Vinyl Vlog 647

Vinyl Vlog 647

Wednesday, 24 April 2024
Judas Priest – Invincible Shield – “Panic Attack”

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into Judas Priest’s Invincible Shield 2LP. In the fifty-five years since their foundation, Judas Priest has seen no small number of changes to their form and style while still remaining an inimitable mainstay of the metal community. The band has never been afraid to re-evaluate their sound and style as they go, and that fact is very clear on Priest’s nineteenth album, Invincible Shield. Now, on one hand, that Invincible Shield is being marketed as a double album is a bit of a surprise because no one cut in the running features a particularly LONG running (only the album’s title track runs over six minutes in length) and there isn’t really an exorbitant number of songs on it [the standard 2LP release of Invincible Shield features eleven songs, while the deluxe edition features an extra 7” with three added songs on it –ed] but, when listeners actually hear the songs, there’s no question that each cut feels enormous – and the stature of a double LP is justified.

As good as it does get though, that doesn’t mean Judas Priest doesn’t take a minute (or, more accurately, five and a half) to prime the proverbial pumps on their machine to get it warmed up. “Panic Attack” is that warm-up and finds Priest including some keyboards with its metal guitar arrangement. That inclusion could be called divisive, in theory – metal heads of a particular vintage often tend to view keyboards with no small amount of suspicion – but their inclusion works very well, here. In this case, the song rolls along really well with Glenn Tipton and Ritchie Faulkner trading guitar lines back and forth and the low end being held down tightly by Ian Hill and Scott Travis but, as usual, the real shining light in the composition continues to be Rob Halford. While not reaching registers as high as he once did, the singer takes the opportunity to work on his lyrical delivery (check out lines like, “The clamour and the clatter of incensed keys/ Can bring a nation to its knees/ On the wings of of a lethal iron, bird of prey”) and the results instantly register as higher than Priest has done on its last few albums, and more impressive too – and after it hits, the band doesn’t bother to pause and let the punch sink in, they just keep looking for more great marks to hit. Vocals get higher and energy more manic as the song progresses and, when it peaks (about thirty seconds before the song’s conclusion), listeners will be able to feel a climax that’s better than the band has reached in a very long time. In a word, “Panic Attack” is absolutely glorious.

Rather than standing back to admire their handiwork, the band just keeps pressing forward wit more power – more fury – as the A-side continues. “The Serpent and the King” shreds expectations with incendiary guitar solos delivered at an excellent tempo before the side needs changing and the track does exactly what songs which are named after albums are supposed to do by exemplifying the themes, forms and styling which defined the making of the album. Featuring ever-so-slightly more music on the B-side than was on the A-, the album’s title track tees up a fantastic and undeniably metallic experience complete with some great drumming and guitar work as well as twin vocal performances by Halford (which were indeed recorded twice – not double-tracked – to excellent effect) which all comes together to present a true standout cut on the album. The levels do not dip at all, but the movement takes on a distinct strut and swagger through “Devil In Disguise” before once again causing metalheads to throw their fists in the air, horns up, for “Gates Of Hell” – which doesn’t aim for a contrived “satanic panic” pose but rather just seeks to match the squalid imagery implied with a great, hard performance before the needle lifts from the album.

While choosing to open the C-side with a mid-tempo dip in energy as “Crown Of Thorns” does is definitely questionable, the movement immediately recovers with “As God As My Witness” (which, again, illustrates that Priest continues to be the standard by which classic metal bands should be judged) and “Trial By Fire” helps the power from its predecessor recede neatly by presenting a “classic Priest” album cut to close. Readers might notice that the language in this part of the review has begun to become a little repetitive, and there is a reason for that: there are no significant dynamic shifts in the middle of the album which imply movement, growth or change. Even so, when the needle lifts and side needs changing, listeners will find that their energy to do so remains as high as that of the album – and so they won’t question if they’ve had enough yet.

For those running front-to-back with Invincible Shield, “Escape From Reality” is unquestionably the weak link in the album’s running – and that it opens the album’s D-side is just a shame. Simply said, the song just suffers from having been preceded by too many high points; those who have already heard the strong points in Invincible Shield‘s running will find that Faulkner’s guitars in “Escape From Reality” feel a little stilted; they suffer from featuring a fraction of the fire that other cuts on the album flaunted, and so is forgettable as a result. Likewise, Halford’s performance on “Escape From Reality” features no great melody and nothing that resembles a daring performance – it’s just perfectly average. Happily, the side does recover immediately after that disappointment with “Sons Of Thunder”though, and listeners will happily concede that all is forgiven. Traces of classicism flow in the undercurrent of “Sons Of Thunder” as Tipton and Faulkner blaze brightly through guitar parts which favor brevity above all, but do not skimp on fireworks – and Halford sings with the authority of a battlefield commander; his voice does not fly as high as it can, but sizzles with passion and grit to really make listeners feel it.

The ending of “Sons Of Thunder” is just powerful enough that Judas Priest could have closed out the running of Invincible Shield and fans would have been satisfied – but instead they include “Giants In The Sky”for one last blast. There, Halford really wants to make sure that listeners know the song was included for a reason as mentions of, “Till the bitter end” and “leaving a legacy” factor into the lyric sheet, but the soaring guitars in the song are the things which reach for and attain the stratosphere even more handily than the vocals and, after all of the band’s members throw in a few closing notes, the cut slams forcefully to a close.

Standing back from it and taking the album as a whole, the truth is that no one who runs front-to-back with Invincible Shield will be able to deny how great an achievement it is. Yes, that the album is Priest’s nineteenth is impressive and that the band has been running for fifty-five years is remarkable, but those things don’t really rank as selling points for this album – it would stand out regardless of those things. Ignoring all the history and achievements that Judas Priest has enjoyed, listeners will still be able to recognize just how good Invincible Shield is and that deserves commendation above and beyond any other praise that the band has been offered previously. [Bill Adams]


Judas Priest’s Invincible Shield 2LP is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.

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