Friday, April 27, 2012

Judas Priest - A Touch of Evil: Live (2009)

A Touch of Evil: Live isn't the worst of the Judas Priest live offerings, but considering that it was recorded across numerous tours and following up a pair of double disc releases (fronted by Tim 'Ripper' Owens), you would think that Epic Sony and the band would desire to unleash something far more substantial. At just under an hour, it's not exactly a dearth of material, but clearly the skimpiest they put out since Unleash in the East, only without the awesome working in its favor. Don't get me wrong, it was great to have Rob back in the band and I'm always excited to check out live material and see just how he's held up over so many years, but the heavy focus on newer songs was hardly a boon, and there's just not enough here that I'd recommend spending money on it.

I was neither a fan of Angel of Retribution nor its bloated and boring successor Nostradamus, so the inclusion of four tracks from these records out of a total of 11 did not sit well with me. Of course they were going to be present, because the band has traditionally introduced the more recent material into the live records each decade, but opening the disc with "Judas Priest" and "Hellrider" was not in its favor. Both are acceptable but painfully average tracks, lacking the catchy melodic chorus lines or the intensity of the band's better songs. Halford gives a fair performance, he's lost some of his range but still better than the lion's share of other heavy metal singers out there half his age, and the guitars have the expected heaviness and chugging you'd expect from a very natural live performance post-Painkiller. However, the even newer tracks like "Prophecy" are yet more bland, despite the orchestration with the keys and Rob giving it his grimy best. Just as much a drag on stage as they seemed in the studio.

So it's really up to the rest of the track list to compensate, which it certainly strives to do. Painkiller is fairly well represented with "Between the Hammer & the Anvil", "A Touch of Evil" (of course) and "Painkiller" itself which I doubt the band will ever leave off a live album since it's creation. The songs don't have that same enthusiastic energy that they once had when I was seeing the group gig in the early 90s, but then again that was 15-20 years in the past and with age comes some inevitable slowdown. That said, the leads sound pretty great here, the guitars good and choppy and the crowd response never tramples the performance. The earlier classics include "Eat Me Alive" (Defenders of the Faith), "Riding on the Wind" (Screaming for Vengeance), "Beyond the Realms of Death" (Stained Class) and "Dissident Aggressor" (Sin After Sin), the last of which sounds like a pretty decent update with the harsher vocals and the chugging grime applied to the guitars and serves as my personal highlight for this collection.

All in all, though, there is little or no reason to hunt this down unless you're a huge fan of the newer albums and wanted to hear Rob singing a few tunes that he hadn't done on the previous lives Priest...Live! and Unleashed in the East. There is simply not that much going on here, outside of proof positive that the band still 'has it' as they approach retirement. A second disc would have benefited this greatly, especially as the material was drawn from entire tours. There was nothing else we could have tossed on here many gigs? The meager rationing of A Touch of Evil: Live isn't even a match for Live in London.

Verdict: Indifference [5.75/10]

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