Judas Priest

Angel of Retribution (Sony)

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Judas Priest's 15th studio album begins on a high note: Returning frontman Rob Halford lets loose with a pained shriek that sounds like the Queen of the Damned getting a titty twister. Dogs will howl, women and children will cry, and metalheads will rejoice, for Priest is back. The band's first album with its original singer in 15 years is also its best in 20.

And really, how could it not be? Any metal album that boasts a song called "Demonizer" has at least a 93.65 percent chance of kicking ass. Like a heavy metal meteorologist, Halford screams of blood-red skies, lightning, and leanin' in the wind on such instant anthems as "Judas Rising" and "Hellrider," his arch falsetto remaining as vintage as the tunes it's bellowed over. Glen Tipton's and K.K. Downing's solos never seem to end, and you never really want them to: They wank off like a couple of kids in front of their first Playboy. Sure, the White Liony power ballad "Angel" is cheesy enough to turn the stomachs of the lactose-intolerant, but you can forgive Priest for getting a bit sentimental: Retribution really does recall the glory years.

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