Judas Priest - Jugulator - Reviews (2023) (2023)

Being an adult in 1986 there were certainly lots of wild nights along with the hot and crazy days. Lots of parties along beach shores, cruising along glamorous city strips, indulgence on the finest caviar and meths, pink lasers glowing off the chemically rendered big hair. The cultural zeitgeist was that of endless youth and rolling in prairies of money as plentiful as dandelions. Music is like all other art mediums, a reflection of the era it originates from and the music of the era reflected vibrant energy; declarations of vanity and free spirited passion. Beach blonde bombshells and heroes, marvels of newly digital advancements and a freewheel burning lifestyle binging on all indulgences.

That description of the mid ‘80s has interesting parallels to more than a half century prior, the roaring mid ‘20s. When everyone felt the free-spirited lifestyle would last forever and no reproach for the reckless! abandon; a decade known for its music being defined by energy and innovation but that shortsightedness to reality always leads to payment when the piper returns to restore proper focus away from this over sanitized theater. The roaring decade saw that reproach come with the worst worldwide downturn in modern human history. Now while the over indulgent ‘80s did not end with the stock of every conceivable commodity plummeting faster than a pop singers self respect, it did spawn the rather grim and depressing ‘90s. Whereas the ‘80s art was full of thrilling youthful opportunity under sunny skies, the cultural zeitgeist of the ‘90s was full of slit wrist youthful angst under gloomy overcast.

So while the bands that led metal throughout its most prolific and profitable decade were made to be obsolete by early 1992, it should be no surprise that Judas Priest - the band most responsible for creating and leading that ‘80s metal charge - would find a way to fit in perfectly with the no fun ‘90s. But how exactly did this dinosaur of a band manage to avoid this catastrophic mass extinction?

See Also

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(Video) This is why Jugulator ACTUALLY is so (dis)liked | Judas Priest Reaction

Other bands struggle to find themselves as nostalgia acts because they paint themselves firmly into a time and space, their fortunes coming with the hindrance of predetermined expectation. The mentality and chemistry within the musical institution that is Judas Priest was to forego this career path, to jeopardize their ‘consistent’ record sales by remaining a chameleon. The only sure way to remain relevant and respected by the general public is to evolve as the landscape does, take bold chances and subvert all expectations. No metal band better exemplifies this mindset than Judas Priest. ... Since they has always been a leading description of what it means to be ‘metal’, if there was ever an album that defined what they mean by ‘Defenders of the Faith’, it is the thoughtlessly criticized Jugulator. Maybe its criticisms are just unlucky by this being the bands 13th studio album, or no metal band being successful in the ‘90s not named Metallica or Pantera, or maybe it was a monumentally heavy and depressing collection of songs for a band that somehow always found a way to make even heavy material engrossing. Ultimately those would be just excuses because there is only one thing that keeps this album from receiving its deserved praise and there is no reason to avoid addressing it any further. This album lacks Rob Halford on vocals.

The lack of Halford will alienate some people regardless if Jugulator had been deemed the greatest music ever conceived; somehow bringing about world peace and there would still be those that piss and moan its very existence since Halford is absent. A man who is (gasp) not even the original singer of Judas Priest anyway and was choosing to be absent at this time. Holding the fact that Rob Halford is not the vocalist against this album is simply … stupid. There is no other single word for that. Halford chose to go solo yet did the same thing Priest did here, mimicking the styles of groove and industrial metal, confirming the fact that the Priest songwriting team were all too eclectic to not go this route. So Rob's exit is entirely his doing and Priest not existing was his fault. So Glenn & Ken wrote the logical followup to their career defining rejuvenation last time out but who would sing on these new, very aggressive(see: authentic) songs? Who even could sing these songs? Who could honestly replace the voice of heavy metal? Not a king of their musical genre, but


of said genre.

The idea of plucking a passionate fan from a dedicated tribute band was brilliant in its novelty but more so its simplicity and transparency, it was also a very logical marketing point. The chameleon known as Judas Priest were to take on the much darker, heavier, depressing metal landscape with a brand new singer. That 'want to be' who 'got to be' was Tim Owens, a fairly ordinary man from a Cleveland Ohio suburb Akron, became the third man to sing in Judas Priest and just like the first two, he is a vocal god with a smooth range of five octaves. There is no argument from anyone that Owens is not Halford but this one fact does not equal Owens being a bad vocalist or unfit for the job. So what of this album then? Well…

Given my affinity for the more diverse Judas Priest I should dislike this. Some of the songs are interchangeable(see: consistent) but this is mostly due to the usual late ‘90s metal production. While there is a notable lack of variety, the music is so relentlessly violent that it is forgiven. The music all slaps harder and more vicious than anything the band had attempted before, despite still being 100% Priest at heart. Take, for instance, Death Row and Bullet Train, two of the albums highlights. The former has an unnecessary intro that begins rather silly yet somehow manages to segue nicely into that smashing main riff, both aggressively assaulting the sonic space it possesses and laying an unmistakable authoritative groove; think of a much more violent groove-laden ‘90s version of Burning Up. The latter is a grammy nominated speed metal locomotive that, perhaps because it is the most Halford-esgue song of the bunch, crushes with a blinding heaviness and the tour-de-force that are those vocals. In the seven intervening years between Painkiller and this album, chief songwriter Glenn Tipton, recorded two solo albums where he also provided all the vocals; so his confidence behind the mic should be no surprise and it pays off by having him contribute lead subvocals during Bullet Train’s refrain. This is something also not heard during Halford’s tenures, before or after, so it preponderates for that alone. Beyond Glenn’s vocal and musical rejuvenation, two other songs to showcase Owens' vocal theatrics are found as the back half goes along. The first is the bruising Abductors, the most eclectic song featured from a vocal perspective; the way he theatrically jumps between lines of guttural low growls and banshee high screams throughout perfectly epitomizes the violent and ghastly subject matter. The second is also the best track on the release. If only one could ever exist in perpetuity, it would be the grand finale, Cathedral Spires. It is not often that Priest writes a moody twice as long per usual epic but when they do(Run Of the Mill, Dreamer/Deceiver, Blood Red Skies, Future Of Mankind) it usually results in a songwriting masterclass and Cathedral Spires is no exception. Unlike those other examples it has varied and complex dynamics yet never sacrifices heaviness or gloomy ambiance. So much so it would make an excellent musical backdrop for a post apocalyptic film. With that exact lyrical subject matter, it has the theatrical vocals to match, showcasing all the color Owens' vocal character had. It is a genuine masterful performance. Lets hear even the 1997 Halford sing the line, “There can be but one outcome. We are no more. ASCEND!!!!!!!” and match that dramatic intensity.

Another positive aspect of this album is the invigorated Ian Hill. Usually buried in the mix and a cement block on stage, this album finds him more vital to the mix than any album since Killing Machine. Tracks like the absolute strapping Dead Meat or menacingly rugged Blood Stained really allows Hill to come alive with some of his most tasteful bass licks since the days of Sad Wings of Destiny and Sin After Sin. Beyond those sporadic moments of flair, he retains his ability to execute the low end as well as any bassist in metal. Never forgetting his position in the band, his purpose, his job of reeling in the brilliance of two guitar maestros.

Speaking of the guitarists, this album gets a bad rap for the lead soloing. While they are not as melodically engaging as past efforts, no metal band in the late ‘90s were synonymous with lengthy guitar interludes. There are still moments of absolute metallic brilliance throughout however. The patented duel guitar trade offs can be found on the breakneck Brain Dead and aforementioned Bullet Train. Glenn & K.K. also do their patented building solos they had been doing for an entire generation prior on Blood Stained and Decapitate. The solos just do not stand out because the era featured very little that did. As I wrote in my Demolition review, This is not the air-guitar glory days where solos served like a vacation from the composition itself, this brand is more about concise expressions. They are nothing if not sufficient at copying the styles of others.

(Video) Judas Priest - Jugulator | THE WOLF HUNTERZ Reactions

The albums first four and last four tracks are its best, only the two middle tracks somewhat lessen the release. Decapitate and Burn In Hell are both a bit weaker than the rest. The latter has a nicely timed build up, another large presence by Hill and a wicked final minute (that riff is so dazzlingly heavy) but the song is longer than necessary.

Most people dismiss the ‘Ripper’ era but its importance cannot be denied, almost as equal to Sad Wings Of Destiny. If that album had failed Priest would have folded, robbing the world of all the masterpieces to come in its wake. If Jugulator had never come out, or failed (for context the album was a VERY big deal in 1998) then by the time Rob returned in 2004, Priest could have very likely been seen as, thus reduced to, a nostalgia act, preventing the band from making the albums since reuniting.

Jugulator established the band among the newer, edgier generation. An era where the cultural zeitgeist saw metal led by artists like Marilyn Manson, Coal Chamber, Fear Factory & Rob Zombie, and if Priest were going to maneuver through this turbulent decade without the sands of time covering them up, they would have to piss off some long time fans and release this. One could choose to see it as ‘old men’ being posers by trying to fit in with the ‘young crowd’ or one could see it for what it really is; those ‘old men’ reminding the ‘young crowd’ how it is done. No matter the opinion anyone has, Jugulator is still the heaviest, bleakest, thrashiest, darkest, fastest and most brutally violent album the band has ever released. An absolute spectacle of metallic power and force, what it truly means to be Heavy Metal, no matter the era/contemporaries/vocalist.

Jugulator is still 100% Judas Priest. Like everything the band has written, the songs go mostly through the guitarists and their songwriting wizardry. Beyond that here though is, as stated above, the often ghosted Ian Hill more pummeling than ever and Scott Travis allowed to unleash hellish ferocity that pushes some tracks to bordering on death metal territory, at least from a drumming perspective. There also IS a Metal God behind the microphone, it is just not Rob Halford. So with all of the components that usually makeup a Judas Priest album present, it can only be seen as foolish to hate it for what it is not. When taken as is, it is an incredible album of spectacular roaring metal might among all of the trash being released at the time. The album is undeniably recommended and, as stated before, a perfect representation to who/what Judas Priest are/represent.

Highlight: Cathedral Spires, Death Row, Abductors & Bullet Train
Lowlight: Burn In Hell, Decapitate

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