Judas Priest Show Their Firepower In An Album Full Of Crunching Metal Anthems

Six years is a long time, but that’s the gap between Firepower and Invincible Shield, the 19th album by British Metal Gods Judas Priest. In a world where Modern Metal is almost impossible to define, governed by a mix of aggression, screaming clean vocals and huge breakdowns, are the Priest even relevant anymore?

Judas Priest – Invincible Shield (Epic Records)

Release Date: 8 March 2024

Words: Paul Hutchings

Well, to many, no. But to many thousands across the globe, a new Judas Priest release still gets the fires burning.

Invincible Shield is, in parts, incredibly good. The opening track, Panic Attack, is as heavy as anything the band have written since Painkiller, and there are many similarities with that legendary album.

The latest single, The Serpent And The King, is part of a trio of muscular, high-tempo songs that form the spearhead of the album.

The title track follows, and it’s here that the true steel of Judas Priest comes to the fore. Rob Halford, who sounds in fine form throughout the album, is imperious on this song, with an album-stealing performance. His lower keys, balanced with his usual higher pitch, bring a gravitas to the song that one expects but does not always get.

While there were plenty of moments to cherish on Redeemer Of Souls and 2018’s Firepower, in recent years, it’s been rare for a full Judas Priest album to hold the attention in the same way that those early classics did.

That’s not the case here, for Invincible Shield has little fat attached to it. Richie Faulkner’s guitar work shines throughout, aided by the usual high-level finish of touring guitarist and producer Andy Sneap, whose work on this album is once more to his exceptional standards.

This is an album written across time, with the pandemic’s inevitable pause impacting. Pleasingly, Glenn Tipton is still very much involved in the record, with contributions of Sons Of Thunder and Escape From Reality penned by the guitarist.

It’s Halford and Faulkner who have shouldered most of the writing once more, though, and it is distinctly Judas Priest from start to finish. Devil In Disguise isn’t the strongest song here, but it still stands strong alongside the fiery opening tracks and will please long-time fans.

There is something reliable that defines Judas Priest’s sound, with the twin-pronged guitar attack, the consistent bass of Ian Hill and Scott Travis’s huge drums all reassuringly present. Whilst it’s Halford’s vocal prowess that has always led the band, it’s this solidity within the band, the very spine, if you will, that makes Judas Priest function.

Except for the title track, most of the songs on Invincible Shield sit at the four-and-a-half-minute mark. It’s this formula that makes the songs accessible and memorable. The third single, Crown Of Horns, at 5:45, the second longest song on the album, is a showcase for Faulkner’s guitar work, with an extended intro before a reflective song that shows Priest’s lighter side.

More classic Metal roars out of the speakers with As God Is My Witness, a ripsnorter of a track with muscular, powerful riffs and a frenetic driving pace. Travis is utilising all his energy to deliver a superb double bass foundation. He truly is an underrated drummer.

Meanwhile, the guitar work is savage, with some blistering clean lead breaks over a ferocious rhythm. It’s another bruisingly heavy track and one of the most memorable.

It’s pleasing to find that Tipton’s writing remains as solid as ever. Throughout the album, there are plenty of nods to the earlier parts of their discography, with Escape From Reality almost Sabbath in both style and delivery. It could be a song that sits on Stained Class. Dark and atmospheric, it switches the tempo once more but always retains the heaviness.

Sons of Thunder is a biker anthem for sure, and the second, written by Tipton, is both retro and contemporary. It’s simply another fine track on an album that is teeming with excellent Heavy Metal.

There’s no doubt that this is the finest Priest album for many years.

The extended version brings with it a couple of additional songs. There’s the tribute to those who have gone before in Giants In The Sky and a track penned by Bob Halligan Jr, The Lodger, which is probably my least favourite on the whole album. The use of orchestral elements delivers a big feel, but it’s weak in comparison to some of the more ferocious songs.

Overall, there’s little to complain about. For a band who are way over 50 years together, it’s a remarkable album, with more than the occasional flash of exceptional quality.

Fast-paced, and heavy but with a traditional feel that has made Judas Priest the institution they are, Invincible Shield is an album that should delight their army of fans, encourage the curious new wave, and hopefully provide a few new classics on their forthcoming tour.

Pre-orders are available from here.

Sleeve Notes

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