Judas Priest - Invincible Shield (2024)Release ID: 50629

Judas Priest - Invincible Shield (2024) Cover
Rexorcist Rexorcist / April 06, 2024 / Comments 0 / 0

Six years later, right?  Seems a bit long to wait for another Judas Priest album after they've had a SECOND comeback.  But maybe that length was taken for the band to really hone their skills again and try to improve.  If that's the case, they succeeded, because their new album is some purified metal with a nostalgic feel that also acts as a step forward from the overly-80's Firepower, being its own thing and having been seen as the next essential in the Priest catalog.

I was totally taken by surprise with those totally-synthed up Def Leppard drums and guitar sounds for the intro, which eventually becomes a flat-out power metal song on par with the works of Gamma Ray.  Halford's voice and the backing voices work together with a pure and shining harmony that to me is like a metal version of Simon and Garfunkel.  Halford's gotten a stronger hold on his voice, which can be clearly heard on this album, even while the production assaults you with a wild range of metal noises and effects.  Two songs in and this is already a huge improvement over Firepower.  Of course, by the time the title-track came along, I was afraid the album was going to be quite samey, which is something that Firepower largely avoided until the last third, as it was too long of an album not to fall victim to it.  Thankfully, the title track had levels of metal energy that rival the Arrange Edition of the F-Zero X soundtrack.

The entire first half was a bit samey with difference largely just going to the tempos, so whatever weirdness came from the intro wasn't going to be common.  Thankfully, side B starts with a ballad: Crown of Horns, so there change in pace is powerful without damaging the flow, as this song is quite a good ballad that shows that Halford still has vocal range.  And despite its ballad status, this doesn't stop the instrumentation from being thick and featuring a dense metal atmosphere.  Of course, the album goes right back into thrash territory immediately afterwards, but this is still good because nothing on Side A was as heavy lightning-speed-driven as the song As God as My Witness.  So I interpret this as the album doing two new things on Side B to compensate for a samey side A.  This sounds familiar: Hounds of Love? Trial By Fire even experiments with the rhythm some while teetering on the balance between heavy metal and metal ballad.  So By this point I'm fine with another song sounding like something from the first half.  The tunes take a little of a drop in rhythmic quality once they go back to the normality of the first half, but are still enjoyable.

Invincible Shield shows a noticeable improvement over Firepower and is a greater testament to what Judas Priest is capable of.  Through denser metal atmospheres and instrumentation, as well as a willingness to push even further than Painkiller, Invincible Shield overcome the 80's nostalgic vibe that could be interpreted as "being done before," and stands as a modern classic.

Saxy S Saxy S / March 14, 2024 / Comments 0 / 0

Judas Priest: what even left is there to say? The name alone strikes a sense of fear among the metal community. The albums titles are iconic: Sad Wings of Destiny, British Steel, Screaming For Vengeance, Painkiller. Some may be considered the greatest metal albums of all time. They are revered for their contributions to early heavy metal and continue even to this day, although to less of an influential status.

Last year I had the “privilege” of reviewing Metallica’s newest album, 72 Seasons, and I blasted it for being safe and uninspired, and spoke about the moment that Metallica “sold out” between the releases of St. Anger and Death Magnetic. Judas Priest should likely fall under the same scrutiny, considering the symphonic concept album, Nostradamus from 2008, felt conceptually similar to St. Anger. Since then, the band has released three studio albums (including this one) that are essentially return-to-form projects and were good. The issue is whether Judas Priest need to reinvent the wheel.

Well, when the formula is this precise and accurate, one can’t argue with the results. All things considered, Invincible Shield is an awesome piece of old school heavy metal that knows its history and is well indebted to the past, but also is not ashamed to make subtle changes to keep it from sounding derivative or uninspired. Granted, many of those subtle changes are surface level, as has been the case with many old-time heavy metal bands (i.e. Saxon), but the cleaner production does give a sound much closer to modern day progressive metal. I cannot say that I’m a huge fan of the production though. It doesn’t really fit the Judas Priest aesthetic and the lack of overabundant reverb that is present on previous albums, including Firepower, seems unnatural.

Invincible Shield understands the band performing it are from a time once past, and that does come through in the lyrical content. It isn’t much to dissect; lots of themes of religion and death, but the main theme of “Panic Attack” is bizarre. The phrase “disconnecting from the World Wide Web” during the bridge is quite the reminder that Rob Halford is in his seventies and likely views the world much differently than us thirty-somethings reviewing the music. Fortunately, it’s the only track like this and they get it out of the way right from the start, instead of awkwardly adding it to the middle of the record.

Like with a lot of legacy acts, to expect anything more than this will leave you dissatisfied. If you take Invincible Shield at face value, you’ll find a well crafted, well performed late-stage Judas Priest album. It’s a far cry from their best (hell I would say it isn’t even as good as Firepower), but I’m still amazed that they can release this type of quality after this much time.

Best Songs: Invincible Shield, Gates of Hell, As God is my Witness, Giants in the Sky

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / March 13, 2024 / Comments 0 / 0

My gushing praise for JP’s last offering, Firepower was more than justified. With the obvious comparisons to Painkiller there wasn’t much to not like on that 2018 release. Fast-forward some six years and the band continue to defy all expectations with Invincible Shield, which seems a fitting album title when describing the longevity of one of Britain’s finest heavy metal exports. Album number twenty is a remarkable number to get to and the ability to still sound relevant in the metal world after such a long shift is nothing short of astonishing.

That is not say that Invincible Shield is flawless (far from it) and the less than savoury elements will be addressed in the coming paragraphs. However, just sat looking at the promo pictures of the band on Spotify, they may look like a group of pensioners (and one of their sons) on holiday but the energy and passion on this record belies those images entirely. That passion may not always translate into palpable heavy metal tunes, but it is easier to deduct points for form or structure when the heart and determination scores are so high.

Invincible Shield is too long (the same criticism levelled at Firepower). I find most albums that tip the one hour plus mark to be a drain and whilst I get that we may not know how many more albums there are from JP, it still should not mean everything makes the cut. Whilst overall it is a strong album, there is obvious filler here. This filler affliction particularly (predictably) affects the latter half of the album with the drop in quality from after the first five tracks is too obvious for even JP to carry it off. None of the tracks are out right terrible though, just not entirely necessary.

Going back to the positives, the musicianship is top notch across the album. The guitar work standing out as the obvious highlight for me. I cannot comment how much Glenn Tipton contributes to the album given his Parkinson’s condition, but he and Faulkner are still a superb combination. Halford’s voice continues to hold up well even though it is not necessarily at the same quality level of old. Only the drums and bass come off poorly in the mix (not that Hill has ever really had a huge presence on any JP album of old) with the drums sounding muted in the mix overall, notwithstanding that they do have to compete with two strong guitarists and a legendary vocalist of course.

With a trim on track numbers and a little more focus on quality over quantity, Invincible Shield would have been a better album. If I am honest though, it still stands up as is and I cannot say that I am not entertained by the end-to-end experience. Whilst not perfect, the album does no harm to the legacy of JP. I would not like to think how many more years we have from Halford and co and my only hope is that they do not become a parody of themselves at any point. Based on this album that appears to be a minimal risk, however.