ALBUM REVIEW: Judas Priest – Invincible Shield

While the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” might work for some bands, UK metal gods Judas Priest are clearly not counted among them. Rarely repeating themselves from record to record, Priest have always preferred creativity over repetition, unafraid to take risks even when some level of criticism inevitably follows.

From their bluesy origins to the synth-driven commerciality of 1986’s Turbo; from the speed metal reinvention of 1990 classic Painkiller to the divisive full-on concept of 2008’s Nostradamus, Priest refuse to stay in the same spot for too long. So it makes perfect sense that the band’s nineteenth full-length studio release, Invincible Shield (Epic Records/Sony Music) is a more diverse beast than the full metal sonic assault of 2018’s glorious predecessor, Firepower.

That’s not to say, of course, that the album doesn’t hit harder than an enraged rhinoceros.

Opener “Panic Attack” begins like it just escaped from the Turbo sessions before launching into a full frontal metal assault led by guitarist Richie Faulkner and the piercing screams of legendary frontman Rob Halford. The fast paced “The Serpent and the King” follows with a determined drive and as many twists and turns as the titular reptile while the title cut is an anthemic pulse pounder that goes on to take a more melodic but no less metal turn.

“Devil in Disguise” possesses a headbanging stomp so commanding that I’ll even allow Halford’s irritating mispronunciation of mischievous in order for it to rhyme with “it grieves us”. The masterful “Gates of Hell” follows, standing as one of the album’s undoubted highlights and every bit the modern Priest classic. Faulkner’s guitar work is surgical in its precision, Halford’s vocals vibrant and clear while the song is driven on further by the talents of bassmeister general Ian Hill.

The brooding crawl of “Crown of Horns” proves that even at 72, Halford is still at the top of his game while from its opening pick scrape, “As God Is My Witness” promises neck injuries as Scott Travis flexes his drumsticks as the band delivers another instantly memorable sing-along chorus.

“Trial by Fire” and “Escape From Reality” both pack a serious punch and despite a cheesy as hell “thunder, thunder” gang vocal during the chorus, “Sons of Thunder” still works due to its riff-driven complete lack of subtlety. Reminiscent of Firepower‘s mighty “Children of the Sun”, album closer “Giants In The Sky” goes all “Victim of Changes” with a classic sounding acoustic interlude before Halford signs off with a final scream likely to still be ringing in your ears days later.

On certain formats there’s still more to come thanks to the three bonus tracks, “Fight of Your Life”, “Vicious Circle” and “The Lodger”, the last of which happens to be written by Bob Halligan Jr., the US singer/producer responsible for Priest classics “(Take These) Chains” and “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll”.

While the band have made it clear that original guitarist Glenn Tipton is certainly present on the record, to what level isn’t really known. Although considering his already well documented health issues, any contribution is more than welcome. Regular collaborator and touring guitarist Andy Sneap returns with another reliably punchy production, the album given a sense of timelessness as it dips seamlessly into different eras of the band, from track to track and sometimes within the confines of a single cut.

So yes, while it’s true that most of the band are becoming increasingly weighed down by the ravages of wrinkles and bingo wings, one thing Invincible Shield proves beyond a shadow of doubt is that Judas Priest is still far too full of piss and vinegar to be regarded as a dinosaur. Unless of course, it’s a dinosaur capable of tearing your neck off with a single riff.

Buy the album here:

9 / 10