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Judas Priest - "Jugulator"
SPV 1997

I was truly shocked when I heard this record back in 1997, expecting that band launched a record of a Painkiller's caliber. Through time period from album's first original issue till this very moment, I've learnt to love also more extreme things in metal and therefore felt strong enough to take over this very special review "one on one". However this doesn't mean I am less Halford's era classic Judas Priest fan that I was.

After seven years they stroke back aggressively like never before. Halford was gone. Band recruited Canadian Tim "Ripper" Owens. Tim was a singer that Judas Priest wanted and "Jugulator" is penned from start to finish for his singing style. He proved that he was (and of course still is) one among technically best skilled vocal performers that ever crawled upon Earth's surface. He beats Halford with his vocal power any time he wants. I mean this for any kind of vocal line sequence. Well his style may be not so unique and recognizable and charisma not so strong as in Rob's case, but he takes all lines very relaxed and on his own way. He never tries to imitate his famous predecessor. Ripper is for band a new story.

Songwriting style changed completely in comparison with "Painkiller" (1990). Judas Priest got extreme. Well term extreme in meanings of what kind of music Judas Priest offered through their history from 1974's "Rocka Rolla" till "Jugulator". "Jugulator" is penned basically on a huge half tuned riffing. I mean extremely huge. If your head won't explode after less than one hour of listening, than you'll get at least maximally exhausted and this record will kick all shit out of you. Because renewed Priests are biting like craziest pit bulls.

Title song actually represents on a best way all new things band delivered. Now imagine four experienced people reinforced with youngster full of working enthusiasm and creative ideas. This must result in something special. Band's uniqueness got even multiplied. Title song sounds most progressive. Progressive? I truly found this term very appropriate here. Priest were experimenting further, as they always did. Song Jugulator opens obscurely through twisted guitar sounds that rip the air like chainsaw and band builds atmosphere by slow massive drum beat which is fantastically perforated through and through with extremely loud terrorizing guitar shreds. Song is full of rhythm and riffing drive changes, with Tim versatile center positioned vocals, done with full force. He is much powerful in lower and middle sequences than Halford ever was, is or will be and he uses all his anger in those sequences that fits perfectly and even magnifies overall dark obscured riffs on a record.

Bloodstained contains fantastic classic riff. This is truly a song among highlights on a record. It grooves, fluidly runs through all passages and motives, with fantastic solos of a screaming steel sound. Throughout very cohere song with fantastic vocals. Here also Scott gets a bigger attention, with his extreme murdering of double bass drum pedal that brings great ambient and moody contrast into a song. Along with songs of the same caliber Burn In Hell, Bullet Train, Death Row or Dead Meat it represents one of the most intensive shredding K.K. and Glenn's "shoulder to shoulder" moments on a record full of exploding dynamite and crackling steel.

Songs with more dramatic and atmospheric shapes are present, too. Abductors where Tim blisters with his sudden changes of singing sequences that varies from conventional mid lines up to extreme high powerful shivering shouting, than Brain Dead again with Owens adopting his vocal lines completely with great feel that actually works so convincible on entire record. The most atmospheric song is the last one called Cathedral Spires. It is epic highlight of a record where band delivers the largest amount of a melody onto record, with peak right in chorus with nice conversation between added choirs and Tim's lead vocal line. I forgot to mention one song Decapitate, which is album's very special. It is a actually the slowest song, assembled on a very simple way. It captures great overall scary mood and impressive sound depth contrasts curved by fat rhythm drive and grooving guitar riffs. It is spiced up with interesting multi harmonized vocal layers, that charges the specific climax of this song.

Judas Priest achieved their goal. They wanted to launch a record full of disillusioned cruel reality of a middle man's life of living in a present tense. All anger, pain, disagreement over strength of a singular eye and their servants (Opus Dei, New World Order,...) that thrown an iron spell of complete "security" control that marks our lives for a centuries. Material will never set you free. Nor a single spark of light can be found here. Just pure reality. Therefore half tuned huge and massive riff attacks gathered with sparkling rhythm drive and brave "on full" approach of a new singer Ripper Owens works together with no mistake and fully convincible. "Jugulator" is a very special record, unique in all senses, repeatable only by a band who created it and a point where Judas Priest developed their extreme aggression that gets very close to thrash metal zone. A moment where also a population of fans went through serious changes. All lovers of real extreme gutsy "right in your face" alive heavy metal and especially thrash metal fans, "Jugulator" must surely be your dreamland.

Author:   Aleš

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