Judas Priest: A Touch of Evil Live

If you needed further proof that Judas Priest is still a great live band, here it is.

Judas Priest

A Touch of Evil Live

Label: Epic
US Release Date: 2009-07-14
UK Release Date: 2009-07-13
Artist Website

There's nothing quite like the devotion of metal fans. When they latch on to a band, it's for life, and it couldn't be more evident these days as album sales continue their sharp decline. Still stubbornly an album-oriented genre, metal has been charting very strongly over the past year, largely due to the fact that when a new album comes out, those fans go out en masse during that first week and buy, buy, buy, to the point now where even the most marginally popular band can sell 10,000 copies in the first week and be assured of a strong chart position. Such loyalty is not lost on these bands, either, especially the veteran acts who have been around for decades, as they continually reward their legions of fans with live albums and DVDs from their most recent tours. Judas Priest is one such band, who ever since reuniting with singer extraordinaire Rob Halford in 2003, has treated audiences to two spirited studio albums, a retrospective box set, a pair of live DVDs, and now a new live album, the British band's fifth such document overall.

Unlike such tepid affairs as 1988's Priest…Live!, '98 Live Meltdown, and 2003's Demolition Live, A Touch of Evil Live avoids the sprawling double live route, sparing us redundant renditions of live staples like "Breaking the Law", "Electric Eye", and "Living After Midnight" and focusing specifically on the deeper tracks in Judas Priest's massive back catalog. It's an interesting decision, one that might stick in the craw of those fusspots who would rather hear a complete show uninterrupted, but for all its various locales and fade-outs after tracks, this album turns out to be quite the revelation. In a way, one can look at the new record as a sequel of sorts to the similarly-sequenced fan fave Unleashed in the East from 30 years ago, an immensely rewarding snapshot of a band that continues to defy age, sounding as gargantuan and inspired as ever.

Comprised of 11 tracks, A Touch of Evil Live is an eclectic selection of songs that span the band's entire career, with four songs coming from their last two albums. Recorded during the band's triumphant tour in support of 2005's Angel of Retribution, "Judas Rising" and "Hellrider" are faithful, energetic renditions that mine the classic Priest sound of 1982-1984, while the two cuts from last year's Nostradamus double album are much more revelatory, "Prophecy" deliciously theatrical and "Death" transformed into a powerful doom metal dirge, Halford a commanding vocal presence on both tracks.

The real treat, though, is the older material, on which the entire band sounds rejuvenated. Slayer might have famously covered 1977's "Dissident Aggressor" on their 1988 classic South of Heaven, but Priest absolutely dwarfs their American disciples here with their pummeling rendition of the Sin After Sin track, the rhythm section of drummer Scott Travis and bassist Ian Hill anchoring the track with a formidable bottom end. Originally appearing on 1978's influential Stained Class and on Unleashed in the East, the new version of the epic "Beyond the Realm of Death" is reinvented, Halford smartly avoiding trying to replicate the multi-octave screeches of the original, playing to his current strengths, his more mid-range delivery lending the song a more somber, less bombastic air. The more straightforward "Riding on the Wind", from '82's Screaming For Vengeance, is great fun, Halford's high-pitched snarl belying his age, Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing trading leads as slickly as they've ever done. The lascivious "Eat Me Alive", from 1984's Defenders of the Faith, is dusted off and given a good spit and polish here, as is Painkiller's "Between the Hammer and the Anvil".

Interestingly, A Touch of Evil Live is limited to just an hour-long running time, and while it makes for a good, concise listen that's never for a moment dull, fans will be wondering why such recently performed rarities as "Devil's Child", "Hell Patrol", and "Rock Hard, Ride Free" were not included, but when we hear the band roar through the classic "Painkiller", Halford turning in one of his most ferocious, maniacal vocal performances on record, it's hard to complain. Judas Priest continues to prove that metal is not just a young person's game anymore, and with this album they've done so with astounding authority.






'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.


Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".


Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.


The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.