Judas Priest Invincible Shield

Judas Priest Are Almost Invincible with This Shield

Judas Priest are synonymous with classic metal, even if recent releases are less memorable, their music still pulverizes most of the competition.

Invincible Shield
Judas Priest
Columbia / Epic
8 March 2024

Judas Priest are undoubtedly one of the greatest purveyors of traditional heavy metal, Invisible Shield being their 19th studio album. From the moment groups of a certain level (Metallica, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest) announce a new release, the same is likely to be met with great expectations.

K.K. Downings exited Judas Priest (he was a founding member along with Ian Hill), retiring to play golf, but his recording and touring schedule seems to prove otherwise. Health concerns about Glenn Tipton ultimately forced him to stop performing before the tour for the previous record began. He still composes, records, and performs with the band whenever his health permits. The questionable replacement of the lead singer for an interpreter with a similar style inevitably led to the same predicament that Steve Augeri had in Journey, with fans never fully embracing said musicians in the respective groups.

All or some of the above would be sufficient reasons for a lesser band to break up, but not Judas Priest. They have persevered throughout the years, just like the Painkiller character of their song. They have released solid albums, if not spectacular ones, since the reunion with Halford. Iron Maiden‘s later releases are very satisfying for them but invariably frustrating for the followers, who crave a more Maidenesque sound.

Be honest. Can you think of a song or air guitar to a solo from any of Judas Priest’s later releases? Probably not. But you most likely still recall riffs and choruses of “Living After Midnight”, “Breaking the Law”, and many other of their classics. Even the sexual innuendo of songs like “Raw Deal”, “Jawbreaker”, or “Eat Me Alive” are still lingering in your subconscious. By the way, Halford was writing lyrics about sexual liberation almost 20 years before George Michael released “Fastlove”.

Invincible Shield’s songs are well structured, with plenty of trade-off solos and serpentine riffs, even if the tension between the organic quasi-orchestral Tipton pitted against Downing’s unhinged attack, is sorely missed. No, I am not dismissing Ritchie Falkner’s technical prowess and fabulous melodic lines peppered throughout this record. Pounding drums from the mighty Scott Travis (he was pivotal in returning Judas Priest to the pantheon of metal when he joined ranks in 1989), Rob Halford’s cast of characters still can convincingly paint a world dominated by evil (not sounding preachy, like so many power metal singers), where a savior comes from out the sky, and answers to their pleas. As for his vocal prowess, it still has a more dynamic feel and range than 20 would-be vocalists half his age. All this is held together by the unassuming but no less paramount bass work supplied by the ever-present Ian Hill.

Andy Sneap once again secures the production and mixing, proving he is one of the leading masters of the boards. Rob Halford’s voice is omnipresent, powerful, and melodic, Ian Hill’s bass is perfectly audible, Scott’s drums pound with a blend of aggression and class, and the guitar solos can peel paint off walls. Incidentally, Andy also fills in for Glenn Tipton on live performances and gives ample proof that besides being an excellent producer, he is also a world-class guitar player.

Without question, this is one of the better releases from Judas Priest in years, arguably since Angel of Retribution. Still, I can’t help but feel like when I saw the second trilogy of Star Wars movies. They looked great, had superior special effects work, the scale and scope were light years ahead, and the Jedi were far more powerful and gracious but missed the mark and failed to capture the essence, the ambiance, and the panache of the original trilogy.

Invincible Shield‘s music is of superior quality, flawless in execution, surpassing by far releases from more recent bands. But as is the case with many other classic artists that are still around, you hear it once, like it, and might even love it. But as time passes, and when you are in the mood for some Judas Priest, this will not be your first choice to quench your thirst.

RATING 7 / 10