Release Date: May 28, 2013
“Epitaph” is perhaps the headstone for the final Judas Priest world tour. After 40 years the Metal Gods are done with massive global treks. The Epitaph World Tour was 50 weeks in the making, with 120 shows spanning four continents (Asia, North America, South America, Europe), in some 37 countries. The tour culminated back home in London at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo on May 26, 2012. From that final show, Judas Priest now gives us the 23-track “Epitaph” DVD.
The show covers the band’s 40 year recorded history and includes at least one track from every album on which vocalist Rob Halford appeared. The two Ripper Owens era albums, 1997’s “Jugulator” and 2001’s “Demolition” where not documented for this DVD. This marked the first tour not to feature founding member and guitarist K.K. Downing. He would retire shortly before the tour began, and young U.K. guitarist Richie Faulkner stepped in.
The night begins with a dark stage intro of “Battle Hymn” from 1990’s “Painkiller“. The show really explodes as the curtain drops and the mighty Priest assail the crowd with “Rapid Fire” from 1980’s “British Steel“, from which they would also perform “Metal Gods”, “Breaking the Law”, and the show closer, “Living After Midnight”. What becomes noticeable from the first few songs is Faulkner’s presence. He looks like a young Downing, but he plays more like a young Zakk Wylde. While he honors Downing’s parts he adds his own flourish and style. For some die-hard fans this may seem an insult, but it gives the songs an energized kick.
The band ripped through a tight yet massive set of Judas Priest standards while also including rarities such as “Never Satisfied” from the 1974 debut, “Rocka Rolla“, “Beyond the Realms of Death” from 1978’s “Stained Class“, and “Starbreaker” from 1977’s “Sin After Sin“. From the latter they also did a spectacular cover of the Joan Baez classic, “Diamonds and Rust”. On this rendition they started acoustically before closing it out in Priestly fashion.
Longtime fans will be excited to see them perform “Victim of Changes” from their 1976 sophomore effort, “Sad Wings of Destiny” along with “Hell Bent For Leather” and a cover of Fleetwood Mac‘s “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)” from 1979’s “Killing Machine“/”Hell Bent for Leather” release. During Hell Bent which began the encores, Halford made his trademark ride to the stage via his Harley Davidson motorcycle where he sat for the duration of the song.
From 1981’s “Point of Entry” they perform “Heading Out to the Highway” while 1984’s “Defender’s of the Faith” yielded a beastly version of “The Sentinal”. They even dusted off the title track from their 1986 album, “Turbo Lover“, and did a stunning rendition of “Blood Red Skies” from 1988’s “Ram It Down“.
Priest also gave us a taste of their newer material with “Judas Rising” from 2005’s “Angel of Retribution” and “The Prophecy” from 2008’s “Nostradamus“.
Perhaps most surprising was the choice to include two more tracks from Painkiller, the title cut and “Night Crawler”. The former featured a sick drum solo from Scott Travis. while the latter seemed something of a surprising choice given the depth of the band’s catalog.
The group closed the show out in mammoth Priest style performing “The Hellion”, “Electric Eye”, and show encore, “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” from 1982’s “Screaming For Vengeance”. The latter showed off some of Faulkner’s solo fretwork.
The hometown crowd was loud and enthusiastic helping Halford sing large chunks of several songs including all of “Breaking the Law”. Bassist Ian Hill remained, as always, the band’s stalwart anchor while guitar god Glenn Tipton performed with his classic trademark precision. Amidst all of the flames, smoke, lasers and metal regalia remained the most important aspect, a monolithic slab of iconic metal music.
With a catalog as large and impressive as Priest’s it must have been a grueling task picking which songs made the set and which did not. Every fan would likely replace a song or two here and there with something they’d have preferred, or better yet simply added a few more since it was the final performance. Still, in all, it was an inspired setlist from a band that saved the best for last.
“Epitaph” is a must own DVD for any metal fan, and especially for the Judas Priest faithful. The prescient Metal Gods remain a bastion of what true heavy metal was, is, and shall remain: United! “Epitaph” is a monument to Judas Priest’s legacy, and an instruction manual on heavy metal music. “Breaking the what?”