It’s almost as if the name KK has chosen for his band is aimed at something in particular. It’s subtle. Give it a bit and see if you can figure it out.
Damn, where to start with this one? There’s is a lot going on here. And, not much is good.
I guess the best place to start is with KK himself. Look, Judas Priest was a seminal band in forming my musical taste as a youngster. And KK was a huge part of that classic Priest sound. I’ve always loved the dude’s guitar playing. He’s simply a legend. Now, when he left Priest ten years ago, it sounded like he was just tired and done with the whole scene and was ready to retire. Cool. No problem, man. You’ve earned it. However, since Priest has gone forward without him and has even replaced him with a damn capable lookalike in Richie Faulkner, it feels as if KK has just turned into a jaded and bitter old guy who can’t stop bitching about how badly Priest fucked him over. Granted, when Glen Tipton was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and had to step back from playing live, I can understand why KK was upset and disappointed that Priest didn’t contact him and see if he wanted to rejoin the band. But, ultimately, KK was the dude that decided to walk away from the band. I think he kind of needs to take some sort of ownership in that.
So, it is in this light that we have the resulting band and album put out by KK. It’s ultimately a statement by a guy who feels as though he wants to remind the world that he is out there and that he can deliver the goods better than the current version of Priest at this point. Now, on the positive side, KK’s still got his guitar chops. There are frenzied riffs aplenty and searing leads for days on this thing. Lots of nods to Painkiller era Priest soundwise. Kudos to a dude who just turned 70 for being able to still blister a fretboard. On the negative, the songs just aren’t there. Lyrically, this thing is just cringeworthy. Lots out songs about being metal and about driving fast and kickin’ ass. The mindset on here is more 17 than 70. Some bands are able to pull this kind of thing off, but here it just feels sad. I mean, when the lyrics are “We’re Brothers of the Road….And we Rock! ROCK!!!! (revving engine sounds)” and “We’re Rule Breakers!! Hellraisers!!” I just want to curl up in the fetal position. There is one song called Hellfire Thunderbolt. I guess that’s cool. I’m not sure what it is, but sure, Hellfire Thunderbolt, indeed. Album closer is an attempt to revisit The Sentinel off of Defenders of the Faith. It’s probably the best song on the album, but it was still an interesting choice to include a direct companion piece to a classic Priest song.
The cherry on the top of this entire mess is the selection of Tim “Ripper” Owens as vocalist. Look, Ripper has a fine metal voice. But, at this point, he’s basically that retread, journeyman vocalist that everyone immediately thinks of whenever there is a vacancy in a metal band. He’s been in so many bands at this point and I have been racking my brain and I can’t really think of one that he has made better by joining. Look, I understand KK picking him since Ripper was the dude who replaced Halford in Priest and KK is trying to make this his definitive Priest statement, but honestly, the pick just feels lazy. I don’t know. It just feels like he could have spent a bit more time before making this decision. As to his performance, Ripper is set to maximum screech on here. He’s in the high register from the word go and he really doesn’t let up.
When I originally saw this album announced, I really had a bad feeling about it. And now that I’ve heard it multiple times, it pretty much lives up to every bad assumption I had made about it. And that makes me sad. KK, you’re better than this. I don’t see this tarnishing your legacy at all, but it’s not good. It feels like a desperate attempt to recapture past glory and to marinate in some old personal slights and grudges. Just not a good album.
2.5 flip flops out of 5