(Columbia Records/Sony Music)
Written by: Kenneth Gallant
9 out of 10
Firepower has been out for a few weeks now and word has spread like wildfire over the net; best album since Painkiller most would argue. Those are some lofty words to repeat out loud, and I will admit to not being among those repeating this mantra. But once I gave this release a few spins I quickly changed my tune. I found the songs on a whole burn into your brain forcing obsessive returns to this album over and over.
The album feels like classic Priest – with blazing guitar leads and the continued roar from one of the greatest metal frontmen of all time: Mr. Rob Halford. Even the album title ‘Firepower’ is appropriately earned here, as the band forges ahead with 14 tracks of metallic bliss and I do mean bliss. The opening salvo begins with the title track and it unleashes an array of razor sharp riffs and a hard driving tempo. I can guarantee your fists will be waved high and pumping like mad. When “Lightning Strikes” erupts, the high energy continues as Rob tears it up right at the start of the song, and daring his band mates to keep pace. The riffs are tasty and the chorus is very infectious; I simply love this song!
“Evil Never Dies” is a catchy number that I keep coming back to again and again. Rob delivers a sinister edge to the vocals and Ritchie Faukner and Glenn Tipton provide the firepower. “Never the Heroes” slows down a bit, but it still sounds heavy as fuck. When “Necromancer” starts up, the relentless pace hits hard and I swear this could have been on Painkiller. Faulkner and Tipton work in harmony with the leads, reminding me of that classic 80’s era of Priest.
But not every song is a winner. “Children of the Sun” reminds me of modern Metallica and “Guardians/Rising from Ruins” slows down the proceedings. I will admit the chorus is catchy as hell, but for whatever reasons I couldn’t help but think this is sort of in the Metallica vein of current song writing. You shouldn’t worry though, because this dip in the album is short lived as “Flamethrower” grabs you by the collar and doesn’t let go. I was bedazzled with a catchy chorus and some fast and furious licks from the boys, bringing back that classic metallic sound to the forefront. “Spectre” is a curious number providing tons of grooves, but adding on heaping amounts of meaty riffs to drive the song and chorus.
Songs like “Traitor’s Gate” fall into that familiar Priest pattern: harmonious guitars and driving bass and it won’t disappoint your ears. “No Surrender” is a prototypical sing-a-long Priest number and “Lone Wolf” explores the heavy groove to guide the song, but maybe not to the success I would like it to be. The riffs are bluesy at best and it’s probably not going to be one of my favorite numbers on this album. At least “Sea of Red” is a solid ballad to close out the album.
Overall, I have come to the conclusion of two things: Andy Sneap and co-producer Tom Allom has greatly helped to improve the metallic crunch on all fronts. The guitars are more pronounced here and there is a consistent beefy tone throughout. This was lacking a bit on the previous release “Redeemer of Souls”. The second big proponent here is Ritchie Faulkner’s emergence on guitar and becoming a fully integrated member of the core sound. He slots in nicely beside Glenn Tipton and has helped to rebuild that classic one-two punch we have all grown to love over the years. I’m not sure he found his footing on Redeemer, but here you can tell he’s brought some new life to this band with those incredible licks.
Firepower is not Painkiller, nor will it ever be for me. But you can bet this album will go down as a fan favorite next to Painkiller when this is all said and done. I can’t get enough of this album at the moment and I suspect the majority of Priest fans feel the same way. Check’em out on tour this summer as they bring the firepower along with Saxon; it’s going to go down as a tour for the ages.