Well, it’s here at last, the very long-awaited debut album from former Judas Priest legend KK Downing; Controversy over Downing’s decision to use the word ‘Priest’ has intensified across social media in the runup to this album’s release, a controversy that will only calcify when those who’ve set themselves against the guitarist for his use of the word find out he’s written songs featuring not only that word but ‘Sentinel’ and ‘Sinner’ too…
It’s all grist to the mill, of course, what with any publicity being good publicity, but none of it really matters if the most important thing about KK’s Priest – the music – fails to pass muster. So, does it stand up to close examination?
Overall, yes. There are a few shaky moments of by-the-numbers modern trad metal – Raise Your Fists will probably exit your memory a few seconds after the song ends, for instance – but these are more than evened out by truly superb tracks such as Metal Through and Through, which is easily as good as anything Priest have put together in the decade since Downing bowed out from the band.
Band wise the collection of journeymen rockers assembled play their supporting roles well; AJ Mills is a capable six string foil to Downing, whilst bassist Tony Newton, enjoying a more prominent role than Ian Hill in the mix, shows himself to be a versatile and assured four stringer. Drummer Sean Elg lacks the featherlight touch of KK’s first choice Les Binks, offering up more of a Scott Travis style of drumming that in the end probably suits the music a bit better; and then there’s the Ripper…
Tim Owens has spent his time hawking out his voice to any and all comers since being shown the door by Judas Priest in 2003, to the point where a lot of his impact as a secret weapon behind the mic has been lost; you can’t blame the man, of course – everyone has to earn a crust, after all – but across Sermons… he just fails lift his game sufficiently to make it sound like this more than just another of his day job assignments. I’m sure it does mean more to the man; and on the title track his commitment to the cause shines through. But elsewhere – Sacerdote y Diablo, for instance, the spark of fire that endeared him to so many when he appeared to save the day for the Priest just seems a touch lacking.
Still, it’s probably best not to over think this too much. When the band erupts into Wild And Free – a glorious mix of Ram It Down and Freewheel Burning – you’ll just be glad that Downing is back and doing what he loves most. It’s infectious stuff, and it’s indescribably good to have one of metal’s true Gods back and mostly burning.
Sermons of the Sinner is out now.