After the much maligned, conceptual Nostradamus album in 2008, this is Priest stripping away all pretensions and going back to basics. In doing so, they have actually gone some way to recreating the era of Sin After Sin and Stained Class. At times here, the production definitely harks back to that golden era for the band.
Yet in doing so, Priest aren’t at all guilty of becoming a nostalgia act. They use this as a springboard for some modern pyrotechnics, led by the dual guitar strut of Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner. It still seems strange to be listening to an album from the Priest that doesn’t feature K.K. Downing, but Faulkner’s gloriously agitated approach has given Redeemer Of Souls an edge that, with hindsight, has been missing since Rob Halford’s return for 2005’s Angel Retribution.
It’s also clear that Halford himself doesn’t have the pipes for those soaring screams which were his calling card. But to his credit, he knows this himself and has adapted his delivery. In doing so, his voice is more suited to the narrative of the lyrics, and is actually more interesting, simply because Halford doesn’t feel the need to throw in clichés at every turn to prove that he’s the metal god.
The album kicks into gear with Dragonaut, which sounds like Sinner reborn with a heavier pulse. The title track continues the anthemic feel of the opener, with some precise guitar cascades giving it a memorable boost. As each song rumbles into gear, it’s clear that this is a band who are enjoying the experience, prepared to go the extra distance to take the album from the realms of decent up a notch to be close on formidable. You can hear it all clicking into focus as Sword Of Damocles rides through a riff close to that on Better By You, Better Than Me, to become a fiercely concussive hymn to black deeds.
Yes, there are a couple of dips. March Of The Damned gets a little bogged down, while Cold Blooded is a touch soggy round the edges. But these quibbles pale when up against the thrashing tirade of Metalizer, the thump of Hell & Back and the sedate bite of Beginning Of The End.
The album benefits from giving it a chance over several listens, rather than making any snap judgements. And it’s well worth persevering with – Redeemer Of Souls is irrefutable proof that Priest are still a force on the metal scene.