A steel-plated seraphim rises out of flames on the cover like a pissed-off reject from an HR Giger painting, waiting to embrace the metal faithful. Chrome-domed howler from hell Rob Halford has reunited with his former partners in lawbreaking with a very clear, loud message for nonbelievers: the Priest is back. But does arena-shaking heavy metal about demons, motorcycles and rock ’n’ roll have any place in 2005, a landscape littered with Courvoisier-swilling rappers and earnest shoe-gazers? Hell yes it does!

This Angel throws a gleaming, steel-clawed middle finger to popular music, an unapologetic throwback to the days when leather jackets and devil horns weren’t ironic. It kicks off with a classic Halford scream and doesn’t let up, from the ass-kicking “Deal with the Devil” to slow-burner “Worth Fighting For” to the acoustic-electric ballad “Angel.” Roy Z’s polished production keeps this beast sounding surprisingly current and the dual guitars of Glenn Tipton and KK Downing still induce chronic headbanging.

It doesn’t quite equal some of the classic Priest albums – and if you don’t like metal you’ll scoff at this – but Angel of Retribution almost lives up to the hype. Well, except for the 15-minute closing track about the Loch Ness monster – just stop the album before that one, trust me.

Grade: B+

Angel of Retribution is currently available.