Judas Priest Demolition - "A For Effort And The Guts To Try Something New"
By J. A. Duarte
Judas Priest had high expectations for this album, or they wouldn't have booked 20,000 seat arenas for a good portion of their American tour, prior to its cancellation and rescheduling due to the unfortunate events of September 11th. Unfortunately, what looked to be a big seller, even by new metal standards, got blindsided by circumstances and poor record company promotion.
And you can see why the band had high hopes, to some degree. When Demolition is good, it is some of the best Priest ever. But when it's not so good, it's nearly demonic in its inconsistencies. "Close To You", "Feed On Me", "Subterfuge," "Cyberface," and "Metal Messiah" are fantastic songs whose emotional range flows from nice and simple to progressive and complex, with all the influences tightly bound in nearly subtle and downright proper metal undertones.
Favorite cuts? "One on One" and "Bloodsuckers." Good riffing, catchy choruses, excellent vocals, and they sound like Priest style heavy metal.
Ripper Owens delivers the goods with no problems on this album. But Demolition is not really Judas Priest, as we once knew them. This band is a work in progress and is most certainly worth money to go see live. The album is worth owning and exploring, but I wondered what was going through the band's mind when these songs were being arranged, other than to make a point, which is not quite clear at first listen, but does sort of sneak up on you as the platter spins again, and surprisingly again, as the band loudly screams for all to listen:
"Rob Halford is gone. He was and is The Metal God. But he is not in this band any more. Take it or leave it."
So we have this collection of ditties from the new version of the Metal Gods, which sounds like a damned good metal band, but not much like Judas Priest. We have a metal album where the best song is "Close To You," a ballad. We have two of the best guitar players in the world hiding behind electronics, as if trying to sound like the kids that get played on the radio. And we have a great potential for disappointment for old time fans, who don't want anything beyond "Hell Bent For Leather." This unfortunately suggests a cloudy future regarding the ability of this band to grow its fan base, with this highly venerated name, which is a true franchise.
Demolition is actually a very good heavy metal album. It's got the standard requirements easily met and exceeded. It's loud, it's fast, it's dark, and it sounds a lot like the stuff you hear coming out of cars outside arenas at metal shows. But, it doesn't sound like Judas Priest. And that may be a blessing or a curse. It takes until the 5th track, "Bloodsuckers" to get Ripper Owens to screech a' la Halford, a fact that is lost in the "Alice in Chains" style drumming and the chunky bass a' la Limp Bizkit.
This thing takes so many twists and turns that it borders on progressive at times. I mean progressive like Kansas and Yes, as in the break in "Bloodsuckers." At other times the album has glimpses of "Painkiller" and "Ram It Down." And regardless of what anyone else says there is plenty of "Jugulator" in here, which only had small bits of worthwhile stuff on it. Unfortunately there is nothing of "British Steel" and "Screaming for Vengeance."
"Close To You" is an instant classic, easily the best power ballad in a decade from a band which is not known for such fare. The song should have gotten a Grammy nomination even if only because it is such a pleasant surprise, especially from a metal band.
The opening riff on "Feed on Me" is quite catchy and the song is radio worthy without sounding like 2001 metal radio, but more like REO Speedwagon with testosterone, which ain't half bad, until it deteriorates into a "Bon Jovi" like singalong in the chorus and the electronics come in to confiscate the guitar solo. Still, you get the feeling that these guys are still alive and trying to plug into the 21st Century.
"Subterfuge" could be the new Priest signature. This is a nice departure, except for the somewhat annoying dissonant guitars, goofy "Bryan Ferry" atmosphere stuff, and dulled drumming which is meant to make the song sound like it's contemporary and not written by the 50 year old guys, who invented metal, and are trying not to become a cliche'.
Even though this catering to the modern crowd is initially bothersome, I still give Priest high marks for trying to be relevant. The song is a way cool David Bowie with a hangover song which I couldn't help but like. Ripper really finds his stuff here and kicks it into high gear carving his own identity and sounding like no one else but himself. The screaming is prime choice. Here is where we could see what the Priest of the future might live.
"Lost and Found" is Glenn Tipton's tribute to "The Eagles" and minstrels of yore. Nice song, well done, but a surprising cut on a Priest album, since the days when "Before the Dawn" made it onto "Hell Bent For Leather."
"Cyberface" is dark and moody and just plain works, as it grips that raw edge in your gut, which once defined metal.
Overall, I liked Demolition, and it gets better the more you listen to it, which is a rarity with any rock album these days. And I think that Priest fans with open minds will find something to like on it as well.