Veteran hard rock outfit Judas Priest just got some positive news about its latest album Firepower. The album, released March 9 via Epic Records, debuted at the #5 spot on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart in its debut week. The only albums to top Firepower were Logic (from Bobby Tarantino II) at #1, Lil Boat 2 (from Lil Yachty) at #2, David Byrne’s new album American Utopia at #3 and the Black Panther soundtrack at #4. Those albums outperforming Firepower is a head scratcher to say the least. Though considering that it bested new albums from the likes of Three Days Grace, Jimi Hendrix, Between The Buried and Me and and so many others is a statement as to the album’s *ahem* power and the continued relevance of the band in whole. The album’s title track/opener is just one of the songs included in this record that serves to support that statement. It will be discussed shortly. Also of note here is the musically and lyrically powerful ‘Never The Heroes.’ It shows in its own way why this album is another strong effort from Judas Priest. ‘No Surrender,’ which comes late in the album’s run is one more example of what makes it a solid new record. Between these songs and the other dozen that make up the body of this nearly hour-long record, the whole of those works makes Firepower a work whose guns blazing approach makes it easily one more of this year’s top new hard rock & metal offerings.
Judas Priest’s latest full-length studio recording Firepower is a record that presents the veteran hard rock outfit coming at audiences with guns blazing. This throwback to Judas Priest’s early days is a work that, true longtime Priest fans will agree is easily one of this year’s top new hard rock and metal albums. This is proven right off the top in the album’s title track and opener. Its full-throttle, guitar-driven musical arrangement, wastes no time at all grabbing listeners by the ear and pulling them along proudly. Scott Travis’ timekeeping, Ian Hill’s low-end and Rob Halford’s vocal delivery are collectively their own musical firepower. The song’s lyrical content offers its own strength as it comes across (at least to this critic) as its own socio-political commentary. That is inferred as Halford sings, “Empty the chamber/Lock and reload/This world thrives on danger/It’s bound to explode/Aim for the target/With laser red light/Releasing the trigger/Puts victory in sight.” He goes on to sing, “No time to pray or ask forgiveness/Those blessed souls are now deceased/There is no sense in this contrition/With open arms we fight for peace.” He closes out the song by singing, “Firepower, man’s demise.” It seems to be a statement about global conflicts in a way, and the dangers that this ongoing battle poses to mankind in whole. It’s a powerful statement and hardly the only impacting statement that the band makes over the course of this album. The musical and lyrical statement made in ‘Never The Heroes’ is just as powerful.
Halford (and his band mates) stated clearly in a recent interview that the message presented in ‘Never The Heroes’ centers on the men and women who go to war, but can also apply in daily struggles in people’s lives. “‘Never The Heroes’ is about the courageous men and women that enter war – never trained to be heroes, but becoming heroic due to their actions and sacrifices doing their duty for their people and country,” the band said. “It resonates as there is a hero in all of us, and in times of struggle, we can be strong and united – conquering our own challenges and helping others – It’s a traditional Priest mid-tempo powerhouse with a powerful message!” That is clear as Halford sings here, “Like a cobra they will strike/And like lions caged, we’ll fight/We were taken – not by choice/They put anger in out voice/We were fearless but so afraid/though in our hearts we still felt pain/We’re on fire – But on a leash/We only ever wanted peace/Never the heroes/We were made to fight/Never the heroes/We were just sacrificed at war.” He goes on in similar fashion throughout the rest of the song, reminding listeners once and again, “Never the heroes/We were made to fight/Never the heroes/We were just sacrificed.” This is one of those statements that any military veteran will appreciate, especially considering that was apparently the song’s direct message according to the band. The emotional point – counterpoint established through the two musical moods here strengthens that message even more, really capturing the essence of Halford’s words. The two elements together show fully why this song is another important addition to Firepower, and why the album is, in whole such a strong new effort from Judas Priest. It still is not the last of the songs included in this album that shows the album’s overall strength. ‘No Surrender’ is one more of the songs included in the album that displays its strength.
Much as with ‘Firepower,’ ‘Never The Heroes’ and so many of this album’s offerings, ‘No Surrender’ is yet another solid, driving work in regards to its musical arrangement. Again, the dual guitar Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner leads the way here, with their band mates building on the foundation formed by the pair to make the song in whole a solid, balanced wall of sound. That powerhouse arrangement is just one part of what makes the song stand out. Its lyrical content is just as wort discussing as its musical arrangement. This defiant fist-pumper comes across as presenting a message of determination and confidence. This is inferred as Halford sings, “You know that life isn’t set/I lead the pack/I ain’t no pretender/You give as good as you get/We live and we die/’Cause there’s no surrender.” He goes on to sing in similar fashion in the song’s second verse, “You know the way that I feel/If you’re with me you better hold on tighter/I’m only keeping it real/That’s who I am/I’m just a non-stop fighter.” The song’s chorus, adds to that inference as he sings, “Chasing a dream as I go higher/Playing it mean/My heart’s on fire/Livin’ my life/Ain’t no pretender/Ready to fight with no surrender.” It’s a proud, confident statement that is certain to reach plenty of audiences, impacting them positively. It’s just one more of so many songs that could be cited here in explaining why this album is another hard-hitting new effort. ‘Sea of Red,’ the album’s closer is supposedly based on poet John McCrae’s poem ‘In Flanders Fields.’ That is according to Faulkner as he discussed the song’s creation in an interview.
Halford’s words here are just as moving as those of McCrae. He sings, “As the sun goes down, the silence is profound/For they gave so much/So we might go on and live/Laying peaceful they forgive.” This is just one of the moving lines included in the song that exemplifies its emotional depth. He even goes so far as to indirectly quote McCreary’s poem as he sings, “In fields of wonder/those swallows soar/Our hearts are weary as we pray/The grass is greener from the tears that fall/For you on this remembrance day.” That line is one of the song’s most moving especially because of how closely it mirrors McCreary’s poem. That emotional depth becomes even deeper when set against the song’s gentle melody. The impact of that song, and every one of the others not directly noted here, combine to show even more why Firepower is some of Judas Priest’s best work to date and easily one of this year’s best new hard rock and metal albums.
It goes without saying that after just one listen, Judas Priest’s latest full-length studio recording Firepower is deserving of being called one of this year’s top new hard rock and metal albums. From start to finish, every one of the album’s songs supports that statement in its own way. From the album’s energetic opener/title track with its sociopolitical lyrical theme to the equally powerful military tribute that is ‘Never The Heroes’ to the fiery, defiant fist pumper that is ‘No Surrender’ to the deeply moving tribute to those who died in the line of service in ‘Sea of Red’ and beyond, every moment of this record offers something to appreciate. This applies both musically and lyrically, as has been pointed out. That being the case, audiences will agree that Firepower is a record that comes at audiences with guns blazing ready to take its place in this year’s list of top new hard rock and metal albums. It is available now in stores and online. More information on Firepower is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:
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