Once more unto the breach for Kenneth ‘K.K.’ Downing – Judas Priest’s original guitarist and a fully fledged founding father of heavy metal – currently enjoying a new creative splurge after spending a decade away from music. Having busied himself with more quirky business ideas than an Apprentice contestant, this LP was written back-to-back with 2021’s invigorating debut Sermons Of The Sinner.
It does sound initially like The Sinner Rides Again (an amusingly passé, corny name for a sequel) might as well be disc two of a double album. By the time we get to the nervy, brooding Keeper Of The Graves, festooned with ghostly choral chants and dusky acoustic picking, you might wonder if a few more spices could have been sprinkled in. A distinct identity does emerge, though, the arrangements perhaps more sophisticated than the debut’s earthy call-and-response Wacken-bait.
There’s still plenty of that, mind: Reap The Whirlwind, Pledge Your Souls, heads-down advance cut One More Shot At Glory (the toying with old Priest titles gets ever cheekier; what next, Another Victim Of More Changes?). A few riffs are so basic they barely exist, and there’s some fairly egregious repetition of a recurring “duhhh-duh- dugga-duh” motif, but always the material is ennobled by K.K.’s glorious whammy-drenched lead work. This hungry septuagenarian shows the whippersnappers how it’s done, his fingers setting fire to the frets of his Flying V.
Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens has a similar command of his discipline, the singer finding a perfect home in this unit. Sumptuously multitracked and covering his full vocal range with vigour and panache, Ripper keeps in lockstep with K.K.’s moods, from orgiastic overdrive to atmospheric nuance – although the cheesy snarling demon narration should probably be exorcised. K.K.’s not trying to reinvent the steel, but he’s certainly ramping up the challenge for his estranged ex-bandmates.