The Sinner Rides Again

Nuclear Blast
rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Sons Of The Sentinel
02. Strike Of The Viper
03. Reap The Whirlwind
04. One More Shot At Glory
05. Hymn 66
06. The Sinner Rides Again
07. Keeper Of The Graves
08. Pledge Your Souls
09. Wash Away Your Sins

One of the greatest surprises of recent years, 2021's "Sermons Of The Sinner", was such a strong debut that it defied cynicism and made it plain that KK'S PRIEST was going to be a band worth taking seriously. Regardless of any lingering bitterness or animosity between K.K. Downing and the JUDAS PRIEST camp, the fact that we now have two killer heavy metal bands for the price of one should be viewed as a positive. It helps that like its predecessor, "The Sinner Rides Again" is an absolutely ripping metal record, with a huge, gleaming production job and performances that crackle with passion and intensity. Tim 'Ripper' Owens has always been a beast, but his partnership with Downing takes him to new heights here, while also prompting the age-old question: how the fuck does he keep hitting those notes?

Firmly and proudly in the traditional metal ballpark that the legendary guitarist played a huge part in creating, KK'S PRIEST laid down a ferocious template with first album songs like "Hellfire Thunderbolt" and "Raise Your Fists". On their second album, they make the shrewd decision to deliver more of the bombastic, steel-plated same. Heavy metal, after all, was never meant to be complicated. A few slightly snotty references to old JUDAS PRIEST songs certainly add an extra frisson of hostility, too.

"Sons Of The Sentinel" is the perfect opener, from its overture of twin-lead harmonies and Owens's effortless scaling of octaves and emotions, to Downing and guitarist A.J. Mills's predictably wild soloing over a pristine speed metal undercarriage. If this isn't what you want from a band with K.K. Downing in it, something has gone wrong. "Strike Of The Viper" hammers the point home again, while harking back to the savage majesty of PRIEST's much-maligned "Jugulator". "Reap The Whirlwind" is a full-on throwback to the '80s and a dazzling showcase for Owens's absurd versatility. The darkly triumphant "One More Shot At Glory" is an instant anthem, almost in spite of its title's heavy-handed nod to a certain deep cut from PRIEST's "Painkiller".

Downing's ability to write great metal songs has been in question, but there is still something profoundly satisfying about hearing him thrive like this. The gritty and morbid "Hymn 66" is a particular highlight, as gothic horror collides with Owens's strident theatricality and the septuagenarian six-stringer brings the house down with a particularly glorious lead break. Similarly, the title track is a tumultuous burst of melodrama, with multiple tempo shifts, a giant chorus and yet more peerless soloing adding to the none-more-metalness of the whole thunderous enterprise.

Part hymn to the shadows, part heavy metal tour-de-force, "Keeper Of The Graves" is laudably overblown and hard-as-nails. "Pledge Your Souls" is the KK'S PRIEST manifesto in lyrical and musical form, replete with big opportunities for boisterous crowd participation. "Wash Away Your Sins" weaves progressive hues into another dense metal tapestry, ending with a flurry of dramatic twists and turns and what feels like a slightly premature fadeout.

Deeper and darker than their debut, "The Sinner Rides Again" reinforces the now irrefutable fact that KK'S PRIEST mean serious business. This thing fucking slays.

Author: Dom Lawson
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