If JUDAS PRIEST weren't worthy of it, they could easily be accused of arena vanity with all the live documents they've released. As it is, any PRIEST fan is duty bound to purchase every single concert video or live album, and, well, here's another fantastic addition to the J section on the media rack.
This year looks to be huge for JUDAS PRIEST. The band has had time to rebound from the mass rejection of 2008's "Nostradamus", and PRIEST will now enter the studio after riding their sullied reps into Hell and back, seeking a worthy successor to 2014's dignified return to the real, "Redeemer of Souls".
In the meantime, Halford and JUDAS PRIEST bring us "Battle Cry", a 94-minute presentation of their 2015 appearance at the Wacken Open Air Festival in support of "Redeemer of Souls". Hey, don't look now, but Richie Faulkner is about to celebrate his fifth anniversary in place of the departed K.K. Downing. Thus it's fitting "Battle Cry" is more his show than anyone's—even with The Metal God exhibiting as many overcoat and denim vest changes in one show as unrivaled falsetto shrieks.
Faulkner is now one of metal's elite guitarists: he slays this set. While the "Epitaph" video from 2013 showed him capable within his new appointment, here he's in full command. He can thank the graciousness of Glenn Tipton, who defers a lot of the solo work on "Battle Cry", reserving for himself standards like "Painkiller" and "Living After Midnight". In turn, Faulkner honors Tipton, along with Ian Hill, by keeping his gesticulations in check so as not to out-flash his seniors' moderated lurches and bobs, long part and parcel presentation to a PRIEST show.
While Faulkner drops astonishing solos galore, when he and Glenn Tipton glom together during "Victim of Changes", it's a cross-generational thing of beauty. When they trade riffs back and forth on "Beyond The Realms of Death", the old PRIEST magic is refurbished. The four "Redeemer Of Souls" songs presented in the set ("Battle Cry", "Dragonaut", "Halls Of Valhalla" and the title track) are punched out with such acumen it feels like Richie Faulkner has been with the band for a decade. Faulkner's already become as much a master of working crowds as he has frets, and it helps make "Battle Cry" another exceptional video.
Rob Halford, who alarmed many fans with his seeming knee strains on "Epitaph" shows great form here. Leading off the show with a cane through "Dragonaut", he dispenses with the stick as if making a point and lets his energy glide. We don't get to see "Devil's Child" performed live that often anymore, and viewers will share in Rob's exuberance during this cut, as with the bonus clips "Screaming For Vengeance", "The Rage" and "Desert Plains", filmed in December 2015 in Gdansk, Poland. Just the opportunity to see Ian Hill lay down those funky bass licks on "The Rage" makes "Battle Cry" a must-have.
"Turbo Lover" at this point could stand to be exorcised from JUDAS PRIEST's sets, as it's delivered here flatter than a Coke left uncapped for days. The Wacken faithful get into it nonetheless, no doubt savoring echoes of Rob Halford's escalating shriek during the climax of "Halls Of Valhalla" prior. "Turbo Lover" being the only misfire of the set, it doesn't take long before "Jawbreaker" (another refugee classic making its live return) whumps the crowd as set-up to the customary PRIEST finale beginning with "The Hellion/Electric Eye" and wrapping with "Living After Midnight".
With a beautiful stage set commandeered by cost-effective video screens versus motorized platforms and larger-than-life mecha-sentinels, JUDAS PRIEST has inarguably found their verve again, post-"Nostradamus" and post-K.K. The Metal God is still resplendent atop his rumbling cycle while serving up "Hell Bent For Leather", and that compensates for a lot of the songs running a click behind the norm. Richie Faulkner sizzles in front of a pack of veterans who know a good thing when they have it, and they provide him an iconic showcase to light up with his own impressions. "Battle Cry" has no "Green Manalishi" nor "Diamonds and Rust", but it comes with the rock forever ethic JUDAS PRIEST fans expect of them.