KK’s Priest – Sermons Of The Sinner (EX1 Records)
When one of the original metal gods quit Judas Priest in 2011 it always felt savagely premature.
KK Downing cited a breakdown in his relationship with ‘elements of the band and management’.
And in the blink of an eye a seriously talented axe slinger synonymous with Priest’s glory days all but disappeared from the metal scene.
A decade down the line and Downing is on the up again.
Reunited with former Judas Priest frontman Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, it seems retirement is a thing of the past.
Sermons Of The Sinner is a fast-paced, furious set of titanic trad metal.
It allows Downing to do what he’s always done best as he rips across the fretboard like a man possessed.
And Owens — who enjoyed an eight-year stint with Judas Priest — sounds like a singer reborn and with a point to prove.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
And it’s little wonder the metal community has welcomed back one of its own with open arms.
But KK’s Priest is no lame vanity project built on the shaky foundations of misplaced sentiment.
Sermons Of The Sinner is all killer and no filler.
And it reinforces the belief that Downing — who turns 70 later this month — is back where he always belonged.
Metal Through And Through
Is Sermons Of The Sinner simply a glaring succession of toe-curling clichés?
Or is there some substance behind a series of Steel Panther-esque song titles?
Metal Through And Through is the perfect place to start.
On the surface it’s a title born for scorn.
But peel back the layers and there’s more to this Maiden-esque belter than meets the eyes.
A brooding intro. gives way to a thumping drum track and Downing’s trademark steel-toed tone.
And Owens does his very best impression of Somewhere In Time-era Bruce Dickinson as he grows into an enigmatic eight-minute epic.
Metal Through And Through? Well, yes: you simply don’t get more metal than Downing and Owens.
But what about Raise Your Fists?
Or Wild And Free?
And then there’s Hellfire Thunderbolt…
Ok, the Metal Lyrics For Dummies handbook has clearly influenced at least 50 per cent of the songs here.
And if Sermons Of The Sinner was a ‘new’ record by a ‘new’ band then the alarm bells might be ringing.
But Downing and Owens are capable of adding a peerless gravitas to the cheesiest of tunes.
They’ve earned the right to record one of the most flamboyant, balls-to-the-wall metal albums of 2021.
And when Owens growls ‘Raise your fists/in the air/let’s rock the nations/everywhere’ it almost sounds plausible.
Hail For The Priest
Metal Through And Through or metal by numbers?
Sermons Of The Sinner might be both. But that’s no bad thing.
Downing knows his strengths, sticks to his guns and has a blast alongside old pal Owens.
Theirs is an adrenaline-fuelled partnership forged on a shared love for old school metal.
And there’s an innate enthusiasm and unrelenting pace driving this thunderous throwback to NWOBHM’s golden era.
Sermons Of The Sinner is bold, brash and blindingly focused.
Downing’s signature ear-piercing solos (check out Hellfire Thunderbolt for starters) evoke memories of peak Judas Priest.
And US screamer Owens lands one of the best performances of his lung-busting career.
Did Downing ever imagine this glorious metal incarnation?
But after 2019’s live return with Ross The Boss and a subsequent hook-up with Owens in the West Midlands it became clear there was unfinished business.
Sermons Of The Sinner is a truly triumphant record. It’s special KK.