March 1998

Judas Priest - Jugulator
CMC International Records 06076 86224-2
Released: 1997

by Bruce Bassett

Musical Performance **
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment *

[Reviewed on CD]Brutal is the word CMC International uses to capture the essence of Jugulator. However, their definition of the word is evidently much different than the one that springs immediately into my head. I suspect that if I used that word in a review, the artist to whom I referred would not be rushing to send a copy of my work home to Mom.

A quick background on Judas Priest’s music and me. When I was a teen, I often worshipped at the altar of the almighty metal machine. Back in the early ‘80s, Judas Priest was blazing the heavy-metal path and most others in the genre were following in their thunderous footsteps. When they turned on their guitar synthesizers, in and around the mid ‘80s, I turned off their music. Songs like "Turbo Lover" seemed to be too much of a sell out. My idols had fallen. It would be almost ten years before I again heard something new from Priest. A friend of mine convinced me to give a listen to their 1990 release Painkiller (Columbia CK 46891), and it knocked me right on my posterior. Characterized by well-written, in-your-face tunes with lightening-fast lead riffs, powerful vocals, hard-driving drums.... Well, you get the picture—it kicked.

So, it was with much anticipation, tempered with some trepidation because of the departure of Rob Halford (who happens to be metal’s answer to Pavrotti), that I cranked up Jugulator for the first time. Wow...what a dud. The din of crunching guitars, monotonous overuse of the double-bass kick, sometimes indiscernible bass lines, and stolen sounds of Metallica and other bands are swallowed up into a black hole of noise. One cannot help but feel sorry for Ripper Owens, the new throat of the band, as his Halford-like screams are awkwardly placed and he never gets a real opportunity to sing.

If I had to describe Jugulator in one word, you could probably guess what that word would be: brutal.