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Judas Priest – British Steel [Album Review]

1980 - British Steel

Judas Priest – British Steel [Remastered]
2001, Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings
Original Release: 1980, Columbia Records

Buy the album

1. “Rapid Fire”
2. “Metal Gods”
3. “Breaking the Law”
4. “Grinder”
5. “United”
6. “You Don’t Have to Be Old to Be Wise”
7. “Living After Midnight”
8. “The Rage” 4:44
9. “Steeler” 4:30
Bonus Tracks:
10. “Red, White & Blue”
11. “Grinder”

Band:
Rob Halford – Vocals
K.K. Downing – Guitar
Glenn Tipton – Guitar
Ian Hill – Bass
Dave Holland – Drums

Producer: Tom Allom

There’s a lot of classic albums that I own but for some reason I never got around to reviewing. British Steel is one of those albums though I could’ve sworn I reviewed it before. But what can I say about this classic release that hasn’t already been said millions of times? While still being heavy metal, British Steel saw Judas Priest entering the 1980’s with a less-technical, more commercial sound. “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight” are two of the ultimate metal anthems and both enjoyed mainstream success while “United” was another anthem with a huge chorus.

That’s not to say there aren’t some other interesting tracks either. “Rapid Fire” is one of my favorite Priest songs and is an amazing choice to open the album (though it was the second track on the original 1980 issue). “Grinder” and “Steeler” are typical Priest-style metal and I mean that in a good way. Then there’s the very interesting “The Rage” with stands out for its portions that have a reggae vibe, almost sound like something The Police would do before morphing into a plodding metal number.

The 2001 remastered edition comes with two bonus tracks. A live version of “Grinder” from the Long Beach Arena in 1984 and a studio track called “Red, White & Blue” which was meant to be on the purposed double album Twin Turbos project (which was stripped down to one album and called Turbo). One thing that bothers me about these 2001 edition bonus tracks is that their placement seems kinda random. “Red, White & Blue” sounds very polished and very out of place with the rest of the tracks but it’s still cool that it saw the light of day.

While I could go the rest of my life without ever hearing “Living After Midnight” and “Breaking the Law” again, the album is a classic from top to bottom and began the commercial rise of Judas Priest. Shame on any fan of classic metal that doesn’t own this one.

Judas Priest ‘British Steel’ coffee by Dark Matter Coffee

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With a few extra bucks to spare, I decided to order Dark Matter Coffee’s limited edition Judas Priest ‘British Steel’ coffee.

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The bonus was that each order includes a cassingle featuring “Grinder” (What else?) from British Steel and “Snakebite” from the bonus edition of Redeemer of Souls.

What can I say? I’m no coffee connoisseur but if you’re a big fan of Judas Priest and coffee and want the cool exclusive cassingle, this is a must-buy. Head on over to DarkMatterCoffee.com and see if you can still order a bag!

My order # was 6666!

Ranking the Judas Priest Discography

UltimateClassicRock.com recently published a list ranking Judas Priest’s studio albums from worst to best. Lists are always fun and good for debate. It got me to thinking about how I’d rank the band’s discography. It goes something like this…

17. Rocka Rolla – Yes, the band’s debut album is their worst, IMO. #SorryNotSorry That said, I don’t think it’s bad but I don’t think it’s very memorable. It’s really only notable because it was the band’s debut album; they were still finding themselves.

16. Jugulator – Most fans who can stand the Ripper era prefer this one, but I don’t.

15. Nostradamus – Said it before and I’ll say it again, this album is a bloated in every fashion possible. Trim it down to one disc and you’d have something decent, but as a double album it’s a bore and chore to sit through.

14. Point of Entry – An okay album with one excellent song (“Desert Plains”) that was nowhere near a follow-up worthy to British Steel.

13. Demolition – This is the Ripper-fronted album that has a greater number of songs that I enjoy. I have a soft spot for it because I bought when it was first released; it was my first “new” Priest album.

12. Turbo – A lot of people dislike this one but it’s a guilty pleasure to me and features a few great tracks.

11. Ram It Down – A harder-edged version of Turbo, it too falls under the category of being a guilty pleasure.

10. Angel of Retribution – Another album I have a soft spot for since it was Halford’s return to the group. I was very excited for this one. It was a good but not great reunion album.

9. Redeemer of Souls – Given that this album was only released a few months ago, it’s hard to truly determine where it stands in the Priest catalog. I feel like it is definitely a top 10 album for the band. It’s certainly the best album the band has made since 1990’s Painkiller.

8. Sad Wings of Destiny  – While the band’s debut didn’t offer up much of interest, their sophomore effort saw the band heading down a heavy metal road that would eventually end with them being crowned as Metal Gods.

7. Defenders of the Faith – Released between the classic Screaming for Vengeance and the controversial Turbo, this one delivered a few classics in its own right.

6. Sin After Sin – The very first Priest album I ever bought.

5. Stained Class – This one is a near tie with the next album…

4. Hell Bent for Leather – …except this one wins out thanks to tracks like “Hell Bent for Leather”, “Before the Dawn” and “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Prong Crown)”.

3. British Steel – I know there’s a strong case to be made for this being the band’s best releases, but there still some filler on this one.

2. Screaming for Vengeance – The band’s commercial breakthrough. I could go without ever hearing “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” for the rest of my life, but I’ll never get tired of “Riding on the Wind”, “Bloodstone”, “(Take These) Chains”, “Electric Eye” or “Screaming for Vengeance”.

1. Painkiller – This one, thought well-reviewed, still does not get enough love as far as I’m concerned. It’s the heaviest, fastest album the band ever did. A lot of people point to this album as having simple comic book lyrics, but who cares? Every track is an atmospheric heavy metal classic. It’s just too bad it was released in 1990 just as heavy metal was starting to slip a bit in popularity.

Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls [Review]

Redeemer-of-souls-album-cover-art-1280

Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls [Deluxe Edition]
2014, Epic Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

CD 1:
1. “Dragonaut” 4:26
2. “Redeemer of Souls” 3:58
3. “Halls of Valhalla” 6:04
4. “Sword of Damocles” 4:54
5. “March of the Damned” 3:55
6. “Down in Flames” 3:56
7. “Hell & Back” 4:46
8. “Cold Blooded” 5:25
9. “Metalizer” 4:37
10. “Crossfire” 3:51
11. “Secrets of the Dead” 5:41
12. “Battle Cry” 5:18
13. “Beginning of the End” 5:07

CD 2:
1. “Snakebite” 3:14
2. “Tears of Blood” 4:19
3. “Creatures” 4:25
4. “Bring It On” 3:18
5. “Never Forget” 6:25

Since the release of the somewhat controversial Nostradamus six years ago, we’ve seen Judas Priest go on a “farewell” tour and also lose founding member K.K. Downing (he didn’t die, he retired) under still not quite clear circumstances. Well, I, for one never believed Judas Priest was going to call it quits. Does anyone really, ever? Though I wasn’t happy that K.K. was leaving, I was hoping that the addition of 31-year old guitarist Richie Faulkner might rejuvenate the band much the same way Scott Travis did when he came on on as drummer in 1990.

Nostradamus isn’t a terrible album and it was a brave thing to do, but it was still a misstep and the band seemed to have lost themselves. Now, it’s possible that if Downing had stayed on then perhaps the band would’ve delivered an album similar to Redeemer of Souls, but who knows? All I know is that Richie gets a co-writing credit on all of the tracks alongside Rob Halford and Glenn Tipton. I’m glad he was allowed to jump right into the deep-end and contribute immediately, unlike how some “replacements” are treated. Tim “Ripper” Owens’ term in this very band comes to mind in regards to being creatively silenced or at least limited!

Whether it’s the fact that the band has new blood or whether it was a conscious effort to deliver a much more tradition Priest album, the band nailed it with Redeemer of Souls. This really is a culmination of many eras of the band and despite the fact that the deluxe edition has a total of 15 tracks, this album is lean ‘n’ mean. It’s a refreshing back-to-basics approach after the overblown and overproduced Nostradamus.

The deluxe edition includes a second disc that includes five great tracks and it is well worth picking up this version. “Snakebite”, “Creatures” and “Never Forget” should’ve been on Disc 1, but I could see how “Snakebite” wouldn’t fit. It’s a bit of a loose testosterone-fueled rocker; like a heavier Whitesnake.

Overall, Rob still sounds great and the new twin axe attack of Tipton/Faulkner is a powerful and worthy guitar duo to pick up where Tipton left off with KK Downing. I figured the album would be good, but not this good. Easily the best album the band has released since 1990’s Painkiller.

Highlights: “Dragonaut”, “Redeemer of Souls”, “Hell & Back”, “Cold Blooded”, “Metalizer”, “Crossfire”, “Secrets of the Dead”, “Beginning of the End”, “Snakebite”, “Creatures”, “Never Forget”

Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls [Single Review]

judas-priest-redeemer-of-souls-album-cover-art-750x0

Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls [single]
2014, Epic Records
Buy the single at Amazon.com

1. “Redeemer of Souls”

Band:
Rob Halford – Vocals
Glenn Tipton – Guitar
Richie Faulkner – Guitar
Ian Hill – Bass
Scott Travis – Drums

Well, we’re finally getting new Priest music some 6 years after their last release of original music. So far, all we’ve gotten to hear is the album’s title track “Redeemer of Souls” (the album itself is due to be released July 15, 2014 in America) but I thought it was worth talking a bit about. It’s important to note that KK Downing is no longer in the band and while his absence is disappointing and not how I would prefer things to be, I think this track is indication that Richie Faulkner is a fine stand-in to work alongside Glenn Tipton.

For anyone afraid of what the band might release after having done Nostradamus, have no fear. “Redeemer of Souls” is very good metal track and Rob’s voice is in fine condition, better than I expected. In fact, he’s sounding better than he has in years. I wasn’t blown away by the song when I first heard it. My honest reaction was that it was a slightly generic slab of power metal. As I keep listening to it, I’m starting to like it more and more. It does not sound like Judas Priest throughout but you can still hear parts and go, “yes, that’s classic Priest”. I guess if you had to compare this song to an era from the band’s past you could go with Defenders of the Faith?

Most feedback I’m seeing online ranges from “it’s okay” to “it’s good”. I think the song is better than anything from Nostradamus and I also think it compares to some of the best from Angel of Retribution. I’ve seen people say they hope the rest of the album is better than “Redeemer of Souls”, well if that’s going to be the case, I think Priest is going to deliver one heck of an album!

 

Metal Excess Awards 2012

Despite 2012 being a year where a number of major classic rock acts reappeared with new albums (KISS, Van Halen, Aerosmith), I was slightly disappointed with the rock scene overall. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that I’ve listened to less music in 2012 than I have compared to the previous 5 years or so. Whether it’s because I’m getting too old or getting too busy, I didn’t sit down and listen to or write about as much music as I have since I started this blog a few years back. I haven’t been paying attention to the world of hard rock & heavy metal as I should have. Forgive me. Maybe I can make up for it in 2013.
Anyway, here’s my contribution to the millions of “Best of 2012” lists that are already all over the internet!
Best Albums of 2012
As I said, 2012 didn’t seem like an incredibly bright year for rock releases but that doesn’t mean I’m knocking some of the cream of the crop. Rick Springfield (of all people!) delivered a classic album that I just had to give the #1 spot based on how much I played it. My Darkest Days had yet another incredibly strong release. Other than Hess at #7, the rest of the top 10 is made up of veteran artists who know how to get the job done.
1.Rick Springfield – Songs for the End of the World
2. My Darkest Days – Sick and Twisted Affair
3. KISS – Monster
4. Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth
5. Aerosmith – Songs from Another Dimension!
6. Adler – Back From The Dead
7. Mollo/Martin – The Third Cage
8. Hess – Living In Yesterday
9. Slash – Apocalyptic Love
10. Dokken – Broken Bones
11. Great White – Elation
12. Richie Sambora – Aftermath of the Lowdown
13. Jorn – Bring Heavy Rock to the Land
14. Jack Blades – Rock ‘N’ Roll Ride
15. Trixter – New Audio Machine
16. Lita Ford – Living Like a Runaway
17. Crazy Lixx – Riot Avenue
18. Hinder – Welcome to the Freak Show
19. Million Dollar Reload – A Sinner’s Saint
20. The Morning After – Legacy
21. Heart – Fanatic
22. Accept – Stalingrad
23. Papa Roach – The Connection
23. Zerokings – Kings of Self Destruction
24. Primal Fear – Unbreakable
25. Fozzy – Sin and Bones

Missed Them in 2012…

These are releases from 2012 that I’ve heard some songs from but I haven’t listened to the entire album yet. I wouldn’t have felt right trying to place them on the list without having heard the complete album. Look for reviews of these albums soon.

* Danko Jones – Rock and Roll is Black and Blue
* Black Country Communion – Afterglow
* L.A. Guns – Hollywood Forever (from what I’ve heard, this probably would’ve made my Top 10)
* Jettblack – Raining Rock
* The Last Vegas – Bad Decisions
* Ian Gillan & Tony Iommi: WhoCares
* Overkill – The Electric Age
* T & N – Slave to the Empire
* Lynch Mob – Sound Mountain Session EP

Best EP/Compilation/Cover/Singles

The “everything else” category.

1. Richard Marx – Christmas Spirit
2. Dio – The Very Beast of Dio, Vol. 2
3. Rod Stewart – Merry Christmas, Baby
4. John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John – This Christmas
5. TSO – Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night) EP
6. Dee Snider – Dee Does Broadway
7. Buckcherry – “Gluttony” [single]
8. Motley Crue – “Sex” [single]
9. Wildstreet – “Easy Does It” [single]

Most Anticipated in 2013

Judas Priest:   Slated for sometime in 2013, this is easily the most anticipated album for me. I’m looking forward to and hoping Priest will deliver a classic sounding metal album and forget about overblown concept records. It’s just a shame KK Downing isn’t along for the ride but I think having some young blood in Priest might actually help push them to be heavier, harder and faster. The same thing happened when Scott Travis joined the band. I’d still love to see Downing come back at some point though. Why not have six members of Judas Priest?

Buckcherry – Confessions (Feb. 19): The lead single “Gluttony” has already been released and I’m really enjoying it. These guys do not disappoint.

My Darkest Days (fall): These guys have released two of my favorite albums from the last few years and are already writing for a follow up to last year’s Sick and Twisted Affair with a new studio album in the fall. I’m hoping the recent departure of guitarist Sal Costa wouldn’t delay the release.

Avenged Sevenfold: No timetable for a new album other than 2013. The band is supposedly going to begin recording this month.

Motley Crue: Another “sometime in 2013″ release. The question is — LP or EP? Vince Neil has mentioned it will be an EP and that’s more in line with what Tommy Lee has stated he’d like for the band to release from now on. Nikki Sixx has been referring to the next Crue release as an “album”, so I guess we’ll see. The single they released in the summer (“Sex”) was decent and seems to fit in with the modern rock turn Crue has taken since 2005.

Black Sabbath: Originally meant for 2012, all kinds of legal issues and drama have slowed this one down. Pretty stupid if they don’t end up pulling Bill Ward in but I’m interested just because I’m a fan of Iommi & Butler. In fact, bring back Ward and get rid of Ozzy and I’d feel even better about this reunion album. My preference is still for Iommi & Butler to form a new band with either Tony Martin (long shot), Jorn Lande, Ian Gillan or Glenn Hughes.

Megadeth: I dunno… Megadeth is one of my all-time favorite bands so I’m always interested but with each release I’m finding less and less to like. Yes, they are getting heavier and faster. Perhaps they are the heaviest and fastest they’ve ever been but Dave seems to be forsaking melody to do it. Seems like he’d rather go off on political rants and conspiracy theories than write memorable songs.

AC/DC: One of those bands that myself & radio have played out to the point where I’m kinda numb to them. But, Black Ice was far better than I ever imagined it could be so I’m definitely interested in new music. This past spring Malcolm Young said a new album would be out in a “year or two”. Here’s hoping it’ll be released in 2013.

Tom Keifer (spring) – I’m a big fan of Cinderella. People have been asking for a new Cinderella album for over 10 years now. I’m not sure why Tom would decide to a solo release instead but I’m not going to complain.

Deep Purple: Ian Gillan said they were planning a new release. Hopefully they follow through!

Anthrax: I think it was Joey Belladonna who stated in interview this past summer than they wanted to release something new in 2013.

Hardcore Superstar – C’mon Take On Me (March 1)

Black Veil Brides – Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones (January 8): I surprisingly enjoyed their last album. Looking forward to hearing whether they’ve kept the same sound or going even more glam/power metal than before.

Crashdiet – The Savage Playground (late January)

Bon Jovi – What About Now (March 26): I’m not a fan of the lead single, “Because We Can”. I actually haven’t been a fan of the last few albums either but I was optimistic because I liked all four new songs they released with the deluxe version of their latest greatest hits compilation. I can’t help but get excited when a new Bon Jovi album is coming out but I would not be surprised if this album was only good for a ballad or two.

Looking Forward to in 2012…

2012 is shaping up to be another spectacular year for rock music. This is a year that is going to see releases from KISS, Judas Priest, Aerosmith, Van Halen and Black Sabbath. WHAT YEAR IS THIS ?!?

In no particular order, here’s what I’m definitely picking up in 2o12:

AcceptStalingrad (April)
Accept really blew me away with Blood of the Nations. The band has proven there is life without Udo. In fact, I think many people would prefer the current line-up over the classic Accept roster at this point.

Crazy Lixx – Riot Avenue (April)
These solid modern glam-metallers are currently in the studio working on their 3rd album.

KISS – Monster (Spring)
Obviously, this is the album I’m looking forward to most. Sonic Boom was a triumphant return to the studio for these guys, now that the wheels are well-oiled, I think Monster has potential to be even better.

SunstormEmotional Fire (February)
I missed out on the last Sunstorm despite good reviews. In the past year I’ve come to appreciate AOR/melodic rock more so I think I’m going to try out this Joe Lynn Turner-fronted side project when it’s released.

Crashdiet
No date yet set by these sleaze rockers but they are supposedly in the writing process now. I’m guessing sometime in the Fall.

Black Sabbath (Fall/Winter)
Another highly anticipated album for me because I’m really curious what it’s going to sound like. I’m not a big Ozzy fan, either as a solo artist or in Sabbath. I’d much rather see Iommi w/ Geezer go on to new projects (Iommi needs to give Tony Martin another call) but I still will be pre-ordering this one. My expectations aren’t all that high though given who is singing. I feel like he and Sharon are going to bring everyone else down to his mediocre level. Still, it’s exciting to know that new Iommi riffs and solos are coming.

Aerosmith (May)
So much prima donna drama in this camp over the last 5 years or so but hopefully that’s gone long enough to give us a new album. Granted,  I don’t really expect much from these guys in terms of, well… anything anymore. They’re kind of a joke at this point but with the legendary Jack Douglas back on as producer, I have no doubts that he’ll drag something out of them that’s better than the last studio album (2001’s Just Push Play).

Van Halen (February 7)
Geez, it was starting to look like the new Chinese Democracy, wasn’t it? No album title has been released yet but a release date has been and the first single will be released on January 10. Van Halen is another band that has become a joke over the years (despite the last tour getting rave reviews) but I have a good feeling about this album. The first album with Roth since 1984 and 1984! Rumored titles have been The Future and 2012 but I don’t think either will turn out to be true. Maybe IV though..?

Judas Priest
The band hasn’t definitely said a new album is coming in 2012 but they’ve been working on new material for a while now and seem to be looking at 2012 for releasing it. It’s a different songwriting dynamic now though. Instead of Halford/Downing/Tipton, it’s just Halford/Tipton. By all accounts, new guitarist Richie Faulkner is carrying his weight in a live setting so I think the album is going to turn out quite good. I do think it’s time the band delivers a straight ahead metal album though. Angel of Retribution and Nostradamus were good but not excellent. The band really hasn’t given the world that kick-ass classic metal album that they should’ve already done since Halford has come back. They really need a PainkillerHell Bent for Leather or British Steel at this point and keep it simple.

Primal Fear – Unbreakable (late January)
I have heard this album. It’s good. Plan on reviewing it soon.

Mollo/Martin – The Third Cage (late January)
See above. It’s great to have a new album out with Tony Martin on vocals.

Buckcherry
Maybe wishful thinking on my part but they were working on new material this past summer so hopefully something new will appear by next summer.

The Last Vegas The Other Side
No date announced yet but they recently released the free digital Other Side E.P. so I’d imagine we’ll have the new album by the spring.

Slash
His first solo album was one of the best records from the last few years and this time, Myles Kennedy is singing all the songs. Everything is written, all that’s left to do is record the songs so I’m guessing spring for this one as well.

Trans-Siberian OrchestraRomanov: What Kings Must Whisper
The second non-holiday from TSO, it was actually planned to be their first album way back in 1994 but they held on it while trying to get a Broadway musical out of it first. Night Castle was dark and cool while still keeping that trademark blend of metal, rock and classical music, I expect more of the same here.

Dokken
With a deal in place with Frontiers Records for the new album, I’m expecting something special despite never being a huge Dokken fan. Lightning Strikes Again was good enough for me to be interested in a follow-up. The plan, as of this past November, was to have recording completed by February.

Stryper
This album was actually delayed from this past year in favor of recording and releasing the excellent The Covering album of cover songs. According to Michael Sweet, two albums are in the works: the first will be an album of re-recordings (Why? Can we stop this trend, please?)  followed by an album of all-new material written in the same heavy, edgy vein as “God” from The Covering.

M-Pire of Evil
M-Pire of Evil is the renamed Primevil which itself was the reunited late ’80s/early ’90s line-up of Venom that featured Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan on vocals/bass . I’m not well-versed on the comings and goings of the Venom roster but the “classic” line-up is split into two different bands right now. Conrad “Cronos” Lant is leading Venom with a few newer guys while the other two “classic” members (Jeff “Mantas” Dunn & Anthony “Abaddon” Bray) have hooked up again with Dolan for M-Pire of Evil.

They released an EP this past summer called The Creatures of the Black, which was pretty good and I liked the Prime Evil album (the only Venom release I’ve heard from this line-up) so I’m looking forward to a full length album. I couldn’t find anything resembling a release date but going by the band’s Facebook page, it should be soon because they’ve been teasing releasing the album cover.

Tooth And Nail (March)
The band that features 3/4 of the classic Dokken line-up. How does “Wild” Mick Brown still retain a position in Dokken while joining Tooth And Nail? Given Don Dokken’s reputation, you’d think he’d have been fired from Dokken by now. I mean, this band was named after a Dokken album and they’ve gloated over the fact that Don Dokken isn’t in the group (bassist Jeff Pilson will handle vocals). What’s weird is that on the band’s Facebook page, they list current Whitesnake drummer Brian Tichy as a member as well… I guess he’s there for the live shows in case Brown has to go off and play in Dokken?

I’m probably forgetting a few more albums but oh well!

My thoughts on K.K. Downing “retiring” from Judas Priest

The world of metal was rocked (no pun intended) on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 when Judas Priest issued this statement:

It is with regret that Judas Priest announce that K.K. DOWNING has formally retired from the band and will therefore not be joining them on their forthcoming EPITAPH Tour.

The band respect his decision and naturally all wish him well.

There’s a more fleshed-out (and rather upbeat & casual) press release linked with that statement that basically states the band plans to continue on with the  Epitaph world tour (for those that don’t know, it is being hyped as the band’s final major world tour) and also still has plans to record and release a new album next year. Oh yeah, and the replacement is 31-year-old Richie Faulkner from England. I had never heard of him before but his most noticeable credit is playing in Lauren Harris’ (the daughter of Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris) band.

The whole thing with Priest has been weird for a while. First, there was the vague announcement that they were retiring and that the 2011 Epitaph tour would be their farewell tour. Weeks later, they backtracked and said “No, this is just our last MAJOR world tour and we’re still going to make new music”.

Which is fine. I think most people realize these guys are 60-ish and deserve the break from the rigors of the road. They are legends and deserve to sit back and relax for the rest of their lives if that’s what they want.

But who exactly in the band wants that? Here is the press release issued by K.K. on April 21, 2011:

Dear friends,

It is with much regret that I will not be with you this summer. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your concerns about my health. Please rest assured that I am O.K.

There has been an ongoing breakdown in working relationship between myself, elements of the band, and the band’s management for some time.

Therefore I have decided to step down rather than to tour with negative sentiments as I feel that this would be a deception to you, our cherished fans.

However I would urge you to please support the Priest as I have no doubt that it will be a show not to be missed.

All my love and respect,

K.K. Downing

For a while, it seemed like K.K. was the only one issuing updates on the Epitaph/recording plans, so you would think he was all for it. Perhaps Downing, and Downing alone, was the one pushing for a slower pace for Priest? Obviously, when K.K. mentions the band’s management there are some money factors at play. I’m guessing management (and perhaps the rest of Priest) have decided they want to continue full-steam ahead while K.K. is still wanting to operate at a slower pace. I think at some point all members were on board with some type of reduced schedule but money talks so it appears some members are more willing to keep up the pace than others. Perhaps this is similar situation to what Dream Theater recently went through.

Not that either side is wrong. No matter who wants to continue, who wants a reduced schedule or who wants it to all just be done — no one is really wrong. All of those options have their positive and negatives and while we certainly don’t know the full story (yet), I don’t begrudge Downing, Halford, Tipton or Hill for their choices in this matter.

I will continue to support Priest. Will it be the same band? Of course not. It’s going to be a different beast (especially when it comes to the new album) but I am not going to write them off. Who is to say the music still can’t be good? Priest isn’t just going to bring in any ol’ guy. The fact that they announced K.K.’s “retirement” from Priest and Richie’s joining in the same press release just means this is NOT something out of the blue and I know Richie had to have been carefully picked by Rob & Glenn. So in that regards, I think in a live setting the band will do just fine.

What I’m actually quite anxious to see is how the new album will turn out. The Halford/Tipton/Downing songwriting team has been responsible for some all-metal classics. Are we down to Halford/Tipton? Is Faulkner a hired gun like drummer Scott Travis or will Rob & Glenn let Richie flex some creative muscles? It will be very interesting either way and I hope K.K. will not wash his hands of music at this point. I would love to hear what he would offer up on a solo album.

Certainly, any way you slice it, this is very sad news. I’m hoping even if they have decided they cannot be business partners that the guys are still going to remain friends. You’d think even if Downing and the band had a difference of opinion on the future they could at least work through this final major tour but apparently not.

My feeling is that at some point Downing will be back. My fear is that it will be too late to really make a difference. These guys are not getting any younger and at this point in their lives they should be cherishing every moment they can have together as a band. For a veteran band, losing such a vital member this late in the game this can really set them back a ways. At least I was able to see the group in 2009.

Thank you, K.K., for all the decades of great music. I wish you the best.

Stryper – The Covering

Stryper – The Covering (2011, Big3 Records)

1. “Set Me Free” … 3:45
2. “Blackout” … 3:58
3. “Heaven and Hell” … 6:11
4. “Lights Out” … 3:44
5. “Carry On Wayward Son” … 5:16
6. “Highway Star” … 5:45
7. “Shout It Out Loud” … 3:15
8. “Over the Mountain” … 4:21
9. “The Trooper” … 3:53
10. “Breaking the Law” … 3:02
11. “On Fire” … 3:08
12. “Immigrant Song”  … 2:18
13. “God” … 4:55

Band:
Michael Sweet – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Backing Vocals
Oz Fox – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Timothy Gaines – Bass, Backing Vocals
Robert Sweet – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Charles Foley – Keyboards, Organ, Piano

Producer: Michael Sweet

And Stryper continues their trend for having AWFUL album covers. =P

Luckily, the album art is not a good indicator of the music itself because this is seriously one great album of covers! When I first heard it was going to be a cover album, I kind of rolled my eyes. That’s usually a sign that a band is slowing down and/or giving up on new material but then they started releasing all these samples and they sounded amazing. I guess the band has caught some flack from their Christian fanbase for having the gall to cover secular music and evil bands such as Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and KISS but whatever. Get over yourselves! Christian acts don’t need to be singing about God & Jesus in every single song. Just because you want to cover Van Halen and Scorpions it doesn’t mean you’ve turned your back on the Lord.

Anyway, what a great line-up of bands to cover! In order, they are: Sweet, Scorpions, Black Sabbath, UFO, Kansas, Deep Purple, KISS, Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Van Halen and Led Zeppelin. The only original song of the bunch is “God” which is a fantastic hard rocker that just doesn’t let up and gives me hope that maybe the band will put out an entirely new and original album later this year.

It was Murder By Pride that pulled me onto the Stryper bandwagon. That was a very good album. Sometimes a veteran act seems to be going through the motions even when they release new material but that wasn’t the case then and even though the band is covering songs here, they still sound energetic and on fire. “God” gives me hope that maybe the band will put out an entirely new and original album later this year because they are on a roll.

The band stays pretty faithful to the source material only making slight alterations here and there but these are some killer covers. “Blackout” and “Lights Out” are pure fire and it’s interesting to hear Michael Sweet vocals on these songs. I think he’s got a unique singing style and it’s interesting hearing him find some middle ground between his own style and the styles in which these songs were originally sung.

One of the better cover albums I’ve heard. Essential pickup for 2011.

Highlights: “Set Me Free”, “Blackout”, “Lights Out”, “Shout It Out Loud”, “On Fire”, “God”

http://www.stryper.com/
http://www.facebook.com/Stryper

Buy ‘The Covering’ at Amazon.com

Halford – Made of Metal

Halford – Made of Metal (2010, Metal God Records)

1. “Undisputed” … 5:17
2. “Fire and Ice” … 2:52
3. “Made of Metal” … 4:01
4. “Speed of Sound” … 4:32
5. “Like There’s No Tomorrow” … 4:20
6. “Till the Day I Die” … 3:50
7. “We Own the Night” … 3:54
8. “Heartless” … 3:38
9. “Hell Razor” … 3:44
10. “Thunder and Lightning” … 5:28
11. “Twenty Five Years” … 7:01
12. “Matador” … 5:39
13. “I Know We Stand a Chance” … 3:51
14. “The Mower” … 4:40

Band:
Rob Halford – Vocals
Roy Z – Guitar
Mike Chlasciak – Guitar
Mike Davis – Bass
Bobby Jarzombek – Drums

Producer: Roy Z

Ah, this is more like it! The Halford band was one of the best bands to come out of the last decade but a reunited Judas Priest put the group on hold for a long time (even though that didn’t stop Rob from remastering and reissuing the band’s three albums previous ad nauseum). A comeback was made last year in the form of the odd, yet enjoyable Winter Songs but now Halford is back with an album that sounds much more like Resurrection than Crucible and that’s okay by me. Crucible was a bit too angry and heavy to me and lacked hooks. Resurrection on the other hand was one of the my favorite albums from the last decade and Made of Metal (sometimes referred to as Halford IV: Made of Metal) is easily one of the top albums of 2010 in the very least.

I was really looking forward to this album but the album’s first single “The Mower” didn’t thrill me (though I didn’t hate it). Luckily, “Made of Metal” was put online, accompanied by a very cheesy NASCAR-inspired CGI video, and gave me much more optimism for this album. By the way, what’s up with the NASCAR stuff? Even in press releases for the album they would mention the unofficial NASCAR connection with the “Made of Metal” video. There’s no licensing deal that I’m aware of but it seems like like maybe Rob was fishing for one.

As I said earlier, the album isn’t as heavy as Crucible, much of it sounds like the commercial metal that you might’ve heard from Priest during the mid-’80s. “Speed Of Sound” and “We Own The Night” have an obvious commercial flair, “Undisputed” is a lyrically cheesy but still very catchy anthem and “Hell Razor” sounds like late ’70s/early ’80s Judas Priest. On the flip side, “The Mower” is an absolutely brutal metal number in which Halford’s vocals get downright nasty.

Then there’s “Till The Die I Day” which is a surprisingly bluesy outlaw of a rocker that reminds me of something Whitesnake would do and “Thunder and Lightning” has a bit of boogie I didn’t expect from Halford either while “Matador” appropriately has a south of the border feel to it. I really like the variety on this album. The album is similar in sound to Priest, Fight and previous Halford efforts while a song like “I Know We Stand A Chance” brings to mind H.I.M. and other similar sounding goth rock bands.

I knew this album had potential to be good but I also thought it could’ve been a train wreck. Luckily Rob and Roy Z have turned in one of the best albums of the year and Rob’s voice shows no signs of slowing down. A lot of reviews have bashed the lyrics but who cares? It’s good MUSIC! Great album.

Highlights: “Fire And Ice”, “Made Of Metal”, “Like There’s No Tomorrow”, “Till The Day I Die”, “We Own The Night”, “Twenty Five Years”, “I Know We Stand A Chance”

http://www.robhalford.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rob-Halford/136458273486
http://www.myspace.com/robhalford

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