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Articles Home » 1997 Articles » Judas Priest - 1997 Jugulator
Judas Priest - 1997 Jugulator

ARTIST: Judas Priest
ALBUM: Jugulator
SERIAL: 06076 86224-2
YEAR: 1997
CD REISSUE: 2001, Victor (Japan), VICP-61647


LINEUP: Tim 'Ripper' Owens - vocals * K.K. Downing - guitar * Glenn Tipton - guitar * Ian Hill - bass * Scott Travis - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Jugulator * 02 Blood Stained * 03 Dead Meat * 04 Death Row * 05 Decapitate * 06 Burn In Hell * 07 Braindead * 08 Abductors * 09 Bullet Train * 10 Cathedral Spires


When this album hit the shelves in late 1997 it seemed like a genuine miracle. The state of heavy metal was so disheveled and devoid of life in that timeframe that it seemed nothing could revive its flagging fortunes. But if any band could surely it was Judas Priest, correct? After all every established metal band was fading fast, including the likes of Iron Maiden. If you weren't Metallica or Pantera then the chances of success were slim. For Priest it had been seven years since 'Painkiller' and five since Rob Halford decided to seek his fortunes in tepid modern metal escapades. Without Halford, Priest appeared dead, but in 1996 they hired 'Ripper' Owens, who as legend has it was previously in a Priest tribute band and had the voice Priest needed to replicate Halford's. The glory days of Priest were well behind them, so their reemergence with Owens was always bound to be a tough sell in the dismal late 90's. Metal in general needed them to succeed in a bad way then and the sight of the 'Jugulator' adorning the CD cover in a pathetic record store was more than welcome in those desperate days.

The Songs
Upon first impressions in 1997 I thought this to be the greatest metal album of the decade. After years of futility and metal bands selling out to lifeless grunge, this was the catalyst needed to revive metal.. such is the mind of an impressionable 21 year old anyway. 'Jugulator' is an extension of 'Painkiller's faster and more speed metal based sound, with the riffs downtuned to suit late 90's sensibilities. The absence of Halford is noticeable when it comes to the monotonous sound however and as ludicrous as Halford's lyrics were, these are embarrassing at times. But it's all in good fun and the title track is a typical character based epic, with Owens turning in some characteristic screams that bely Halford's departure. There's some thrash riffs thrown in also, which were vastly appreciated. Melodically it's far flatter than the bands halcyon era, but the heaviness which makes it palatable, especially when listened to in 1997. 'Blood Stained' continues the barrage and honestly the rest of the album follows suit, with a tuneless assault coming at you from all fronts. The speed metal intro to 'Dead Meat' should have been taken further, this one straight from the 'Painkiller' era. This is true Priest and one of the strongest tracks, with all the trademarks expected from the legends. 'Death Row' takes a while to develop into anything meaningful, but the chorus is at least melodic, with the relentless riffs lacking the character you'd expect from the Downing/Tipton team. The dullness of 'Decapitate' is a major misfire, and fails even on cornball levels, but the riffs do have a slight 'Ram It Down' tone during the instrumental parts. Otherwise Priest were trying too hard to fit into the late 90's with their bottom ended heaviness.

'Burn In Hell' was the single lifted from the album and has never done much for me, too long and repetitive in every regard. There's nothing distinguishing 'Brain Dead' either, total sludge and forgettable; where's the melody? Still Priest felt they had to post the following blurb on the CD booklet regarding this track: 'We all have sympathy for those left to care and despair for victims of tragedy but what of the victim himself - trapped inside his body a coffin - unable to move a muscle or blink an eye but aware of the living hell he's enduring and unable to bring it to an end - a man not even a shadow of his former self - a man who wants to be remembered for what he was - not forgotten because of what he has become.' If that sounds ludicrous then you're on the same wavelength as me. 'Abductors' continues the boredom, highlighting how much Halford was missed, whether the band would admit it or not. They were never this tedious before- until 'Nostradamus' of course. 'Bullet Train' shows signs of life, with the speed increased and a more viable hook, but it still isn't the complete article despite the Halford clone vocals all over the place. Many have touted the nine minute 'Cathedral Spires' as a modern Priest classic, but it seems like a forced attempt to recapture a 70's vibe. It could have been cut by three minutes and been as effective, with the again droning riffs dragging the song down.

In Summary
Having overdosed on this some 16 years ago this was my first foray into 'Jugulator' for some time. It was more challenging to endure than I expected and despite a handful of standout tracks (the first three or so) this was a poor comeback for Priest. I'd take it over the sickening 'Nostradamus' debacle mind you, and it's far superior to the 'Demolition' joke from 2001. Priest's popularity and image nosedived so badly in this era that they were consigned to playing tin pot clubs like the Blaze Bayley fronted Iron Maiden, who were also demoted to the CMC label in the U.S. It was a valiant comeback which was all metal and with a touch more melody and variation may have done better. Like so many others, Priest felt the need to try and conform to the standards of their peers in the late 90's, but they still managed to retain most of their musical identity. It wasn't enough though and 'Jugulator' ended up as a laboured comeback.

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