I'm sorry for those of you who waited for this. I've had DEMOLITION since early June, and started writing the review back then. Procrastination got the best of me, and I need to learn to finish certain things when the inspiration hits or I lose it. This is a perfect example. But, I finished it. Finally. So, here's what I have to say about Priest's latest effort. I guess one of the advantages is that I've had quite a while to digest this album so I have a better perspective on where it all fits.
Eating Crow (v.) - 1) Regretting words you've said in the past; 2) Sticking your foot in your mouth when speaking of something you know little about.
Well, that's my definition of it, at least. And that's what I'm doing with this review. Before I actually got my hands on the new Judas Priest album (release date in the US - 7/31/01, Atlantic Records), I had been receiving numerous emails from press and industry contacts in Europe all slamming the new album. "The production is terrible." "The songs are REALLY bad." "The drums sound hollow." "Our beloved Priest is dead." "I can't believe they would put something this bad out for the fans." This wasn't sounding good. And, to make matters worse, the band's management put one minute clips of the songs on the internet, doing no justice to the new album. When I heard those, I thought we were in for another disappointing Priest album like 1997's JUGULATOR. And, being a nitwit, I fanned the flames by passing on the disparaging comments to all who asked. Well, guess what? I was way off base. This album is a fresh kick in the ass.
Similar to 1990's PAINKILLER masterpiece, DEMOLITION starts off with Scott Travis' drums doing the introduction on Machine Man. This is probably the one instance where his drums actually sound bad. I'm not a big fan of this particular song, although it's pounding all the way through, but those of us who missed the duelling guitar work of KK Downing and Glenn Tipton on the last album, get a heavy dose of it in this song, with Glenn ripping it up faster than ever. His solo is blistering! Overall, though, the song is probably one of the worst on the album, especially lyrically. It's full of cheese. One on One is THE perfect live song, with the right head-banging rythm and chorus to get everyone to shout "ONE ON ONE! BRING IT ON! ONE ON ONE! TAKE ME ON!" Look for it on this tour, without a doubt. You probably don't want to drive when you're listening to this song either. I can't explain why, but it gets you pumped up enough that you stomp on the gas pedal. Heh. And, yes, this is the second song in a row with the guys trading off on the soloing duties. Nice!
Hell Is Home is a dark and gloomy tune about anti-social feelings any lonely or excluded person could definitely relate to. It's a dark and dreary tale of personal misery and ultimate triumph. Listen to the lyrics carefully. Yes, they have actually gotten much more personal on this album, and the quality shows. Oh, and yes that IS Ian Hill's bass you hear for the first timein who-knows-how-many-years!! GO IAN! Pay attention to this, because he's flying all over the album. That alone changes the signature Priest sound significantly. The drakness continues with Jekyll & Hyde - a self-explanatory title, but I think the listeners can probably relate this song to someone they know or have known in their past. I actually didn't like this song much at all until I listened to it a lot. (Maybe it was the keyboards? The Turbo-era guitar synths? I don't know...) The ending is kind of awkward, but the rest of it grew on me.
Metal bands sometimes struggle with putting ballads on their albums, but Priest has always managed to only put GOOD ones on theirs (well, they screw up later on, but wait). Well, of all the ballads this band has done over the past 30 years, Close to You is by far the most powerful and emotional one I've ever heard. Beyond the Realms of Death will always stand as a classic, but this is THE song that will want to make you cry. Honestly. If you've ever lost someone close to you, this one's going to hit you pretty hard if you pay attention to the lyrics. It's tough. I believe Glenn wrote this one before his father passed away earlier this year. Even the solo is beautiful.
Devil Digger has a funky and sludgey groove to it, but it's one of those "Huh?" songs. What the hell is a Devil Digger? I have no idea. Free lollipop to whoever can tell me. Oh, actually, there is one thing I find eerie about this song. During the choruses, the voice overs make it sound as if a certain former lead singer of this band is actually singing in the background. Pay attention to it and you'll see exactly what I mean!
Forget about that song. Track #7 is probably the highlight of DEMOLITION. Starting out with a growing heartbeat from hell, Bloodsuckers immediately kicks the crap out of your speakers and launches into what can only be felt as a frenzy. It's an obvious attack on the American judicial system (how could anyone NOT make fun of it after the last decade?), although it may signal a continuing bitterness from the band's trial in Utah back in 1989. Tim's vocals reach a new height all throughout this song, from highs to lows. If anything, this would have been a contender for the Painkiller album. The guitar sound, the drum beats, the biting (and comical) words, and feel just make this song a killer. I love it. "BLOOD.....SUCKERS.....HOW CAN THEY SLEEP AT NIGHT????" You'll be singing along, too, before you know it. This is definitely the strongest track on the album. The schizophrenic tale In Between keeps the energy level pretty high, which gives an indication of how much more this album is going to change before it reaches the end.
Feed On Me is another song on this album that has a LOT of potential for heavy airplay....that is, if anyone ever gives it a chance. I'm not counting on it. (Although Jayne Andrews, Personal Coordinator for the band, said that the band has recently delivered a radio-edit version to Atlantic for the US, so there may be hope. Keep your fingers crossed!) In fact, it could very well be the song to remember from DEMOLITION. It has so many groovy hooks that there's no way you can't feel the urge to move when you hear it. Feed on Me is most reminicient of a Painkiller-era caliber song. It's just THAT good!
Ah, Subterfuge. is one the grooviest, funkiest, and yeah, most booty-moving of all Priest songs. Subterfuge is definitely a highlight of DEMOLITION, standing out as a mature, well-constructed hit. It has a slight industrial feel to it but marks another step forward for the band. As metal as this song is, it would still fit in perfectly at any dance club and bring the house down (I'm so ghetto, aren't I??) Seriously, though, this is an easy hit for the band, but it will get lost like the others, unfortunately. I like this song a LOT.
Remember I said before that Judas Priest has never released a BAD ballad? I can't say that anymore. That's because Lost & Found, the second ballad on DEMOLITION, is simply horrible. Some people find things to like about the song, but I just can't even listen to it anymore. The chorus is extremely awkward-sounding and there's no soul in this song whatsoever. BAH! on this song. It shouldn't be on the CD at all. *GAG!* *PTOOEY!*
Ignoring that last song, DEMOLITION finishes up with two more outstanding tunes, using sounds and flavors we've never heard from the band before ever. And I guess that's what makes this band unique. Every album they do sounds different than any other. That doesn't mean everyone is going to like what they hear, however. And comments have been flying about since the album was leaked in June, both good and bad. Cyberface (yes, drawing comparisons to Halford's CYBERWORLD, but has absolutely nothing in common with it whatsoever) is laden with Middle Eastern influence, somputer enhanced vocals and good old Priest crunch. In fact, you could almost consider Cyberface to be the latest in futuristic characters the band has come up with ever since the Hellion graced the cover of Screaming for Vengeance. Nonetheless, this monster rocks. Given the weird mix of sounds, everything works so well. It's slow and heavy, so don't expect to have your head ripped off.
DEMOLITION ends with probably the most controversial of all songs they've done in a while. I've heard so many people accuse Tim of "rapping" in this song. Metal Messiah (gee, who does that make you think of...?) starts out with a very cool guitar riff and breaks right into verses of "layered" vocals. Yes, it sounds somewhat "rappy," but I certainly don't think of Snoop Dogg when Tim is singing, know what I mean? It's definitely funky, but it's heavy and the choruses work nicely. And, yes, Ian's bass is still flying all over the place. (I just can't get over that I can actually hear him playing finally!) Metal Messiah also contains verious Middle Eastern flavors throughout, but again, it works and ends the album in fitting fashion.
So after all this time, where does DEMOLITION stand in the history of the band and in music today? Well, it's not Painkiller or Defenders of the Faith, but it is still a solid album. Compared to JUGULATOR, this album is a phenomenal effort. I'll admit I will never get used to having a different vocalist for Priest, but Tim does a great job on this album. Not surprisingly, however, the support behind DEMOLITION by Atalntaic Records is crap. I have yet to see any sort of promotion whatsoever by them to help this album sell. I think I've done more to promote this thing than this supposedly big-time record label. You would think that there would have at least been a few commercials on eMpTyV or VH-1, especially in conjunction with the "Behind the Music" special, but that would make too much sense, wouldn't it? So, as expected, the album sales to this point have been dismal. Compared to the garbage that is promoted and shoved down the public's collective throat, it's a real shame that most people will never even hear a song from this album. However, after 4 months, I still enjoy listening to DEMOLITION quite a bit, so it definitely has staying power. If you haven't picked it up yet, do so today. (And, yes, even though I got a free promo copy from Atlantic, I still bought an import version of the album. They need all the support they can get.)
DEMOLITION: 7/10 rating