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The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019, #13: Judas Priest, Firepower

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MetalSucks recently polled nearly 180 prominent metal musicians and industry insiders to determine The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019! (You can read all about the voters and the methodology behind the poll here.) Over the next few weeks, we’ll be counting down the entire list, one entry per day.

The countdown continues today with Judas Priest’s 2018 entry Firepower (Sony Music)!

Judas Priest released two albums between 2010 and 2019, Redeemer of Souls (2014) and today’s entry, Firepower, which won fans over in a big way upon its 2018 release. The former nabbed a small handful of votes in the poll conducted to compile this list but didn’t even come close to making it. What was it, then, about Firepower that struck such magic in the hearts and (non-redeemed) souls of Priest fans the world over?

I truly believe it’s this simple: when you’re a band that’s been around as long as Judas Priest, with as solid a legacy, sometimes you nail it and sometimes you just don’t. Iron Maiden fans are well familiar with this phenomenon; for every Brave New World there’s a Dance of Death, for every Powerslave a Somewhere in Time. Are our heroes really capable of cranking out bonafide winners every single time? Such an expectation would be completely unreasonable.

And it’s not as if Redeemer of Souls was bad… Firepower was just better! It’s all in the songs, maaaaan, and Firepower‘s chock full of ’em. From the opening one-two salvo of the title track and “Lightning Strike” to the mid-paced rocker “Children of the Sun” to acoustic album-closer “Sea of Red,” there are no clunkers amongst the bunch. The riffs can stand up to the best in Priest’s catalogue, Rob Halford’s voice is as powerful as ever — maybe the best it’s ever been?? — and the production and mixing work of Andy Sneap, who would go on to take Glenn Tipton’s place as live guitarist, drives it all home.

Speaking of Tipton, there is also this: Firepower could well end up being the last Judas Priest album to which he ever contributes, his Parkinson’s Disease having already progressed to the point at which he is unable to tour with the band. His contributions to Firepower were certainly mighty, and only the folks present for its writing and recording can speak to how emotionally charged that situation must have been, but I can’t imagine it wasn’t a factor that subtly seeped into the album’s every pore. Credit is also due Richie Faulkner, who we can only speculate was more comfortable in his role as co-guitarist the second time around.

In short: sometimes classic metal bands nail it and sometimes they don’t, but Firepower is one of the good ones. It’s a wonder Priest are so relevant at this point in their career, and we should consider ourselves lucky to still have them in peak form.

The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019:

#25: Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas, Mariner (2016)
#24: Triptykon, Eparistera Daimones (2010)
#23: Pig Destroyer, Book Burner (2012)
#22: Yob, Clearing the Path to Ascend (2014)
#21: The Black Dahlia Murder, Ritual (2011)
#20: Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun (2014)
#19: At the Gates, At War with Reality (2012)
#18: Meshuggah, Koloss (2012)
#17: Gorguts, Colored Sands (2012)
#16: Between the Buried and Me, The Parallax II: Future Sequence (2012)
#15: The Ocean, Pelagial (2013)
#14: Kvelertak, Kvelertak (2010)

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