K.K.’s Priest – Hellfire Thunderbolt
Written by Kevin Tanza on May 18, 2021
It’s hard to digest that K.K. Downing left Judas Priest exactly a decade ago. The notion that one of the architects of the Priest sound (and therefore, one of the most influential guitar players in Metal history) is no longer part of the band is something that fans have never fully adjusted to. This is not meant to criticize Richie Faulkner, who has done a fine job in replacing him, but rather to emphasize how important he was.
So, when the news came out that K.K. was going to make new music with his own band, aptly called K.K.’s Priest, teaming up once again with another former Priest member, vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens, it was safe to say that there were a lot of expectations. K.K. had been enjoying some time off for a couple of years and after a few shows in festivals in 2018 and 2019, it seems that the desire for recording hit him again.
That is how we got this new band and how we got their first single in recent days, Hellfire Thunderbolt, meant to promote their debut, Sermons of the Sinner, which should be released this year.
The music video is simple and to the point: a band rocking and playing some good music. And along with Ripper, K.K. has gathered former Voodoo Six bassist Tony Newton, former Cage drummer Sean Elg and Hostile guitarist A.J. Mills. Former Priest drummer Les Binks was going to be part of the project, but he had an injury during the recording process.
It’s interesting to listen to Hellfire Thunderbolt and contrast it to what Downing has done throughout the years at Priest. You can hear the riffs, the tempo, the sheer Metal approach to the song… you definitely feel the Priest connection the moment that K.K. attacks with that powerful opening riff.
Mills complements K.K. quite well in that regard and they are a good team. I like that nice balance they have going on between the heavy elements and the melodic side of things, which is something very important because good chemistry between guitar players is something worth taking into account.
Of course, one of the biggest selling points of this song (and the band as a whole) was seeing Ripper teaming up with K.K. once again. Even though Demolition was a heavily panned Priest album, it is worth pointing out that these two had very little input compared to Glenn Tipton and the previous record, Jugulator, was a much more collective effort and it showed the direction the wanted to go to at the time. You can hear that here.
This maintains the heavy elements of Jugulator, with the powerful riffing and direct approach to things (minus the long intros, thankfully), but there is a much more classic Priest feel to it. Jugulator, for all its great things, was certainly a product of its time and it felt like the band trying to play catch up in the 90s–this single sounds timeless and fresh, which is very important. And it is an interesting glimpse into K.K.’s role within the band and what parts of the Priest sound were defined by him.
Ripper sounds amazing. He has played with multiple musicians throughout the years, including the likes of Iced Earth and Yngwie, but he has maintained his vocal chords in great shape and it shows. He is capable of delivering his now-classic banshee screams, but he also has maintained that aggressive low-end to his voice that makes for a great counterpoint. You can especially notice that during the melodic interlude of the song, where it shows you how much Ripper has progressed as a vocalist throughout the years.
The song is straightforward, powerful and you can tell it was done with conviction. K.K. has been quite clear about it: he is not trying to reinvent the wheel here, but rather offer something that feels classic and fitting with the Judas Priest legacy.
And in that regard, I can safely that this song is a very strong introduction to this band and it shows that K.K. Downing is very much alive as a musician and that Sermons of the Sinner is going to be a quite promising album.