Sound: By 1997, Judas Priest had finally found their replacement for Rob Halford after roughly four years of searching: Tim "Ripper" Owens, formerly the singer of a Judas Priest tribute band. Naturally, the expectations were high in the light of such a discovery; little did diehard Priest-fans such as myself know what guitarists Glenn Tipton & K.K. Downing had been preparing for us this whole time...
As it turned out, "Jugulator" is just a steaming sh*t-sandwich almost from beginning to end. The band, and Tipton in particular, had obviously been greatly influenced by the thrash-scene of the 90s. Nothing wrong with that of course, there is plenty of great stuff to be found in that genre. But Judas Priest really couldn't handle the stuff; the album is filled with unimaginative C#-tuned thrash riffs, irritating vocal melodies, and solos that completely obscure the talent of Glenn & K.K. The production is also quite bland, and far too compressed to match the meaty guitar tones, although the drums sound okay. // 3
Lyrics: Tim Owens was, and still is, often praised as a worthy replacement of Rob Halford. I really don't agree, I can't hear what's so great about the guy. His lower register sounds like some weak little guy forcing himself to sound big and tough, and his higher register has been vastly overrated (in my opinion, he doesn't even sound close to Halford, although he can belt out some pretty good screams from time to time). His performance on "Cathedral Spires" is quite great though, especially near the ending.
The lyrics are just beyond description. Tipton was obviously going for Halford's brand of rich, descriptive tales of heavy metal villains, but failed miserably. The "Jugulator" itself couldn't hold a candle to guys like the "Painkiller", the "Exciter" or the "Sinner". And the rest of the lyrics look like they've been written by a weird twelve-year old trying to scare himself, being exclusively about stuff like alien abductions, electric chairs and the hangman's noose. The sole exception, again, being "Cathedral Spires". // 3
Overall Impression: Overall, this album is quite a painful experience if you're used to the old Priest material. And even listening to it as a completely different band, I really can't see why anyone would choose this album over something like "Far Beyond Driven". They did get a Grammy nomination, however, for "Bullet Train". And that song, along with "Cathedral Spires" and the title track which is actually pretty cool (some of Scott Travis' best drumming ever on that one), is pretty much the only motivation to buy this album. The rest of it is just badly produced, plodding, C-grade groove thrash which just makes my skin crawl with boredom every time I try to listen to it in one go. Be especially aware of "Brain Dead" and "Abductors", as they might be the very worst songs ever released by this band.
If you're a completist, like me, then you obviously need this in your collection. But if you're not, and you can't find it for less than 2 dollars, then I would advice you to stay away and get yourself a nice hot dog or something instead. // 2