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Heavy Metal Rec Room 

Get yer ass over here and check out the new Priest

Thursday, Mar 17 2005
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Photo by Ross Halfin

Last week we herded some old Judas Priest fans together who were stoked to hear that Rob Halford, metal’s original screamer, had rejoined his mates for Angel of Retribution the first Priest/Halford recording since 1990’s Painkiller. (Farewell to Priest cover-band singer Ripper Owens, who substituted for Halford in the interim as well as anyone could. He did not suck.)

Our consulting metalheads were carefully chosen. Besides being discriminating listeners, Odin, Fafnir and Loki abuse guitar; Thor and Freya have been known to smash drums.* Before gathering in smallish home rock-rooms to stare fiercely at the speakers, the acolytes prepared themselves for the listening sessions in traditional ways (sucking down prodigious quantities of smoke and beer) or through prayer and meditation. Or both.

*Names have been changed.


DAY 1: ODIN, FREYA AND FAFNIR

Track 1, “Judas Rising”

ODIN: [seeing the tape recorder] I’m not gonna say anything. Turn that off.

FAFNIR: I think the kick drum was kind of a crutch there. They kinda relied on that to move it along. Not as strong an opening as they might have manufactured.

ODIN: Downing’s got a weird way of picking like Tony Iommi, makes it almost sound like there’s an effect on it. [Ed.’s note: K.K. Downing is one of Priest’s dual lead guitarists; Tony Iommi is Black Sabbath’s founding guitarist.]

Track 2, “Deal With the Devil”

FAFNIR: Real intense. It made me feel, like, something about my arches, you know? It was sort of like running.

ODIN: Your feet felt good?

FAFNIR: Yeah. Then the next song [track 3, “Revolution”], I was going, like, “Isn’t this just one old blues riff over and over and over again?”

ODIN: You sound ungrateful.

FAFNIR: I really liked the texture of it, though. All this huge layering. Did you notice that?

ODIN: I noticed how much fun it sounds like this was to make. [Producer] Roy Z, he hasn’t done anything bad yet.

The chugging riff on track 4, “Worth Fighting For”

ODIN: I love that kind of riff right there, that’s what I want.

The TV is on with the sound off. A commercial for Hooters comes on.

ODIN: They wouldn’t allow that commercial on TV if they had the actual tight shorts. But in the commercial, the Hooters girls could have the slightly baggy shorts.

Track 7, “Angel”

Odin complains about the red light on the tape recorder.

ODIN: When you’ve got that on, I know that it’s on, and it chokes my creativity.

Solution: thumb over light.

FAFNIR: This is a good ballad. It’s kicking into Spanish overdrive now.

Track 8, “Hellrider” intro, with rapidly twiddling guitars

FAFNIR: I like this psychedelic intro. I really think they did something different with their formula there. Too much kick drum again . . . yet I rock.

ODIN: We’re doing a Roger Glover now.

FAFNIR: What?

ODIN: [explains Deep Purple reference] Roger Glover used to unscrew the light bulb so [Ritchie] Blackmore didn’t know when they were recording. Blackmore would seize up when he saw the light.

FAFNIR: Can’t really argue about this one [“Hellrider”] too much. It’s on the level of some of their famous “-er” songs. [“Exciter,” “Jawbreaker,” “Painkiller.”]

ODIN: Homogenizer, that’s a great album.

Track 9, “Eulogy”

FAFNIR: Another ballad. Time to take a leak. I feel one of those airplane pisses coming on.

Track 10, “Lochness,” atmospheric intro

FAFNIR: They’re goin’ for it here. It’s not like they’re fuckin’ around.

ODIN: I have a feeling this is gonna be better than the Sting song. [Sting also wrote a song about Loch Ness. Odin and Fafnir hate Sting.]

Freya, Odin’s girlfriend, comes in looking shook up.

FREYA: I got hit today.

ODIN: You got hit?

FREYA: Somebody hit the back of my car.

FAFNIR: How is everybody?

Freya says her neck hurts. The tape is turned off while the situation is assessed. Freya is not bleeding.

ODIN: Anyways, Freya, the Judas Priest album was released today, and we’re right in the middle of listening to it.

FREYA: Oh, sorry.

Fafnir, who has reached a pretty good consumption level by this point, reaches over to put his beer down, and knocks a whole stack of CDs behind a big amp cabinet.

FAFNIR: Ohhhh.

FREYA: Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Ha! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh.

The twisted guitar squeals that begin “Lochness” are heating up. Then it really gets heavy and Spinal Tappy.

FAFNIR: How did you know this song was going to be remarkable?

ODIN: It’s about the Loch Ness monster, for god’s sake.

FAFNIR: “Lochness, confess your terror of the deep.” Wow, this is corny shit. I’m not sure if the riffs are convincing me. Not evil enough.

The DVD documentary portion of the Angel of Retribution package is up next. 2004 reunion concert footage comes on.

ODIN: Whoa, I want to see that again!

Rewind. Bassist Ian Hill and guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton are all bending over together in a classic unison pose. Halford comes up from behind.

FAFNIR: Wow, he butt-fucked ’em all in a row there, didn’t he? I think it’s funny that he decided it’s okay to butt-fuck his bandmates onstage now.

Halford is wearing yards of black leather drapery and studded fringe.

FAFNIR: I believe that Halford’s got more studs on him than ever before in his rock career. I mean, you can’t go down in the studs department. You have to kinda keep going up, right?

ODIN: Yeah. A stud-finder would go mental on Halford.

FAFNIR: After the age of 35 or so, rock stars need bigger and bigger sunglasses. It’s the eyes that really betray the age.

ODIN: Is that right?

FAFNIR: Even Paul Westerberg has big sunglasses now. Sifa and I went to see him the other night, because she’s a huge fan.

ODIN: Don’t tell Freya that. She really wanted to go.

FAFNIR: It was bad.

ODIN: Here’s the real question: What if you were Paul Westerberg? Was it okay?

FAFNIR: Man, that’s a good question. I don’t think I can answer that. It’s almost like that’s what he goes for, is that kind of messed-up experience. It was successful for Sifa, cause she falls for that. [Now Fafnir is acting jealous.] She wants to be his mom, you know, and take care of him, because he’s such a fuck-up. That’s how he’s always got girlfriends, I’m sure, too. By pretending that he’s really fucked up, and he really needs their help.

“Diamonds and Rust”

ODIN: I first heard that in, like, ’77. And of course I had no idea that it was a Joan Baez song. I was living in that apartment looking over the freeway. I was living with my brother. That’s when I had that album.

It’s time for some critical judgment.

FAFNIR: I’m impressed with the way Priest decided to reconsider their past in a way that is not imitative of themselves. Maybe a bit imitative of other people. The music is successful. On a production level — mixing, just impeccable. Really, like, powerful.

ODIN: It seems to be done in the right frame of mind. The right sentiment.

Freya is back. It’s unclear whom she’s talking about, probably somebody on TV.

FREYA: It would be cool if I had that haircut.

FAFNIR: You haven’t changed your haircut in quite a while.

ODIN: Hey, that’s really a mean thing to say.

FREYA: Fafnir, you haven’t changed yours in a while either.

ODIN: On the Rodney on the ROQ show in ’79 or something, he had Ian Hunter on as a guest. And Ian Hunter was calling live, on tour in Connecticut. And Rodney Bingenheimer, in the middle of the interview, after being a really cool, hang-out-and-chat, Bingenheimer kind of guy, goes, “What about your image, man? It doesn’t seem like you’ve changed, you’ve always got the same kind of image, with the sunglasses and everything.” And he had to go, “Yeah, I guess so . . .”

FAFNIR: “. . . fuckwad . . .”

[Ed.’s note: Rodney is one to talk.]



DAY 2: LOKI, THOR AND FAFNIR

Thor has brought a copy of Heavy Metal Parking Lot, the classic short documentary on Judas Priest fans’ pre-show festivities. One of the stoner subjects dreams about “A joint so big, it fits across America.”

Our consultants then watch the Priest DVD. Onscreen, a spaced-out, skinny trailer-trash guy is hanging at stage-front.

FAFNIR: He could have been in Heavy Metal Parking Lot 20 years ago!

THOR: It’s the same guy!

FAFNIR: He’s still 20 years old! How did that happen? Drugs and acid preserved him.

THOR: Maybe I shoulda stuck with it.

“Diamonds and Rust”

FAFNIR: What state of mind do you have to be in to play the same song, like, a thousand times?

LOKI: I dunno, does whacking off ever get old? It never really does, and it’s about the same.

Now it’s on to the album.

THOR: In the [past] they were experimenting more. This one seems like they’re using more reliable formulas. Now the contracts say that you’ve got to have one that will sell or whatever. Compared to, let’s say, Painkiller, the drum production on this is way more ambient. You feel it more than you hear it.

FAFNIR: But then, you’re a drummer.

THOR: That means I get to ride the bus for free! I get to park close to the entrance of Ralphs!

“Revolution”

LOKI: That was almost like Jane’s Addiction, that riff. I liked it a lot, but that was the least Priest-like song.

FAFNIR: There’s a little bit of Led Zeppelin . . .

THOR: I heard Soundgarden.

FAFNIR: I hear Marilyn Manson in there too.

“Worth Fighting For”

LOKI: I like this song, too. I just wish Halford would open it up a little, at least once, just for us: “Let’s hear Ripper sing like this.”

THOR: Many hesher girlfriends will be happy that that one’s on there.

As the big ballad “Angel” plays, Thor performs frail-waif dance moves. Song ends.

LOKI: That’s one that Night Ranger didn’t get around to recording. They sound like they’re trying to be five different bands. But I like the sound, personally.

THOR: Well, you’re wrong.

“Hellrider”

THOR: That one makes me want to go rob convenience stores. With Judas Priest, that’s how you judge success.

“Lochness”

FAFNIR: Wind chimes — takes balls.

THOR: It’s so egregious. Length and heaviness.

LOKI: It’s like they broke it up into two songs. They said, “This’ll give Halford time for a wardrobe change.” With those long coats on, he looks more and more like Hellraiser.

“Lochness” fades out.

LOKI: Was that the last track? They went out with a rumble.

THOR: Smack you over the head with a cinder block.

LOKI: That’s not gonna be a single. You gotta admire that.

Comparisons are made between Painkiller and Angel of Retribution.

FAFNIR: It’s like the difference between speed and pot. That’s the same kind of intersection Metallica had.

THOR: That last record’s horrible [Metallica’s St. Anger]. God, I can’t stand that record.

FAFNIR: As a drummer?

THOR: Ah, Jesus! Somebody shoulda kicked that idiot out and stepped all over him. He plays like a white tennis player.

FAFNIR: There’s some really good white tennis players.

THOR: You also liked that one song, though. [“Worth Fighting For” from the new Priest.]

FAFNIR: Yeah . . .

Now everybody’s laughing at Fafnir.

FAFNIR: I do phosphoresce a little bit. Not every day, but every once in a while you need to put on a tutu.



Overall rankings for Angel of Retribution
Odin: 9
Fafnir: 8.5
Freya: 8 “That ‘Lochness’ song is stuck in my head. And I am not sure that I like that.”
Loki: 7
Thor: 5


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