The year 2021 brought with it the recording return of K.K. Downing and his new signature band, K.K.'s Priest. The band released the ferocious Sermons of the Sinner, which was adored by fans and proved that K.K. hadn't lost even a step during his reprieve from recording. Now, just two years later, K.K. and friends are back with the The Sinner Rides Again. Does the sophomore record measure up to the debut? Quite simply, yes. It most certainly does. The Sinner Rides Again picks right up where Sermons left off.
"Sons of the Sentinel" starts the record off with a bang and an incredible performance on vocals by Tim "Ripper" Owens. In the pre-chorus especially, Owens hits the higher octaves in falsetto and just belts it out. Think a cross between Rob Halford and King Diamond. It's completely reminiscent of old-school Priest and very much on point. The entire track is just the high energy banger you would expect from K.K. and company to kick off a kickass record.
The second cut, "Strike of the Viper" sounds something like you'd expect to hear on one of those later 80's Priest records. Its classic metal done the way it should be done. The band doesn't stray off path, they don't try and change the sonics or vary the songwriting. This is deliberate and this is why songs like "Strike of the Viper" work as well as they do. It's a similar formula for songs like "Reap the Whirlwhird." Straight ahead heavy metal that's mixed well, with crushing dueling leads, and written with brevity in mind. These are songs you crank up in your car while you're taking a wild and free road trip with your best friends on a clear summer's day. The lyrics aren't going to win any Nobel Prizes, but then you wouldn't expect they would. You want deep lyrics and progressive song structures, there's plenty of bands like Rush and Dream Theater you can listen to.
Like the first record, the mixing and production is spot on. I love the fact that I can really hear the bass and the drums so clearly and I'm able to clearly discern K.K.'s guitar from AJ Mills'. This is very apparent in the sections with the wishbone leads on songs like "One More Shot at Glory" and "Keeper of the Graves."
The Sinner Rides Again doesn't rely on gimmicks or experimentation. Bluesy rockers like the "Pledge Your Souls" are there to wake you up and feel the nostalgia for the time that metal was a bit more simplistic and direct than it is now. And as you continue to listen to the powerful slow build the develops in tracks like "Wash Away Your Sins" you come to realize that, unabashedly, this is a classic metal record for a classic metal loving audience. It's black leather, blue denim, Harley Davidson- riding heavy metal with no apologies.
In just a very short time, K.K. Downing and his mega-talented crew have given us two bone-crushing records. K.K. still has a high level of vigor, and passion just oozes from every blistering cut on this LP. While some folks will lament the fact that K.K. is still not a member of Judas Priest, I can't help but love the fact that I get to hear music by both Priest themselves and K.K.'s Priest. My biggest complaint is that I have yet had the chance to actually go to any K.K.'s Priest shows here in the US. "Overall, if you still have any doubts about this band or about Mr. Downing himself, The Sinner Rides Again will wash them away after first listen."