As sales of this eighteenth studio album show Judas Priest has lost none of its popularity making top five in both the USA and the UK. However, while it’s a new recording the band have made it public that some of the tunes have been waiting in the wings for a while. Certainly the album has pretty much all the attributes of classic Judas Priest and the band is back with a vengeance.
Opener ‘Firepower’ will hit you like a mallet. Driving rhythm that demands a hammerfist pump coupled with that unmistakeable Halford ‘Bond villain’ diction and tone which has lost none of its spitting venomous power. While there’s a trace of influence from symphonic metal in the next track ‘Lightning to Strike’ this recording shows a band who have not forgotten their roots. Glen Tipton’s illness may explain a little less of the famous twin guitars, but you can still hear it and bearing the band’s challenges in this respect you would never know there was a problem from the recording itself and there’s no shortage of vital guitar shredding on tracks like ‘Flamethrower’.
Prepared to get on those leathers and studs and get all of that aggression garnered from the morning commute out in the healthiest of ways to ‘Traitor’s Gate’. Priest the ultimate in Stress Relief! There’s a little of the fantasy in ‘Spectre’ and ‘Necromancer’ all the better once all that pent up energy is spent to going back to your cup of tea and tv. Judas Priest fans in general being some of the most well adjusted nicest people you could meet having no need for actual aggression in the real world after a couple of hours in the pit with ‘Halford & Co.’ ‘Never the Heroes’ can’t be listened to without thinking of the way the media wrongly painted the band after the completely unfair ‘do it’ reverse message trial in which with all divine justice the band were vindicated. When I hear ‘Evil Never Dies’ as a track on this new album I have no doubt that the band’s stance is a force for good.
Whilst Shakespeare it is not, thank god the band avoided any real temptation to ‘reinvent themselves’ taking the best modern production can offer but having helped to define heavy metal decades ago will never be afraid of who they are or try to rewrite their history as a British institution. Not updated, not improved, just more of what you have come to expect and love. Loud and Proud! Some things are not meant to be messed with. Judas Priest is one.
Lee Aaron, Diamond Baby Blues
If you count the Lee Aaron Project this is Lee Aaron’s twelfth studio album. She is famously a fan of all types of music, but those who admire her rock projects most will be glad to known this is a solid blues/rock album dripping with class.
‘Diamond Baby’ is a song of independence, empowerment, self worth and can apply to anyone who finds themselves abused by any one or any system any where and votes with their feet. Showcasing that Aaron still has a crackin and expressive voice it is thankful that modern production is now able to capture the power of her voice that she demonstrates live. Armed with all of this she is courageous enough to tackle ‘Mistreated’ and change it a little to make it truly her own and an awesome version. Backed by great musicians, (who else could take on Blackmore) Aaron has learned to take charge of her output so she can be sure everything is just as she would want it to be. ‘The Best Thing’ and ‘Hard Road’ deal with the fact that she has been through some less than ideal situations in the music industry, but like the smart cookie she is she has overcome and grown better from every scenario.
‘American High’ is a seemingly light song about enjoying life, but it also takes a crack at an unsatisfactory political system in the USA which seems to satisfy no-one. ‘I am a Woman’ based on Koko Taylor’s version of the Bo Diddley classic rooted in the wonderful world where the rock and roll riff was a new and marvelous thing and manages to revive that magic while delivering a message that is as Lee Aaron as if she wrote it herself. She does indeed write most of her material and always has, however covers sometimes show just what she can do by performance alone while never compromising the message she wants to send.
‘In the Bedroom’ manages to be sexy and empowered at the same time a trait which Aaron has always managed to have. No one pushes this lady around, but she also known how to be a real female. She has always been a little wild, but is also a wife and mother now and ‘Cut Way Back’ deals with that evolution beautifully. ‘My Baby’ shows that underneath everything she is both unconventional and traditional, possible and something she shares with another female icon Marilyn Monroe.
Aaron was famously misrepresented by management in her early days. Take a fresh look at a mature, serious and wonderful talent with a great deal to say.
Stryper, God Damn Evil, Frontiers
Stryper’s twelfth studio album is the controversially titled ‘God Damn Evil’. While the title could be taken different ways and the band insists it is a plea for God to eradicate the evil in the world, this has not prevented outlets like Walmart refusing to sell it. Still controversy never usually hurt album sales and Stryper fans are likely to love the album itself.
‘Take it to the Cross’ is surprising in that it is clearly a much heavier approach particularly vocal wise for the band. However, catchy hook laden ‘Sorry’ made into a panoramic video and chosen as first single is likely to please even the most rigidly trenchant fan who would rather the band didn’t change. Tracks like ‘Lost’ are full of great guitar playing and the highest falsetto proving vocalist Michael Sweet can still deliver in that department and any experimental elements are entirely voluntary and not caused by physical restraints. It is essential for musicians to develop and grow to remain satisfied and the album is a great marrying of the old and the new. Bass duties were carried out by John o’Boyle (Sweet) as Perry Richardson the new official bassist was not free in time for the recordings.
‘God Damn Evil’ the title track is one of the best tracks on the album and should become an anthem for Christian rock if people should perchance to understand rather than rush to judgement. ‘You Don’t Even Know Me’ is very apt given the misunderstanding the band quite often encounter from retail outlets and on social media. However despite everything the band carry on with their heads held high as well they might. The album is undeniably Christian in outlook and execution for those who care and choose to see (see Devil Doesn’t Live Here’) and quotes from the Bible abound for example in ‘The Valley Way’. However, for those who don’t give a toss about Theology it’s still a great set of metal songs for your collection. There’s even a couple of tracks that could simply be taken as love songs (Beautiful and Can’t Live Without Your Love) something to which everyone can relate.
Stryper continue to release high quality albums, seemingly never running out of ideas and energy. It warms the heart to see bands like this refusing to rest on their laurels, unafraid to cross a few boundaries, but still delivering for their fans.
LA Guns, Made in Milan, Frontiers
Recorded at the 2017 Frontiers Music Festival in Italy this live album/DVD comes at an important point in the history of LA Guns when Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns are reunited in a powerful duo that reaches its apotheosis in a live setting. Because of that it is a fantastic time to release this recording just after the triumphant latest studio album ‘ The Missing Peace’.
And the tracks on the album include ‘Speed’ a cracking new track from the new album which on its own proves that the band is back to its original and powerful intensity. Whilst the running order is mostly made up of classic tracks and old favorites the reinvigoration the band feels on being reunited and producing a stormin new album communicates itself right through the older material and from the start of ‘No Mercy’ this is a band on attack. There’s nothing old and tired about this band or its delivery and they are deadly serious and playing no quarter. Don’t bother putting seats in any venue for this one!
And it’s an honest recording too. It’s obvious the vocals are not overdubbed and we are getting the raw band and that is why it’s a great live album. It’s not the studio recording and it’s not meant to be. If you have seen the band especially lately you will understand. This is LA Guns not the Royal Philharmonic and without the rock n roll delivery which demands spontaneous style half the magic of LA Guns would be gone. The recording captures the natural energy and charisma of the band and does not make the mistake of trying to tame the untameable. It also contains features such as Tracii Guns solo spot with a bow which you would never get on a studio recording.
The DVD contains the extra track ‘Bitch is Back’. Otherwise the running order is the same.
LA Guns are a band who have retained their cool as fuck image through a hell of a lot of shit. That’s because they have real passion for what they do. And as that’s most obvious in a live setting, look no further than ‘Made in Milan’.