(9/1/00 - Author's note: Looking back at this review, I have to say that my feelings have changed drastically since the release of JUGULATOR. I can't consider it among the great Priest albums, as the lyrics and lack of any real melody on this album really bring it down. I don't even listen to it anymore. The only great song, IMO, on this CD is "Burn in Hell." Regardless, you make your own judgement.

After Seven Long Years, The Gods of Metal Have Risen Again!

Judas Priest - "Jugulator" CMC International/Priest Music Limited, 1997
10 Tracks, 58:11

Track Listing:
  1. Jugulator
  2. Blood Stained
  3. Dead Meat
  4. Death Row
  5. Decapitate
  6. Burn in Hell
  7. Brain Dead
  8. Abductors
  9. Bullet Train
  10. Cathedral Spires
Highs: In your face HEAVY metal; long songs; intricate arrangements; dynamic vocals; a new Priest album!!!

Lows: Cheesy lyrics, cheesy sound effects at the beginning of many songs, legendary Priest guitar solos missing, new vocalist overdoes "highs" a bit, whoever decided to blow up the picture on the front cover should be slapped (it's blurry)

Defining Moments: Burn in Hell, Blood Stained, Death Row, Cathedral Spires

The Bottom Line: HOLY SHIT!

The greatest heavy metal band to ever exist has been absent from the music scene since the completion of their last tour following the stunningly powerful "Painkiller" album, released in late 1990. It has been a tumultuous time since then, with the departure of "vocalist-God" Rob Halford, rumors of break-ups, a split with Columbia/CBS Records, and a long search for a singer who could actually carry the band forward while having the ability to handle twenty years of material. Meanwhile, fans around the world wore out their CD collections waiting for the barrage of alterna-crap bands to end. Well, the wait is over. On October 28, 1997, we were all rewarded with "Jugulator" - the most intense heavy metal album to appear in years.

As a dedicated Priest fan for more than 15 years, I was nervous as hell about having a new front man lead Judas Priest. Rob Halford is a hard act to follow, to say the least... But one listen to "Jugulator" puts my fears to rest, overall. Tim "Ripper" Owens (Note to Judas Priest management: drop the "Ripper" nickname bit. This smacks of lameness. I will refer to him by his real name from now on), a twenty-something, lifelong Priest fan (lucky bastard!), and former Priest cover band singer, holds his own. What is most impressive is that for a band that has three members pushing/passing 50 years of age, has existed for almost 25 years, and hasn't produced anything new in seven years, Judas Priest delivers an album that the Metal world has desperately needed. It is intense, angry, arranged in a way only Judas Priest could pull off, makes you want to jump around your room, and is bound to blow a few speakers over the next few years. While Ozzy Ozbourne is singing ballad after ballad and bands like Metallica explore the "lighter side" of rock, Judas Priest is back and kicking the crap out of every band in its way - again.

"Jugulator" begins with the title track, a pseudo "death-metal/thrash" (I hate using those terms, I use them lightly!) tune that slowly rises in intensity until it is slamming your head into the wall. Actually, all the songs are like this! Glenn Tipton (guitars), KK Downing (guitars), Scott Travis (drum killer), Ian Hill (bass), and Tim Owens (vocals) all immediately establish the feel of the album and what you, the unsuspecting listener, is on for. Before you know it, the double bass drums, tandem guitars, and howling vocals are coming at you from all directions, and it never lets up. Adding to heavy feel of "Jugulator" is Priest's adoption of the dropped tuning guitars and bass, which has become a popular among metal bands the past few years. Not innovative, but it works!

This freight train of an album continues with "Blood Stained," another in-your-face offering, with tricky guitar arrangements, and a true taste of how this album grooves all the way through. "Dead Meat," doesn't so much for me. Inherently lame lyrics (a slight problem with the album...) and a bit of disappointment musically.

Aaahhhh, but then the band launches into "Death Row." Forget about the intro ("...what's that? No stay? Oh! OK, I'll tell him...Dead man walking..") and the lyrics (which actually brings to mind Steven King's "The Green MIle"...). The music sets the dark mood and trucks all the way through. NIce chorus. The stupid lyrics continue with "Decapitate," but the slow, drudgy groove is too good not love.

OK, let me set the scene for you on this next one. I am driving home late this evening, it's dark and cold, and I have my brand new "Jugulator" CD in my car stereo - cranked. I'm on the first listen-through. Track number 6. What's this? A bass intro? It's Ian!!! Finally, one of the backbones of this great band get's the spotlight. Chuga-chuga-chuga..... Then Tim gets into the picture. Oh, this is a NICE build-up! At 1:55, a little bit of bass drum - thump-thump-thump..... The volume's rising and so are the vocals... I have this uncontrollable grin on my face. I *KNOW* this song is going to take off... This is tremendous! 2:45 into the song and WHAM!!! HERE WE GO!!! At this point I get this huge smile on my face and I am practically jumping around my car! (Note to you kids who don't drive yet: don't do that.) My speakers are just kicking. What a fucking cool song! I am swinging my head back and forth, thumping my feet, banging the steering wheel (with my hand), and laughing! (This is all true, btw. Scary, but true.) I love this song! Funky and chunky! And it barrels through another 4 minutes. Priest is back, folks! (sorry, I better calm down...). WHEW!

Does it stop there? Yeah, right. On we go, through "Brain Dead," "Abductors," and "Bullet Train." Driving guiatrs and drums. Tim Owens, meanwhile consistently delivers a wide range of vocals, from King Diamond/Rob Halford-like highs, "I-want-to-kick-your-ass" scratchy lows (no, NOT death-metal grumbling...) and everything else in between. He goes a little far in trying to prove his abilities. The howling becomes a bit much in some songs, but overall, a solid performance throughout. I'm impressed. Believe me.

Back in the 1980s, metal fans were treated to nice, long songs and albums. Metallica's "Master of Puppets" and Iron Maiden's "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner" being some of the classic examples. For some stupid reason, this became "passe" (did I spell that right?). I don't know about anyone else, but I sure missed these epics. Yet, here we are in 1997 and along comes "Cathedral Spires," a 9 minute masterpiece, with "classic" Priest overtones. Here is where Tim Owens shows his true vocal character. An absolutely beautiful beginning to this song. Not as "heavy" as the rest of the album, but heavy enough. Once again, we hear some nice bass guitar work from Ian Hill all the way through. A number of tempo changes in "Cathedral" meshes this classic together nicely...and closes out the album...bringing the listener back safely from one hell of an experience.

Take my word for it, folks, "Jugulator" marks the beginning of a return to true, ingenuous metal - something we have been dying for. If you are looking for the classic, melodic guitar solos we all love from Priest past, they're not (exactly) here, unfortunately. The focus is on the overall feel of the songs, with "wild," little solo "ditties" throughout. That's my biggest gripe with this album (after many listens, it only gets better, however!). There are a few teasers here and there, like in "Burn in Hell," but Glenn and KK left them out this time. :-( ONe thing that needs to be pointed out: Scott Travis is a devastating drummer! He MUST have an extra set of limbs. His playing on JUGULATOR is nothing short of amazing.

For some long-time Priest fans, this album may take a few listens to get used to. Some may not even like it. It's NOT British Steel, people. But let me place this picture in your head: Judas Priest, playing a modest size club, and some of the most intense mosh pits you've ever seen and grooving metal heads of all ages bobbing their heads in synch with the music. For us old fogies (read: 25-35 year-old die hards) we may not associate this type of "activity" with Judas Priest music, but this album kicks your ass from beginning to end, and assuming this album translates well live, we are in for many more years of true metal from Judas Priest.

To the band: your fans have waited a LONG time for you guys to come out with new material. We've missed you. And, with "Jugulator," you delivered. Thank you and welcome back!!!!!

We kept the faith and were rewarded. Get your ass out there and buy this album. (Side note: this album is meant to be played on your stereo or in your car. Forget about the headphones.....)

-Devin Comiskey, October 28, 1997