Sunday, March 18, 2018

Quick Takes: Judas Priest & Rainbow

Some musical developments are interesting, but I don't have a whole lot to say about. Let's take a look at two of those today:

Judas Priest - Firepower

I have never been much of a Judas Priest fan. I appreciate their importance, but that style of traditional heavy metal isn't my thing. I don't enjoy Halford's shrieking vocals, I don't find their melodic writing nearly as interesting as Iron Maiden's, and I certainly can't understand why everyone loves "Painkiller" so much. So it was with low expectations that I waded into this new album. Did anything change my mind?

In a word, no. The style and sound of Judas Priest still isn't for me, although that is not me saying their work here is bad. I had listened to "Angel Of Retribution" and "Nostradamus" when they came out, and barring the occasional song, they were dreadful. They sounded like the albums that would be made by a band who had given up on being anything but a nostalgia tour. Sure, "Worth Fighting For" is a fantastic song, but not when you have to sit through "Loch Ness". And nothing can justify writing a double concept album that takes seriously one of the great Charlatans of history.

Which is what makes "Firepower" interesting. It sounds better than anything Priest has done in ages, which I have a feeling is attributed to Andy Sneap doing far more than setting up microphones and pushing faders on the console. Whatever the case, this is an album that does exactly what it needs to for the hardcore fans. It hits all the right marks, and sounds like what Priest should sound like. If it is their final album, they're going out on a high note. I'm never going to be a big fan, but I can easily see they've done something right this time.

Rainbow - Waiting For A Sign

Who would have thought that Rainbow would have ever released new music again? Sure, it's only a single this time, but the idea seemed impossible until it became real. The first new music from the band in decades, this single is something that falls into an unexpected place I'm not sure is what anyone wanted. It doesn't have any of the fire or passion from the classic Rainbow albums, and Backmore's guitar is subdued enough that it isn't that far removed from the less baroque songs he's been playing all along with Blackmore's Night.

That said, it is a song I've been enjoying. Ronnie Romero might be pushed way too hard as the future of rock and metal vocalists, but he delivers on this song. By being lighter, it forces Romero not to push his voice into its harshly gritty zone. He's allowed to use his tone, and not try to sound like a Dio clone. That works well for him, since his heavier approach reveals that he is more of a rock singer than metal.

While it's nice to have Rainbow back, and the song is enjoyable, it also feels a bit incomplete, as Blackmore takes over and ends things with a lengthy solo that doesn't build to a satisfying ending. It limps across the finish, and could have used another run through the hook to end on a bang. What is good could have been better.

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