Judas Priest, “Firepower” (Epic Records)
If you think these heavy metal dinosaurs have had it, you’ve got another thing coming.
“Firepower,” the fast-paced title track from the British steel merchants’ latest album, is the best song Judas Priest has recorded in nearly three decades, kicking off a strong album that stands with any they’ve done before.
Though not intended as a concept album, “Firepower” has a common thread running through much of it, songs from the viewpoint of soldiers or warriors in battle, whether it’s the unnamed foes in the title track, the devil in “Evil Never Dies,” or mortal opponents in “No Surrender.” The album ends with “Sea of Red,” an ode to those who died in battle so that others might live.
The album also features a string of “Blacklist”-type villains, each given a sinister name that could have formed an episode of the James Spader TV show: “Necromancer,” ”Flame Thrower” and “Spectre.” Come to think of it, shave off singer Rob Halford’s beard, plop a fedora atop his head and he’d look more than a little like a heavy metal Raymond Reddington.
Though not the vocal siren he used to be, Halford is still scary, intense and convincing in the lower registers.
“Firepower” may also be the last album that founding guitarist Glenn Tipton plays on, having retired last month from touring due to Parkinson’s disease. But he’s holding out the possibility of future contributions, and his solos here with guitar colleague Richie Faulkner are definitely Priest-worthy.