It’s different in other ways: though Tom Allom – who oversaw their breakthrough albums – returns as co-producer, he’s joined by Andy Sneap, and the result is an album whose sound is far thicker and richer than British Steel or Stained Class. Sometimes the updates are intrusive – the double kick-drums slathered across the first three tracks might be meant to be reminiscent of Exciter, but they’re so overbearing they start to irritate. But by and large it’s all done tastefully enough (if tasteful is the right word for a track like Necromancer, with its none-more-14-year-old boy lyrics: “Raising the dead! Cadavers consumed!”).
Firepower’s success depends on the songwriting, though, and that’s pretty strong. At 14 songs, there is inevitably some sag – neither Rising from Ruins nor Sea of Red achieve the windswept epicry they are striving for – but the riffs are strong, choppy, hooky and powerful: Traitor’s Gate has one that James Hetfield would have killed for, even 30 years ago. Of course, Firepower could never sound as revolutionary as Priest did when they were codifying metal 40 years ago, but it’s often excellent. If only they’d release the Stock, Aitken and Waterman sessions now, eh?