KK Downing’s departure from Judas Priest is still one of the saddest, most confusing sagas in metal. After devoting his adult life to the band that he co-founded in 1969, co-writing many of metal’s best-loved and most important songs, his projects since 2011 have betokened a man in restless search of new directions. He’s founded Wolverhampton’s Steel Mill venue and the webzine of the same name, and even released his own range of fragrances. It’s taken 10 years, but with Sermons Of The Sinner he’s finally remembered what he’s best at: heavy metal, duh.
KK always spoke very highly of Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, whose records with Judas Priest unfortunately coincided with a period in the artistic and commercial doldrums for the band. His commanding pipes have well served many smaller-scale projects and guest spots since, but his phenomenal voice deserves a definitive vehicle – and KK’s Priest is as much a showcase for Ripper’s blood-curdling, multi-tracked shrieks and snarls as for Downing’s tasteful but flamboyant solos and catchy, down-to-earth riffing.
KK also wanted to bring in Les Binks (Priest drummer 1977-79); his contribution was waylaid by injury, but it’s hard to imagine a septuagenarian nailing such high-speed double-bass and pummelling tom rolls. KK’s Priest is intrinsically a top-tier no-bullshit power metal band, but the uproarious attack of Wacken-baiting gems like Hellfire Thunderbolt, Metal Through And Through and Raise Your Fists is counter-pointed against darker, quieter, more reflective moments; witness the title track’s surprisingly wistful, melancholic mid-section, and the atmospheric acoustic coda to audacious epic closer, Return Of The Sentinel. It’s not all gold; Brothers Of The Road is a cheesy roadie ditty that knowingly pilfers from You Got Another Thing Comin’ – but KK has dropped a helluva heavy gauntlet here. Great news, folks: there are two Priests now.
Sermons Of The Sinner is out October 1 via EX1