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by Martin Popoff
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Fresh Metal

JUDAS PRIEST
Angel Of Retribution (Sony BMG)

Slaps on the backs and high fives all 'round: Priest have dodged a hail of bullets and walked the razor's edge, which is sorta one and the same. I mean, they could have turned in a "modern" album, whatever the hell that means in an age where 165 records have come out in the last three years endlessly rewriting 'Exciter', 'Screaming For Vengeance' and 'The Sentinel'. Of course what we mean is something like the Ripper records, Glenn and K.K. periodically daubing the age creams, worrying about sounding current, a place Rob's been to as well, with both Halford and Two. Conversely, they could have turned in a safe, shiny, vacuum-sealed Roy Z.-approved record proto-power metal record like Resurrection. But no, Angel Of Retribution (I still have issues with that title - there's a vague redundancy in it) brings to the table eccentricity (gone since Hell Bent For Leather), dimension, almost a whole new persona to this band of many faces and misplaces over the years. Oh, I suppose it's closer to a Resurrection, but curve balls are admirable thrown. First leaked track 'Revolution' was a rumbling, oddly arranged enigma that contained a bit of Zeppelin to it, even Rage Against The Machine, plus a bit of the tribal United thing going on. I didn't like the verse, but then it's quickly dispensed with, all sorts of sophisticated tricks and drones and circulars taking over until you just get taken along for the ride - like a barrel over the falls. A success AND an uncharacteristic track - new ground. Elsewhere, 'Judas Rising' is both arcanely melodic and full-on power metal, but with an odd drum track - again, surprisingly brainy musically. And man, before we leave that one, the best part of this record is its solos! K.K. and Glenn just have this timeless knack for dueling, composing, going for the throat without being speedy all the time, without widdling way up the dog whistle fretboard. They sound like mechanics. And bloody 'ell, 'Deal With The Devil' is a headrush of a headbang, like British Steel, like Accept, very German (weak chorus though). 'Worth Fighting For' is brave too, this time Accept meets Turbo, with a bit of a hair/southern rock vibe. 'Demonizer' is another slamming headbang with a great groove, despite its mechanistic charting. This one brings up a point - this album isn't showy and note-dense all the time; in that respect it's interestingly, circuitously old school, almost like the work of icons who've earned, in semi-retirement, the right not to hafta switch riffs all the time.

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