A Priest Walks Into a Ministry

Josh Hadley

josh hadley | the shadows of pop culture | may 2018

Judas Priest at the Resch

Recently our area was honored to have two very impressive and storied heavy metal bands pass through just days apart.

Judas Priest played at the Resch Center in Green Bay on April 5 and it was a killer show.

Judas Priest has a long history going back all the way to 1969, just shy of a 50-year legacy. They have been making heavy metal albums for longer than this author has been alive.They created many memorable works of heavy metal with varying degrees of success, but to this day, remain one of the most popular continuous metal bands of all time.

Their new album "Firepower" is not so much a return to form for the guys but more of a kick in the face to anyone that thought 70-year-old men can't still shred. "Firepower" might just be the heaviest album they have ever released and shows these guys are not done yet.

Bass player Ian Hill told me, "We strive very hard to always sound like Judas Priest."

That is true with "Firepower" indeed. It sounds like Judas Priest but like Judas Priest evolved.

The band's road has not been the smoothest. Band member turnovers, as when singer Rob Halford left the band after coming out and Tim "Ripper" Owens replaced him, and a frivolous legal controversy in 1990 stemming from two disturbed, stoned and drunk teens attempted to take their own lives (one succeeded). The Judas Priest album "Stained Class" was blamed for influencing their actions.

When they played the Resch this last month they not only nearly sold out the damn venue but they rocked it to its core. The audience was beyond engaged and the band played like they were still kids with explosions, bikes onstage and furious riffs.

This show at the Resch was something of a benchmark in that it showed just how much power the band has, even in the days of digital downloads, a topic Hill addressed by saying:

"People are getting fed up with paying out money and just getting a file. There is nothing tangible like with a CD where you have the lyrics there and artwork and liner notes."

Priest played a mix of songs from the new album as well as classic songs – the audience in attendance going wild when the classics were belted out. It was an intense show.

Judas Priest has a legacy of always being metal you could rely on and the "Firepower" tour exemplifies why they have endured for so damn long and why their music will endure after they themselves have shifted into the future.

Black Star Riders and Saxon opened the show. Black Star Riders were a good blend of blues-metal invoking Thin Lizzy (and with a Thin Lizzy member on guitar that makes total sense). Saxon, on the other hand, came off as a bargain basement Iron Maiden. There were lots of Saxon shirts roaming the show so maybe it was just me.

Ministry at Turner Hall

Ministry is not Judas Priest but Ministry was also in the area mere days after the Priest show. Sure Ministry was in Milwaukee at Turner Hall but just like with Priest it was a hell of a show.

Ministry is another band that has been around for a significant amount of time and still kicking. Forming in 1981 and being unrecognizable from the band that would make its way into (semi) mainstream culture, Ministry would be an exemplifier of anger and rebellion whereas Judas Priest was more fun.

The early Ministry was a sort of techno dance pop and you would be hard-pressed to recognize them as the band they became famous for but by the late 1980s, this had all changed.

Ministry is an angry band, to the point they are almost anger personified. They are the anger of a generation and really are almost literal protest music. This aspect has led to a very up and down output from the band as they seem to put out their best work when there is a Republican in the White House and the albums made while Democrats are in power are weak. This band needs anger at the establishment to fuel it.

Lead vocalist Al Jourgensen is borderline a personification of the anti-establishment viewpoint and this has made him a face of a movement much needed today. When listening to classic albums such as "A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste" you can feel the rebellion in the music and this was transferred to their live show, perhaps more so than in their studio albums.

The new record "AmeriKKKrant" is a savage and brutal indictment of the Trump presidency. Calling it a protest record would be underselling it. This also showed up at the live show with the giant Trump chickens with swastikas on them that littered the stage and the projection screen behind the band had Trump saying and doing foolish things. Songs such as "Twilight Zone," "Wargasm" and "Antifa" give off a protest vibe straight out of a Nam rally in a Road Warrior world.

Walking into Turner Hall for opening act the God Bombs made me feel like I had stepped into a movie such as "The Crow" or "Strange Days" and I mean that in the best possible manner.

Chelsea Wolfe followed and she was kind of what happens when Evanescence has babies with The Melvins: slower, more melodic and moody, nearing female Cure territory at times. Not my kind of thing but I would be lying to say her band was not talented; it just is not my kind of music.

Ministry came out with cuts from the new record and then played many of their classic songs, which really pumped the audience up. At one point, Al Jourgensen even commented that they were done with all of their politics and would now give you what you really wanted: “the old shit."

Seeing Judas Priest or Ministry alone would have knocked one off my list but to see them both in the same week was just insane to an old metal fan such as myself. Even three days later my ears were still ringing but I would not have traded either of these shows for the world.

--Photo courtesy PMI Entertainment Group

A fiercely confrontational and arrogant critic whose stubborn nature makes him immanently readable and equally angering, Josh Hadley is a writer for magazines such as Hustler, Fangoria, Paracinema, Shadowland, Grindhouse Purgatory and Cashers du Cinemart, as well as a radio host on Jackalope Radio. Find more from him at 1201beyond.com, a website that only the most anti-social personalities would engage.

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