"Fifty years on from their tentative first steps, Priest have produced what may well be the most defiantly, unrelentingly triumphant record of their career." New Judas Priest album Invincible Shield is nothing short of magnificent

Judas Priest prove yet again that little in this world is as timeless as pure, unadulterated heavy metal

Judas Priest
(Image: © James Hodges)

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At its heart, Judas Priest’s story has always been one of triumph. Black Sabbath may have invoked the spirit of heavy metal with an air of post-war gloom, but it was Priest that gave the genre a spine. Rob Halford’s defiant utterances that ‘United we never shall fall’ and ‘You think I’ll let it go you’re mad... you’ve got another thing comin’’ became the calls to arms for every beaten-down underdog to rise up and seize success on their own terms. And goddamn if they haven’t done it again on Invincible Shield.

Fifty years on from their tentative first steps with Rocka Rolla and more than two decades since Halford rejoined the band and ushered in a glorious second age – Nostradamus aside – Priest have produced what may well be the most defiantly, unrelentingly triumphant record of their career. In 2018, Firepower laid down a gauntlet for all of Priest’s fellow metal elder statesmen in terms of vigour and quality, producers Tom Allom and Andy Sneap giving the band a modern production and sheen that helped the record feel fresh and undeniably vital. Seeing that nobody else has picked up said gauntlet, Priest have followed it with an all-out cavalry charge. Galloping out the gates, Panic Attack, The Serpent And The King and the title track are what happens when Priest get meat between their teeth, taking the rampaging energy of Firepower highlight Lightning Strike and turning it into a constant barrage. There’s a fire-and-brimstone delivery to Halford’s vocal that has popped up less frequently since 2005’s comeback, Angel Of Retribution. It’s not quite the ear-splitting banshee wails of Painkiller or Exciter, but akin to those genre-defining moments, striding with the assuredness that comes with being recognised as the Metal God.

Andy Sneap again wrings absolute gold from guitarists Richie Faulkner and Glenn Tipton. Riffs go from Harley- Davidson chugs to sublime, soaring melodies on the likes of Devil In Disguise and Gates Of Hell, befitting a band used to conquering crowds by their thousands. Meanwhile, As God Is My Witness taps into the furious energy that saw Priest contribute to the DNA of thrash and extreme metal. For all the bluster, the band also find space to let their melodious side shine; Crown Of Horns is a classic Priest power ballad with a chorus that begs for huge sing-alongs. It’s a brief respite, however. Trial By Fire brings forth a Priest performance worthy of a pantheon unto itself, while Sons Of Thunder out-Vikings Amon Amarth as it pillages with glee.

Between Glenn’s live retirement and Richie’s well-publicised medical emergency onstage in 2021, it’s not surprising that discussion of Priest’s retirement has crept back into the conversation in recent years. But with Invincible Shield, they have once again beaten the odds, and by the time the curtain falls on Giants In The Sky – a tribute to Dio and Lemmy – there can be no denying it: Judas Priest have produced an album worthy of their own legendary status, still showing the rest of the world how it’s done. Bostin’.

Invincible Shield is out this Friday, March 8 via Epic. Judas Priest are on the cover of the new issue of Metal Hammer, out now. 

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.