Heavy metal and its numerous sub-genres simply wouldn't exist were it not for the thunderous music of certain pioneering bands like JUDAS PRIEST. The unit's classic twin guitar icons Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing have provided inspiration for countless followers with their rip-roaring riffs, impassioned melodies, inspirational dual-guitar work and jaw-dropping trade-off solos. Nothing lasts forever, however, and Downing parted ways with PRIEST 10 years ago, spending the better part of that time away from the rigors of being in a serious recording and touring band. But in the last few years, Downing felt the fire return, and after a decade of significant absence, the heavy metal hero returns with KK'S PRIEST, a project that pays homage to the guitarist's storied past and contribution to heavy metal.
Downing isn't the only familiar face from the legacy that is JUDAS PRIEST, though. KK'S PRIEST also boasts the talents of vocalist extraordinaire Tim "Ripper" Owens, who joined PRIEST in 1996 and recorded two studio albums with the legendary act — 1997's "Jugulator" and 2001's "Demolition" — prior to PRIEST reuniting with Rob Halford in 2003. The unit is rounded out by guitarist A.J. Mills (HOSTILE), drummer Sean Elg (DEATHRIDERS, CAGE) and bassist Tony Newton (VOODOO SIX). The quintet emerges with its debut full-length album, "Sermons Of The Sinner". The effort proves to be both a pleasant surprise and a bit of a letdown.
The project's moniker is overt enough to let us know that Downing isn't shy in boasting about his history, nor is he hiding the fact that the new band is an extension of the spirit of JUDAS PRIEST. And that spirit doesn't feel as though it has been rekindled as any kind of forced throw-back or cash-grab. The sounds are familiar, authentic and moving. Songs like "Metal Through And Through" are powerful and triumphant, to be sure, so much so that one can look past the excessively cheesy lyrics. "Hellfire Thunderbolt" is just as raucous as its name suggests. Elsewhere, "Wild And Free" is busy, dizzying, focused and memorable all at once. At its worst, though, KK'S PRIEST has the feel of a PRIEST tribute act. The obvious weak links are fortunately few and far between, but definitely present on the absolutely embarrassing metal pride song "Brothers Of The Road".
The mighty JUDAS PRIEST reared its ugly head half a century ago. It's great to see that they're firing on all cylinders, and that key, longtime, departed guitarist K.K. Downing has revitalized his career with his new project. A project that is more than just a little reminiscent of the mighty PRIEST, and rightfully so since he helped make that band what it is. Some of the well-publicized inner conflicts involving Downing's departure and absence from JUDAS PRIEST have been unfortunate, but any way you cut it, the legendary heavy metal guitarist has returned with an enjoyable album that is undeniably true to the essence of classic heavy metal and JUDAS PRIEST.