|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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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,
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
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
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
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!
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.
THOR: That one makes me want to go rob convenience stores. With Judas Priest,
that’s how you judge success.
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
“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
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
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
Freya: 8 “That ‘Lochness’ song is stuck in my head. And I am not sure that I
“Heart of a Lion” and Scott Travis: A Judas Priest Reunion Time
1987: “Heart of a Lion” appears on an album by a respected but little-known
rock band from Los Angeles, Racer X. The song, written by Rob Halford, Glenn
Tipton and K.K. Downing, has a crushing riff and an unforgettable chorus — quintessential
Judas Priest. Yet it will never show up on a regular Priest album. Racer X’s
drummer: Scott Travis.
1990: Travis, having left Racer X, records Painkiller with his new band,
1993: Halford and Travis leave Judas Priest to form the harder-edged Fight.
It goes nowhere.
1997: Halford and John Lowery (later called John5 with Marilyn Manson) form
the industrial duo Two, produced by Trent Reznor. Travis has gone back to Judas
Priest to record and tour with front man Ripper Owens.
2000: Fighting unprecedented invisibility, Halford releases Resurrection
with his new band, Halford, which sounds suspiciously like Judas Priest.
2001: Two studio songs are tacked on to Halford’s nominally live Live Insurrection,
and one of them is a blistering version of “Heart of a Lion” that sounds
exactly like Judas Priest.
2004: Judas Priest releases the retrospective box Metalogy, which includes
a demo version of “Heart of a Lion” recorded by Priest in the ’80s. During communications
about the box, the idea of a reunion has come up. Judas Priest, including Halford
and Travis, go on the Ozzfest tour.
2005: Judas Priest, with the same lineup that made Painkiller, drop Angel
of Retribution. The circle is closed.
Behold The Wings of Rock!
Whoever said hard rock was strictly phallic just wasn't paying attention.
From top left: Judas Priest's Angel of Retribution, Billy Thorpe's Children
of the Sun . . . Revisited, Queensryche's Greatest Hits, Journey's Greatest
Hits, Nirvana's In Utero, Rush's Fly By Night