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Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Reviews: Judas Priest, Solstice, Imperial Age, Straight Terror (Review By Paul)

Judas Priest: Firepower (Columbia Records)

Album no 18 from the metal gods and it continues with the same level of quality which the Priest delivered in spades on 2014’s Redeemer Of Souls. Whilst Glen Tipton’s recent retirement from touring has inevitably cast a shadow over the longevity of the band, Firepower certainly provides a shot across the bow of the doubters who may feel that it is time to call an end to one of the most important metal bands of all time. Clocking in at 58 minutes in length, it’s not a quick listen, and as you’d expect, there are a few tracks which don’t immediately grab you by the balls. However, Firepower has enough in the locker to get even the most elitist metal fan interested. With all songs written by Rob Halford, Richie Faulkner and Tipton, the quality is solid throughout and with the return of Tom Allom in the producer’s chair for the first time since 1988’s Ram It Down, and co-producer Andy Sneap also on board, the sound is slick and huge. 

The opening trio, Firepower, Lightning Strike and Evil Never Dies set the tempo and the bar high. Tracks such as Necromancer and Flame Thrower follow the traditional Judas Priest style heavy metal template, with Halford in immense form, his vocals as fresh today as they were when British Steel blew our minds way back in 1980. Tipton and Faulkner provide slicing lacerating guitar work whilst I defy anyone to find a more rock-hard rhythm section than Ian Hill and Scott Travis. With a few changes in tempo, such as the melodic Rising From The Ruins, which conjures images of a heavier Magnum, there is sufficient variation to maintain the interest throughout. Firepower impresses in a way that only Judas Priest can do. It’s British Heavy Metal at its finest. Sit back, crack open a glass of something cold and enjoy the Metal Gods doing what they do best. Pure heavy metal. 8/10

Solstice: White Horse Hill (Self Released)

I like this. I like it a lot. It’s been some time since I last heard anything from the Yorkshire doom outfit but bloody hell, this is strong. Under the continued leadership of Richard Walker, whose guitar work alongside Andrew Whittaker on White Horse Hill is sublime, Solstice has delivered an absolute cracker. It’s been 20 years since the band’s last full-length release, New Dark Age in 1998. The title track, at 8:51 not even the longest song on the release, is a galloping journey, with the soaring vocals of Paul Kearns and the ferocious drumming of Rich Budby supplementing dual guitar work at a speed rarely associated with doom bands, at times it’s almost Thin Lizzy or Iron Maiden in the delivery. It’s impossible to listen to this without becoming extremely interested very quickly. Earlier tracks such as Beheld, A Man Of Straw prompt comparisons with German Funeral masters Ahab. The astonishingly intricate and evocative Under Waves Lie Our Dead at just shy of 13 minutes is an absolute masterpiece. Nothing about this album disappointed. Hear it soon. 9/10 

Imperial Age: The Legacy Of Atlantis (Adulruna)

If you caught Swedish symphonic legends Therion on their recent visit to the UK, you may well have also seen Imperial Age, who were the main support. The band are sufficiently well regarded to be signed to Adulruna records, owned by Therion main man Christofer Johnsson. The Legacy Of Atlantis is the band’s third full length release, and the Russian outfit, formed in 2010 in Moscow certainly follow the blueprint for the genre with a huge sounding album. Now here’s the problem. I think much of symphonic metal is utter guff, a horrible cut n’ shut mixture of genres. Blast beat drumming, huge swathes of keys, batteries of riffs and shrieking operatic vocals which focus more on hitting the right notes than putting together fluid songs.

The Legacy Of Atlantis is an impressively constructed album, featuring the vocal talent of Jane Odintsova, Anna Kiara and Aleksandr Osipor. Lots of high pitched soprano and a beefy baritone merge time and time again as he album progresses. It soars and swoops, massively operatic and dramatic but god is it boring by the time you’ve listened to it twice. Life Eternal sounds like a school play climax whilst Love Eternal is just astonishingly overblown. I’ve listened to the album several times and whilst I can see why fans of symphonic metal would love this, it does little for me. 5/10

Straight Terror- Between The Lies (Self Released)

Straight Terror is a thrash metal band from Stantiago, Chile and was formed in 2012. The band members were previously in several South American metal bands, like Agresia, Extrema, Blast, Remains and Sadism. Straight Terror have supported Kreator and more in the past. And it shows. This is routine thrash with completely disjointed compositions and a singer who wants to be Mille Petrozza but is way off beam. I love thrash, but this is awful stuff I’m afraid; if I wanted to listen to Kreator then I’d listen to the real thing. A pale imitation. 2/10

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