You might ask yourself all sorts of sensible questions when you hear that Judas Priest released a new live album. Like, does the world need another Judas Priest album? Does it need another Judas Priest live album? My answer after (finally!) sitting down to listen to Battle Cry, and diving into the band’s previous release “Redeemer of Souls” again, and riffling through the band’s back catalog over the last few weeks is a resounding “why the hell not?” Because…well, why the hell not?
Music, heavy metal (or any other genre) has little to do with being sensible. It’s a visceral experience – all about guts, innards, and instinct. It’s music that roars into you, filling up all the hollow spaces in your mind and soul and body with sound and fury and fire. Going Game of Thrones for a moment: “fire and blood” might be the Targaryen motto, but turn it into “fire, blood, and metal” and you’ve got a pretty good motto for Judas Priest. (They’d totally vote Targaryen, right? Dragonaut would, anyway, I’m pretty sure.)
So yes, Battle Cry is worth the price of admission. It is metal-glory to its core, even if the Metal Gods themselves might not strut and swagger as they did in 1983 (seriously: none of us who were around then do). It is loud, raw, powerful, and – after all these years – still unabashedly hell bent for leather.
Listening to Battle Cry, I asked myself one question repeatedly: what the hell kind of fuel goes into Rob Halford’s tank? Is it blood of virgins? Sweat of unicorns? Distilled demon tears? Or just a lot of really good tea? His voice is not the same as it was back in the 80s (again, few things are…which is probably a good thing, all in all), but there are times (“Victim of Changes”, and “Halls of Valhalla” come to mind) when I’m just flabbergasted by the highs and lows he can still roar out.
And the band. THE BAND! Ian Hill is a beast on bass. Scott Travis rules the drums. And the new guitar partnership between red-leather-trouser’d, legendary axe-wielder and riff-crafter Glenn Tipton and speeding guitar-demon Richie Faulkner (who is almost ridiculously likeable, on and off stage), is inspiring and has clearly reignited some kind of creative fire in Judas Priest.
Spoiler alert: I really like Redeemer of Souls. I remember when I saw my online buddy Stone put it on his list of his 6 favourite Priest albums. I hadn’t listened to Redeemer yet and was skeptical, but Stone was right: it’s essential Priest. (I should never have doubted you, Stone!) There are several tracks from Redeemer on Battle Cry, and they all sound awesome, starting off with the metal mega-zilla of doom “Dragonaut” – a heavy as f*ck, riffy, brutal monster of a track – and just listen to the glee in Halford’s voice as he sings “master of my domain”! The title track “Redeemer of Souls” is another case in point.
When it comes to the older tunes, the band delivers a great version of “Metal Gods” – with Tipton and Faulkner and Ian Hill going all-out in style, and I also LOVE Battle Cry’s “Jawbreaker” – Halford really goes for the jugular singing this track.
Twist my metal arm and I’ll blurt out my two favourites in this tracklist. The first is “Victim of Changes”: Tipton and Faulkner are on fire, and Halford’s vocals are outstanding. It’s always an awesome track live (just check out all the YouTube videos from whatever Priest concert), and it is still absolutely killer in this set. Bonus: the back and forth between Tipton and Faulkner is a thing of sheer joy and beauty. Chemistry? Oh yeah, it’s there all right.
My second favourite is “Halls of Valhalla”, another new addition from “Redeemer of Souls”. I tried not to like this tune, I really did. Vikings? Odin? Really? But the tune is so bombastically, fantastically, gloriously over the top that I am rendered utterly helpless and in love with it. It’s like a riff with a riff on top and a riff on the side of the other riff WITH EXTRA RIFF SAUCE. And the vocals? Brutal metal opera goodness. BONUS: the lyrics. “We crash o’er the waves / Bite deep on the oars / Scouring the spray / On the storm’s maul“. It’s insane, but the band totally owns it.
Battle Cry’s versions of “Breaking the Law” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” are strong, but these two tracks live in my mind in their earlier incarnations when the band gave them more speed and edge. There’s nothing wrong with the versions here: I just prefer the earlier versions.
“Hell Bent for Leather” is terrific – can’t go wrong with Halford on that motorcycle, amirite? And as on all the older tunes, there’s a real love-in vibe going on with the audience. If there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear if you go through the live releases from this band through the years, it’s that the love the band has for the audience is the secret sauce that really powers this metal machine.
“The Hellion” / “Electric Eye” are frigging magnificent: they have always been glorious and still are. Halford’s vocals (“my circuits gleam!”) and those damn riffs, the audience singing back… It’s a magical thing.
On “Painkiller” Halford pushes his voice to the limit and beyond. Still, he gets the scream in and Travis Scott goes absolutely Godzilla on those drums: how Halford is even singing that fast, that high, that raw at that point in the set… I have no idea how that is even happening. Must be the boiled essence of hell-dog saliva that he drinks before going on stage. Or the tea. Just saying…
The result of listening to ‘Battle Cry’? I now crave more Judas Priest. Judging by comments made by the band members in various interviews another album seems to be almost possibly certainly in the offing. And again: why the hell not? These guys can still deliver the goods.
- “(Intro) Battle Cry”
- “Metal Gods”
- “Devil’s Child”
- “Victim of Changes”
- “Halls of Valhalla”
- “Redeemer of Souls”
- “Beyond the Realms of Death”
- “Breaking the Law”
- “Hell Bent for Leather”
- “The Hellion”
- “Electric Eye”
- “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”
(DVD/Blu-ray Bonus Tracks
- “Screaming for Vengeance”
- “The Rage”
- “Desert Plains”)
- Rob Halford
- Glenn Tipton
- Richie Faulkner
- Ian Hill
- Scott Travis