I told myself I would not review this album, but upon further reflection (and listening) the return of the Priest impressed me to the degree that I felt I should add my own two cents. Initially I thought of a review as redundant because with acts like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and the likes there won’t be great innovation and you basically get what you expect. Firepower makes no difference in this and my point stands that Priest will not disappoint old fans and won’t make new fans. I mean, whose first Priest album will ever be Firepower? Anyone looking to get into this legend, especially these days, will do a quick google search and start listening to stuff like Painkiller, Screaming For Vengeance or Defenders Of The Faith. I, personally, would not care for anyone’s opinion on Firepower because as a long time fan I will either buy it (and listen to it) or not.
All that said, I think Firepower deserves a few honest words because it is so much better than its two predecessors Nostradamus (don’t even start…) and Redeemer Of Souls. This is kind of continuing the upwards trend from Nostradamus to Redeemer. So I could imagine some Priest devotees in despair – should you get Firepower or not?
In short: Yes. Judas Priest get back to basics with this new release. It is only understandable that in their long career a band like Priest would experiment with epic symphonic releases like Nostradamus. Redeemer Of Souls kind of oversteered in the opposite direction, leading to a rather bland release. Firepower however presents the Metal Gods back in good shape. The story-telling escapades are lost and this new record can’t be called boring or average in the least.
The first two tracks on the album, “Firepower” and “Lightning Strike” serve as a kind of peace offering to fans of Priest‘s old sound. It comes as no surprise those were released as the first two singles. Nothing special here, but nice to see that Priest can still push out those ass-kicking tunes.
Real interesting it only gets after those two songs though. Judas Priest are showcasing diverse influences and styles they took on over the course of their almost 50-year career across the various tracks of Firepower. “Evil Never Dies” almost reminds of Mercyful Fate style songwriting, presenting Rob Halford at his best. It takes Priest 14 songs and 58 minutes for a wild ride from one end to the other of the Judas Priest cage. That cage is no bad thing in this instance, it merely means Priest are offering all the variance they have while staying true to the band name. Nostradamus for example absolutely broke out of this cage, disappointing a lot of fans. Firepower however features amazing tracks rich in variety such as “Necromancer”, “Rising From Ruins” and “Spectre” that all could have been released at different times of the Priest‘s discography, but probably not on one album together. That makes Firepower an intriguing album keeping you tied to the headphones to the end.
Between all the variance and ass-kicking there are a few tracks not quite living up to the excitement that stuff like “Evil Never Dies” has to offer. “Never The Heroes” reminds me too much of average, slow-rolling bores of Nostradamus and Redeemer, “Flame Thrower” is the other, less interesting, more bland side of the “Firepower”/”Lightning Strike” medal. You could as well cut off the last two songs of the album, “Lone Wolf” and “Sea Of Red” which would make a shorter, but more concise release. As it stands, those two tracks are adding nothing of quality to the album and just make the last few minutes insufferable. I am a advocate for long albums of 55+ minutes, but in Firepower‘s case it would have been smart to cut some of those slowpokes to get a more enjoyable experience with less skipping of tracks.
All in all Firepower is light years above Nostradamus and Redeemer Of Souls. There are a few great tracks, a few mediocre (Priest standard mediocre, mind you) and a few bad songs. The upside of all of this is that anyone who likes Judas Priest will like this album to some extent unlike the now often enough mentioned Nostradamus. As I stated in the beginning, the Priest fan will buy it, anyone who is not into the band (???) should not start with Firepower and most likely won’t.