Expanded version of LA Weekly story, 3/17/05
by Greg Burk
We herded some old Judas Priest fans together -- metal-god worshipers who were stoked to hear that Rob Halford, metal’s original screamer, had rejoined his old mates for Angel of Retribution, their first recording together since 1990’s Painkiller. As well as being discriminating listeners, Odin, Fafnir and Loki abuse guitar on various levels. Thor and Freya have been known to smash drums. They prepared themselves either in traditional ways (sucking down prodigious quantities of smoke and beer) or through prayer and meditation. Or both. Don’t worry, nobody’s famous.
DAY 1: ODIN, FREYA AND FAFNIR
ODIN [seeing the tape recorder]: I’m not gonna say anything. Turn that off.
FAFNIR: I think the kick drum was kind of a crutch there. They kinda relied on that to move it along. Not as strong an opening as they might have manufactured.
ODIN [quickly forgetting he’s not gonna say anything]: Downing’s got a weird way of picking like Tony Iommi, makes it almost sound like there’s an effect on it, the way he pushes the strings down in certain ways.
“Deal With the Devil”:
FAFNIR: Real intense. Kinda fast. It made me feel, like, somethin’ about my arches, y’know? It was sort of like running.
ODIN: Your feet felt good?
FAFNIR: Yeah, it was good for the feet. Then the next song [“Revolution”], I was going, like, “Isn’t this just one old blues riff over and over and over again?”
ODIN: You sound ungrateful.
FAFNIR: I really liked the texture of it, though. And the modern feel, and all this huge layering of like, effects and background guitars and all kinds of shit. Did you notice that?
ODIN: I noticed how much fun it sounds like this was to make. [Producer] Roy Z, he hasn’t done anything bad yet. It’s no wonder they took so long doin’ it.
FAFNIR: They were just having too much of a blast to stop, huh?
Halford gets into a lot of different vocal textures.
FAFNIR: He sounds like Tony Harnell! [Harnell has been the singer for TNT and Westworld.] It’s funny, because you know how Harnell was asked to audition for Judas Priest? And now Rob Halford is imitating him.
ODIN: And Tony Harnell has a band called Starbreaker! [A Priest song title. Now on the stereo, Halford changes vocal inflections.] But now Rob just walked into the room -- “Gimme that mike!”
The chugging riff on “Worth Fighting For”:
ODIN: I love that kind of riff right there, that’s what I want. [As it ends:] That could’ve been at least two minutes longer.
FAFNIR: Too much kick drum again. Good solo, though. Melodic and strong.
ODIN [Yells over the music]: The solo’s too long?
FAFNIR: No, it’s strong.
The TV is on with the sound off. A commercial for Hooters comes on. Odin comments on the difference between TV Hooters attire and actual Hooters attire.
ODIN: They wouldn’t allow that commercial on TV if they had the tight shorts. But in the commercial, the Hooters girls could have the slightly baggy shorts.
FAFNIR: This is something Tony Harnell would do too, this over-the-top ballad with no drums in it.
ODIN: Most Judas Priest albums have this.
FAFNIR: They have something like this, but this extreme?
Odin complains about the red light on the tape recorder.
ODIN: When you’ve got that on, I know that it’s on, and it chokes my creativity. Makes me self-conscious. You should cover that up.
One plastic bandage is applied over the red light, then three. The light still glows. Then a passable solution: thumb over light.
FAFNIR: This is a good ballad. I knew they had to do this -- Judas Priest wouldn’t go through an entire song without rocking out at some point. It’s kicking into Spanish overdrive now.
ODIN: Spanish? Oh yeah, that A-minor coming in there, like “Malagueña.”
Another TV commercial:
FAFNIR: What do you think of the tits on that real estate agent?
ODIN: I plead the Fifth Amendment.
“Hellrider” intro, with rapidly twiddling guitars:
FAFNIR: I like this psychedelic intro. I really think they did something different with their formula there. Too much kick drum again . . . yet I rock.
ODIN: We’re doing a Roger Glover now.
ODIN [Explains Deep Purple reference]: Roger Glover used to unscrew the light bulb so Blackmore didn’t know when they were recording. Blackmore would seize up when he saw the light.
FAFNIR: More double kick. It’s too much, but okay, I like it. Can’t really argue about that one [“Hellrider”] too much. It’s on the level of some of their famous -er songs. [“Exciter,” “Jawbreaker,” “Painkiller.”] My mind was wandering, though. I think I might have lost interest in the second half.
ODIN: I’m not sure if it was a good choice to come after the song that came before it. [“Angel.”] The ballad.
FAFNIR: Another ballad. Time to take a leak. I feel one of those airplane pisses comin’ on.
“Loch Ness” atmospheric intro:
FAFNIR: They’re goin’ for it here, It’s not like they’re fuckin’ around.
ODIN: I have a feeling this is gonna be better than the Sting song. [Sting also has a song about Loch Ness. Odin and Fafnir hate Sting.]
Freya, Odin’s girlfriend, comes in looking shook up.
FREYA: I got hit today.
ODIN: You got hit?
FREYA: Somebody hit the back of my car.
FAFNIR: How is everybody?
Freya says her neck hurts. The tape goes off while the situation is assessed. Freya is not bleeding, so the topic quickly turns to a rock show Odin and Freya were at the other night.
ODIN: This fat woman kept lifting her shirt to get Mardi Gras beads, and this guy was like, “Yay, okay, I’ve got a whole box of beads!” And she did it again, and I’m standing right next to her, and I went, hhhaaaagh. And I went to the guy, “Hey, listen, lemme give you some advice. Take that box of beads you’re talking about and lock it the fuck up. ’Cause I don’t wanna see those tits anymore.” I’m still having nightmares about it.
FREYA: She gave me some beads. And then our bartender got extremely drunk . . .
ODIN: The bartender was -- remember I told you I had that double shot of tequila? It came from that bartender.
FREYA: He was my bartender, too. And at the end of the night we found out he’s from Norway. So he’s talking to Odin about it, and he kept talking about gay guys in Norway, so we think he’s gay.
ODIN: He might’ve been gay. You’d never think it, except he kept talkin’ about it.
FREYA: Yup. And then I met Wotan’s wife, the alcoholic. She was something else, she kept spitting while she was talking. And then there was some guy that I think was trying to talk to me, and he kept getting in her face, and she was yelling at him, and I was waiting for a fight. Y’know, spit comin’ out of her mouth, and I’m going, “Oh god, I’m gonna have a rain shower.”
Freya follows up with a scene from a different night.
Skadi that one night got drunk and she was telling me, ‘Yeah, Baldur wants to have a threesome.” And I’m like, ech. And she’s telling me all about her sex life, and I was like, “Oh yeah, this is interesting.”
ODIN: Anyways, Freya, we were right in the middle of playing the Judas Priest. The Judas Priest album was released today, and we’re right in the middle of listening to it.
FREYA: Oh, sorry.
Fafnir, who has reached a pretty good consumption level by this point, reaches over to put his beer down, and knocks a whole stack of CDs behind a big amp cabinet.
FREYA: Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Ha! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh.
ODIN: I don’t see why you wouldn’t laugh.
FREYA: So when’s the free show?
ODIN: The Free is getting back together? I thought Paul Rodgers was doing the Queen thing…
FREYA: The free show your band is doing.
FREYA: I want to give Fafnir the Beach Boys DVD.
ODIN: What’d you say, Freya? You want to give Fafnir V.D.? Okay, we gotta hear “Lochness.” You done, sweetie?”
FREYA: Yes I am!
But she’s back in 10 seconds with the Beach Boys DVD, from a 1980 concert.
ODIN: Dennis Wilson on drums. Dennis Wilson’s got sort of like some Kris Kristofferson qualities to him. He has that quality of being genius and completely out to lunch, out of control. That’s really a great combination. Probably tough to maintain. It’s probably what made, y’know, Jim Morrison great. I realized that Jim Morrison really, really, really was great. Because I’m realizing now that the Doors, the band, were really, really not special.
FAFNIR: I don’t agree with that.
ODIN: We really shouldn’t get started on this right now.
The twisted guitar squeals that begin “Lochness” are heating up. Then it really gets heavy and Spinal Tappy.
FAFNIR: How did you know this song was going to be remarkable?
ODIN: It’s about the Loch Ness monster, for godsake.
FAFNIR: “Lochness, confess your terror of the deep.” Wow, this is corny shit. I’m not sure if the riffs are convincing me. Not evil enough. Oh, there’s the Hooters girl again!
Freya agrees that the TV Hooters girls’ shorts are too baggy, then leaves.
The DVD documentary portion of the Angel of Retribution package is up next. 2004 reunion concert footage comes on.
ODIN: Whoa, I want to see that again!
Scan back. Bassist Ian Hill and guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton are all bending over together in a classic unison pose. Halford comes up from behind.
FAFNIR: Wow, he butt-fucked ‘em all in a row, there, didn’t he? I think it’s funny that he decided it’s okay to butt-fuck his bandmates onstage now.
Halford is wearing yards of black leather drapery and studded fringe.
FAFNIR: I believe that Halford’s got more studs on him than ever before in his rock career. I mean, you can’t go down in the studs department. You have to kinda keep going up, right?
ODIN: Yeah. A stud finder would go mental on Halford.
FAFNIR: After the age of 35 or so, rock stars need bigger and bigger sunglasses. It’s the eyes that really betray the age.
ODIN: Is that right?
FAFNIR: Even Paul Westerberg has big sunglasses now. Sifa and I went to see him the other night, because she’s a huge fan.
ODIN: Don’t tell Freya that. She really wanted to go.
FAFNIR: It was bad.
ODIN: Oh. Well I want you to tell her, then.
FAFNIR: But if you were a Paul Westerberg fan…
ODIN: Here’s the real question: What if you were Paul Westerberg? Was it okay?
FAFNIR: Man, that’s a good question. I don’t think I can answer that. It’s almost like that’s what he goes for, is that kind of messed-up experience. It was successful for Sifa, cause she falls for that. [Now Fafnir is acting jealous.] She wants to be his mom, y’know, and take care of him, because he’s such a fuck-up. That’s how he’s always got girlfriends, I’m sure, too. By pretending that he’s really fucked up, and he really needs their help.
ODIN: Who’re we talking about again?
FAFNIR: Paul Westerberg. But in fact, he really is inept.
K.K. Downing, frequent wearer of sunglasses, is onscreen.
FAFNIR: I know you’ve never liked that guy.
ODIN: No, I like that guy! [Looks at tape recorder.] Is that on?
FAFNIR: His onstage thing has sometimes bothered you a little bit, right?
ODIN: No. The stage thing is okay. Maybe the Live Aid concert in ’85 -- somethin’ about his sunglasses, I might’ve said something.
FAFNIR: That’s what I’m saying! You haveta… You can’t… [loses train of thought]
Halford is making a regretful speech about the era when Judas Priest started to seem more like a fashion statement than a band. Funny coming from him.
ODIN: Tipton is really freaking out when Halford’s talking.
FAFNIR: Those are the two that really hate each other in this band?
ODIN: No, I don’t think so! But…
Onscreen quote: “Sabbath are heavy, but Priest are metal.”
ODIN: What a great fuckin’ line!
“Diamonds and Rust”:
ODIN: I first heard that in, like, ’77. And of course I had no idea that it was a Joan Baez song. I was living in that apartment looking over the freeway. I was living with my brother, in ’77. That’s when I had this album.
The video focuses on a woman in the crowd.
FAFNIR: That chick was crying?
ODIN: That extreme punk-rock-looking chick was welling up!
FAFNIR: I always wondered if this song was too over-the-top to be truly emotional. But I think that probably lot of people do respond to it emotionally. And he’s milkin’ it like a motherfucker here. He didn’t go this far when I saw him.
Cut to more interview footage; Hill is commenting.
ODIN: He’s scratching his beard. “That’s what rock & roll is about” -- see, that is a cliché. And anytime you say that, you better scratch something.
Lynn comes back in. She says she wants to make one of those folding puzzle things that you hide messages in. What are they called?
FAFNIR: My girlfriend Idunna made one of those for me one time. End of our relationship.
ODIN: I’m sorry if we brought up a bad subject, Fafnir. We’re just trying to remember the name of those things.
FREYA: You can make weird messages and put weird pictures in it and stuff. You know about the time I changed the pictures in the Mystery Date game? We used to have girls’ night at Eostre’s mom’s house, because this lady had a house that had 10 bedrooms, and had a gazebo, and had a indoor pool and spa, sauna, and a game room, and the whole nine yards. And we’d stay there. And we’d have game night. First we’d go to the bar, play darts or whatever, get drunk, come home and play a game. And I brought the Mystery Date game from my childhood, and I changed the pictures in it to be people we knew. So you’d open the door for your haaaaaaa! mystery date, and it would be something like Hoenir, or my brother, or somebody weird.
Enough of that. It’s time for some critical judgment.
FAFNIR [pontificating]: I’m impressed with the way Priest decided to reconsider their past in a way that is not imitative of themselves. Maybe a bit imitative of other people. The music is successful. On a production level -- mixing, just impeccable. Really, like, powerful.
ODIN: It seems to be done in the right frame of mind. The right sentiment.
FAFNIR: Did you see the Academy Awards the other night? This guy, I wanted to kick him in the face, he came on, and he was the recipient of the award for sound mixing. And he said, “They usually put this in the technical field, but we feel that it is really an art.” As much as I thought that was totally true, I really hated the guy for saying it at the Oscars. I just wanted to say, “Yeah, true fact, but you want to shut up about that right now.”
ODIN: You’re the one who was watching the Oscars, Fafnir.
FAFNIR: Yeah. So?
ODIN: Isn’t it your… kind of … fault? For watching the Oscars?
FAFNIR: That I was exposed to that kind of statement?
ODIN: You voluntarily watched the Oscars, right?
FAFNIR: People look upon it as their opportunity to say something to the world, and usually they show that they’re idiots.
ODIN: You mean the mixer category got to make a speech? Oh, that’s wrong. I agree with you then, that’s wrong. He got an award for mixing a movie? That’s ridiculous.
FAFNIR: Why do you think that’s ridiculous? It’s totally great.
ODIN: I’ll have to think about that.
FAFNIR: Yeah, fall asleep at night thinking about it.
Freya comes back in again. It’s unclear whom she’s talking about, probably somebody on TV.
FREYA: It would be cool if I had that haircut.
FAFNIR: You haven’t changed your haircut in quite a while.
ODIN: Hey, that’s really a mean thing to say.
FREYA: Fafnir, you haven’t changed yours in a while either.
ODIN: I remember that Rodney Bingenheimer -- I used to have this interview on tape, but I lent it to somebody and never got it back -- but on the Rodney on the ROQ show in ’79 or something, he had Ian Hunter on as a guest. And Ian Hunter was calling live, on tour in Connecticut, touring with Mick Ronson. And Rodney Bingenheimer, in the middle of the interview, after being a really cool, hang-out-and-chat, Bingenheimer kind of guy, goes, “What about your image, man? It doesn’t seem like you’ve changed, you’ve always got the same kind of image, with the sunglasses and everything.” And he had to go, “Yeah, I guess so…”
FAFNIR: “… fuckwad…”
The length of Freya’s hair comes under discussion.
FREYA: The problem is, I grew up in the northern suburbs of Oslo, where women drive Camaros, and men don’t, and guys always have bozo cuts and wear caps and flannel shirts. And women use so much hairspray, their hair’s about 15 million miles up. I couldn’t get rid of the hairspray stuff.
DAY 2: LOKI, THOR AND FAFNIR
Thor has brought a copy of Heavy Metal Parking Lot, the classic short documentary on Judas Priest fans’ pre-show festivities. One of the stoner subjects dreams about “A joint so big, it fits across America.”
When attention turns to Angel of Retribution, the DVD concert footage gets aired first. Onscreen, a spaced-out, skinny trailer-trash guy is hanging at stagefront.
FAFNIR: He could have been in Heavy Metal Parking Lot 20 years ago.
THOR: It’s the same guy!
FAFNIR: He’s still 20 years old! How did that happen? Drugs and acid preserved him.
THOR: Maybe I shoulda stuck with it.
“Diamonds and Rust”:
THOR: That whole thing was very David Copperfield. “I’m gonna pull a tiger out of my hat” or somethin’.
FAFNIR: What state of mind do you have to be in to play the same song, like, a thousand times?
LOKI: I dunno, does whackin’ off ever get old? It never really does, and it’s about the same.
Now it’s on to the album.
THOR: There’s somethin’ wrong with the production. The snare drum and the rhythm guitars are so bottomed out, to the point that you almost can’t hear ‘em. In the previous band they were experimenting more. This one seems like they’re using more reliable formulas. Now the contracts say that you’ve got to have one that will sell or whatever. On this one as compared to, let’s say, Painkiller, the drum production on this is way more ambient. You feel it more than you hear it.
FAFNIR: But then, you’re a drummer.
THOR: That means I get to ride the bus for free. I get to park close to the entrance of Ralphs.
LOKI: That was almost like Jane’s Addiction, that riff. I liked it a lot, but that was the least Priestlike song.
FAFNIR: I kept on going, like, How many people are they ripping off here? There’s a little bit of Led Zeppelin…
THOR: I heard Soundgarden.
FAFNIR: I hear Marilyn Manson in there too.
LOKI: Me too.
LOKI: I like it, but it’s quite a departure.
“Worth Fighting For”:
THOR: I heard that one on the Web. It’s a whole lot of dog with no teeth, to me. About two slivers away from being country-rock.
FAFNIR: That must be why I like it so much.
LOKI: I liked that song, too. I just wish Halford would open it up a little, at least once, just for us: “Let’s hear Ripper sing like this.”
THOR: Many hesher girlfriends will be happy that that one’s on there.
THOR: That was my favorite song. Sounds kind of like a machine: PUH-kuh-kuh-kuh PUH-kuh-kuh-kuh. He’s coming down on the downbeats, and it’s all just double bass. It sounds like a fuckin’ bulldozer.
FAFNIR: But it had all this weird psychedelic stuff goin’ on in the mix, too. Phasing back and forth.
LOKI: Sort of feels like something from the ‘80s dragged up to the present and remastered or something. That was the most Priestlike track I thought so far -- it could be on, like, some movie soundtrack: Constantine, featuring Judas Priest.
As the big ballad “Angel” plays, Thor makes frail waif motions with his hands. Song ends.
LOKI: Is that it?
FAFNIR: Oh no no, there’s more coming, don’t worry. The Priest will not let you down and give you a short album. Not after 15 years.
LOKI: That’s one that Night Ranger didn’t get around to recording. Everything sounds good, it’s just that everything’s so different. They sound like they’re trying to be five different bands. But it’s rich, it’s nice. I like the sound, personally.
THOR: Well, you’re wrong.
THOR: That one makes me want to go rob convenience stores. With Judas Priest, that’s how you judge success. Everything sounds kind of distant with his vocals, though. Except the Valentine song [“Angel”]. Couldn’t miss him on that song.
LOKI: It’s like Photoshop. It’s the same old artist, with new effects.
FAFNIR: Wind chimes -- takes balls.
THOR: It’s so egregious. Length and heaviness.
LOKI: It’s like they broke it up into two songs. They said, “This’ll give Halford time for a wardrobe change.” With those long coats on, he looks more and more like Hellraiser.
Loki noticed on the video that there have been adjustments in the guitar positioning.
LOKI: You notice that when the neck comes up, it gets easier to play, and then you, like, raise the strap. When you start to get carpal tunnel from playing like this, bring that neck up.
“Lochness” fades out.
LOKI: Was that the last track? They went out with a rumble.
FAFNIR: It’s about a 13-and-a-half-minute song.
THOR: Smack you over the head with a cinderblock.
LOKI: That’s not gonna be a single. You gotta admire that.
FAFNIR: Overall impressions?
LOKI: At first at least, it was all over the place. I really liked that funky song [“Revolution”].
THOR: The one that sounded like Soundgarden and James Gang -- I liked that one too.
LOKI: But it didn’t belong on this album. That slow one didn’t, either.
Comparisons are made between Painkiller and Angel of Retribution.
FAFNIR: It’s like the difference between speed and pot. That’s the same kind of intersection Metallica had.
THOR: That last record’s horrible. [Metallica’s St. Anger]
FAFNIR: I totally disagree with you on that.
THOR: God, I can’t stand that record.
FAFNIR: As a drummer?
THOR: Ah, Jesus! Somebody shoulda kicked that idiot out and stepped all over him.
FAFNIR: It would be a whole different kind of band. Ulrich is the band in so many ways.
THOR: He plays like a white tennis player.
FAFNIR: There’s some really good white tennis players.
THOR: The thing about St. Anger that drives me nuts is the snare drum. PYUNGG! PYUNGG!
FAFNIR: Okay, some frequency gets caught in your head, and you can’t stand it. What about that weird R&B-oriented stuff with Load and Reload?
THOR: Those records are kinda like junk to me.
FAFNIR: But to me, those are my favorite records. It’s a generational thing.
THOR: You also liked that one song, though. [“Worth Fighting For” from the new Priest.]
FAFNIR: Yeah . . .
Now everybody’s laughing at Fafnir.
FAFNIR: I do phosphoresce a little bit. Not every day, but every once in a while you need to put on a tutu.
* * *
Overall rankings for Angel of Retribution: