One Track Mind: Judas Priest, “Redeemer of Souls” from Redeemer of Souls (2014)

Newly released music from an old favorite band always brings an odd mix of anticipation and trepidation before I push the play button. I always have a great sense of dread that it will be awful and that tiny, unreasonable hope that this song will hit me as hard as my favorite work from the artist.

That’s unreasonable, in no small part, because I’m older, jaded and not as prone to excitement about a song as I was when I first heard, say, “Breaking the Law.” That said, this old jaded dude still cranks the volume and throws horns every time “Breaking the Law” comes on.

So where does “Redeemer of Souls,” the title track from Judas Priest’s upcoming and likely final album, stand? Well, it’s no “Breaking the Law,” but then we come back to that reasonable expectations thing. Applying that filter, it’s not a bad tune.

The song will immediately appeal to a contingent of Priest fans from the opening riff. This sounds like a classic Priest riff, something that would have been right at home on any of the band’s early 1980s records. From there, the song gallops on with vocalist Rob Halford giving a somewhat restrained performance. His vocals soar over the music, but he doesn’t deliver those piercing high notes that fans may hope for.

While I do like the song more with each play, I will also admit that there’s a certain air of the generic about it, too. On first listen, I thought it sounded a bit more like a modern power metal act paying tribute to Judas Priest than the band itself. I’ve softened a bit on that stance as it has wormed its way into my head a little on repeated listens.

I do think the guitars could have a little more bite to them, though the bottom end sounds good. And the guitar solo, for me, leaves a bit to be desired. Don’t read that as a statement on K.K. Downing’s departure, because Richie Faulkner impressed the hell out of me on the Epitaph DVD, and Glenn Tipton is, of course, still there. It’s just to say this one’s not doing it for me.

Ultimately, my reaction to “Redeemer of Souls” is as mixed as my feelings before I hit play. I like it, but I don’t love it. I bob my head and sing along in a few places, but neither the volume nor the horns go up on it. I’m hoping the rest of the album holds better.

After the disappointing (for me, at least) Nostradamus, Halford has promised in recent interviews a heavy record with Redeemer of Souls. I hope Judas Priest can deliver that. With a couple of notable exceptions, I have a history of being less impressed with first singles from Priest than with the rest of the album. If that continues here, this should be a pretty good record.

Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips is a veteran entertainment writer with a love of hard rock and heavy metal. He has written music reviews, columns and feature stories for several newspapers, Web sites and a national wire service, while running a stand-alone site called Hall of the Mountain King in various places and incarnations since 1997. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.