SERMONS OF THE SINNER
Released on October 1, 2021 (Explorer1 Music Group)
K.K. Downing‘s acrimonious departure from Judas Priest has been widely discussed and hotly debated by fans and critics alike since he left the iconic band 10 years ago. He was out, then he wanted back in. The Priest camp said he retired and his services were no longer needed. It remains messy. What Downing made clear throughout the caustic war-of-words with his former bandmates is that he still wants to play rock and roll. If they weren’t going to let him do that in Judas Priest, then he’d find another way.
So now K.K. Downing returns, with former Judas Priest vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens, AJ Mills (Hostile) on guitar, Voodoo Six‘s Tony Newton on bass and Cage drummer Sean Elg in tow. Together, they’re KK’s Priest. Their debut is Sermons of The Sinner.
What was never debatable in all the axe-grinding between K.K. Downing and Judas Priest is Downing‘s enormous songwriting contribution to his former band. The bulk of the Judas Priest catalog came from Downing, singer Rob Halford and guitarist Glenn Tipton. And what a catalog it is with “Breaking The Law,” “Living After Midnight,” “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin,” “Painkiller,” and many more. I can’t speculate on which of those three wrote what parts or who deserves more credit. All I know is Sermons of the Sinner confirms Downing was — and remains — a musical force in the world of heavy rock.
Sermons is a molten metal triumph. It’s hard, fast, sequenced beautifully — every track here is exactly where it should be — and it’s clear from the drop, the band means it. Downing‘s reunion with Owens was a masterstroke. Ripper has the vocal chops to deliver the material with a flourish, nodding to the past a few times but never getting stuck in it. The rest of this “Priest” delivers as well. Downing has stated his desire for the next album to be a more collaborative effort, but make no mistake — Mills, Newton and Elg are a strong presence here.
Much of Sermons is high RPM. The title track, “Hellfire Thunderbolt,” and “Raise Your Fists,” are rousing scream-alongs, the latter a love letter to a life in rock and roll: “Trucks roll in dead of night / Full steam at dawn / We’ll be ready at first light / Another show is born.” The old school isn’t left out either. “Brothers of the Road” stomps its iron feet for the entire run time, while the eight minute plus epic “Metal Through and Through” recalls Black Sabbath‘s “Heaven and Hell.” Both are winners. Ultimately, it’s these longer tracks that put Sermons of the Sinner over the top. Much will be made of album closer, “Return of the Sentinel,” given its sequel-like feel to the original “Sentinel” from Downing‘s former band. It’s a standout, but for my money the show-stopper is “Hail For The Priest,” a pulse-pounder that uses the twin guitar attack of Downing and Mills to maximum effect, while Owens‘ vocal goes over-the-top with panache.
The Verdict: Sermons of The Sinner is a molten metal triumph that proves Downing still has a razor-sharp axe to grind. Highly recommended.
02. Hellfire Thunderbolt
03. Sermons of The Sinner
04. Sacerdote y Diablo
05. Raise Your Fists
06. Brothers of The Road
07. Metal Through And Through
08. Wild And Free
09. Hail For the Priest
10. Return of The Sentinel
K.K. Downing – guitars
Tim “Ripper” Owens – vocals
A.J. Mills – guitars
Tony Newton – bass
Sean Elg – drums
Reviewed by Dan Hamilton for Sleaze Roxx, October 2021
KK’s Priest‘s “Hellfire Thunderbolt” video:
KK’s Priest‘s “Sermons of The Sinner” video:
KK’s Priest‘s “Return of The Sentinel” video:
KK’s Priest‘s “Raise Your Fist” video: