Saturday, 23 January 2010

CD Review: Jugulator, by Judas Priest (1997)

After the departure of Rob Halford, both the face and the sound of Judas Priest for 20 years, the remaining band members pluck the unknown Tim "Ripper" Owens from the obscurity of the tribute band British Steel and hand him the lead vocal duties for the Jugulator CD. This was the band's first studio recording since Painkiller in 1990, and the fairytale of Ripper Owens both inspires the Rock Star movie storyline, and results in a very good heavy metal album.

There is no doubting Owens' impressive range, and he does an admirable job replicating Halford's attitude and distinctive high pitch. For all but serious fans of the band, it is difficult to tell Owens apart from Halford.

Despite being separated from Painkiller by seven years, Jugulator follows a similar formula. Priest sound heavier, tighter, and more controlled than their commercial glory days of the 1970's and 1980's. A lot of the credit goes to the booming power drumming of Scott Travis, and the surprisingly prominent bass of Ian Hill. Both add a depth to the Priest sound that was so often missing. Twin guitarists K. K. Downing and Glenn Tipton show a controlled maturity, with the solos mostly enhancing each song rather than wildly spinning out of control.

Jugulator is death obsessed and dives headlong into a long list of meaty topics, from prisoners on death row to brain dead patients. It's a welcome departure from the decades of mostly simplistic lyrics that handicapped a lot of Priest's earlier material.

The stronger songs include Brain Dead, Death Row, and Abductor, all three emphasizing power over speed and achieving strong momentum. Bullet Train is effective with a quicker pace, although it doesn't go quite as fast as its title suggests.

But Jugulator is most notable for the opening title track, and the closer Cathedral Spires. While Jugulator is a clear but respectful echo of the title track on Painkiller, Cathedral Spires instantly takes its place among heavy metal's all-time epic tracks, 9 minutes and 15 seconds of a rampaging Gothic monster that just keeps devouring the landscape and casting a gigantic and inescapable pitch black shadow. Cathedral Spires ends with the spine tingling doom-filled deep choir refrain

oh! we're so tired / watching the world expire / time that we retired / up in cathedral spires

over which Owens lets rip his falsetto to end the CD on a chillingly effective note.


Ripper Owens - Vocals
Glenn Tipton - Guitars
K. K. Downing - Guitars
Ian Hill - Bass
Scott Travis - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Jugulator - 10 *see below*
2. Blood Stained - 7
3. Dead Meat - 7
4. Death Row - 9
5. Decapitate - 6
6. Burn In Hell - 8
7. Brain Dead - 9
8. Abductors - 8
9. Bullet Train - 8
10. Cathedral Spires - 10

Average: 8.20

Produced by Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing, and Sean Lynch.

All Ace Black Blog CD Reviews are here.

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