After their 1990’s “Painkiller” album, singer Rob Halford left
Judas Priest, and embarked upon a solo career, releasing
albums with both his Fight and Halford bands. The remaining
four members of Judas Priest continued performing throughout
the 1990’s and early 2000’s, with “Ripper” Owens as their new
vocalist. Oddly enough, prior to his enlistment, Owens was
singing lead vocals in a Judas Priest tribute band. Although I’ve
yet to hear any of his recordings while with Judas Priest, from
what I’ve read, Owens acquitted himself quite well, and
released two studio and two live albums with the band.
Nevertheless, Rob Halford isn’t just any old vocalist, and fans
of Judas Priest could only hope that someday he would return
to the band he’d fronted, since the early 1970’s. The fans got
their wish. “Judas Priest: Rising in the East” was filmed at the
Nippon Budokan in Tokyo during 2005, and released by the
Rhino label. It’s a two-hour concert featuring Halford’s
triumphant return, given in support of their “Angel of Retribution”
album that was released the same year.
Twenty-three songs from throughout the band’s career were
included on this disc. Based upon this DVD, I have to say in all
honesty that Judas Priest can still deliver the goods. I was
apprehensive as to how Halford’s voice would sound, but my
fears were largely groundless. No, he didn’t hit some of the
spectacular high notes he did on the 1979 live album,
“Unleashed in the East,” but the jury is still out as to how many
“post production” techniques were applied there. At that time,
he was 27-years old and as of 2005, he had reached the age of
fifty-three. Halford did transpose a lot of the high notes
downward, but did so without adversely affecting the songs.
Of course, he was the consummate showman who worked the
audience and commanded the stage like few other front men,
while reveling in the theatricality of the whole affair. Halford
appeared to be truly glad to reunite with his main band, almost
living up to his reputation as the “Metal God.”
The rest of the band sounded great, playing as though they
had something to prove. For me, Judas Priest is the
quintessential Heavy Metal band. In fact, they were the first
band of note to fully embrace that moniker, back in the 1970’s.
For my money even in 2005, they proved that they are still
one of the best Metal bands. When I try to analyze why
Judas Priest is so effective, I sometimes come up short. On
an individual basis, there are many who can “out-play and out-riff”
Glenn Tipton, K. K. Downing, Ian Hill, and Scott Travis. But when
you put them together and add Halford’s unique vocal presence,
the end result is pure “Metal power,” in the best sense of the term.
When they’re firing on all cylinders? Forget it. They’re unbeatable.
If not their best, this concert was quite good, and I had an
adrenaline rush during the whole show. Judas Priest is a
perfect example of the heights that can be achieved with
basic riffs, very simple melodies and harmonies, when cranked
up in volume and backed by a driving rhythm. I guess it’s a
case of “the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.”
Speaking of rhythm, Scott Travis sounded great on drums,
and his performance was particularly well recorded by the
engineers. As for the guitars, in relation to K. K. Downing,
Glenn Tipton was a bit “down” in the mix, which was
especially noticeable when each player soloed.
Overall, I thought it was a great show, and the enthusiastic
audience agreed with me. I highly recommend this DVD to
head bangers everywhere, and Judas Priest fans in particular.
Make sure you crank up the volume!