After last week’s In Defense Of was published, I got to thinking, and I realized that a lot of the bigger bands have periods in their discography that are nearly universally hated by metal fans at large. Iron Maiden has the Blaze Bayley era, which we discussed in part last week. Metallica has the period during which Load, Reload, and St. Anger were released. Black Sabbath has every period that didn’t include Ozzy or Dio. Destruction has the “Neo-Destruction” era. There are countless others, but I think the one that gets a great deal more flack than it should is the Judas Priest era that did not feature Rob Halford. So this week, we’re going to discuss his replacement, Tim “Ripper” Owens, and why he deserves a lot more recognition and credit than he often gets.
Ripper was the vocalist for Judas Priest for seven years, from 1996 until 2003. The lineup that featured Ripper released two albums, 1997’s Jugulator and 2001’s Demolition. Jugulator received the much better critical response of the two, and with good reason – Demolition was a mashed-together attempt to appease all of the fans at once, and it failed miserably in that regard. The only songs worth discussing on Demolition are “Machine Man” and “Bloodsuckers”, so I won’t bother delving into it too much.
Jugulator, on the other hand, is one hell of a solid metal album. Of course, it’s not in the same style of Priest that fans were used to or expecting, but much like The X Factor last week, it shouldn’t bear any resemblance to its predecessors due to the surrounding circumstances. The music written by Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing was the aftermath of two whole other albums being written and never released before Jugulator finally came to be. The changes that occurred as a result of this took the band away from their roots, but it was still metal, and it was still enjoyable. Jugulator also earned the band their second Grammy nomination, so clearly they were doing something right.
Let’s move away from the Judas Priest material for a second, though, because it’s easy for many uneducated metal fans to simply classify Ripper as “the other singer for Judas Priest”. So many people fail to realize that Ripper is a damn fine vocalist in his own right, and has been for over twenty years. Possessing an inhuman range that surpasses all but the most talented singers, Ripper would do fine singing in almost any style of metal band, as long as he didn’t have to do screaming vocals. His low notes rumble deeper than the bass, and his high notes will shake the rafters. Just listen to this cover of Annihilator’s “Alison Hell” that Ripper sang on, taken from the Roadrunner United concert DVD footage. The highlight of the video occurs at the 4:12 mark, but you should watch the whole thing for context.
Ripper never had to look hard for other work after leaving Judas Priest, because his talents were so readily know in the metal world. After leading Priest, Ripper immediately joined Iced Earth and excelled as their vocalist during his tenure with the band. Ripper also has a side project called Beyond Fear with bassist Dennis Hayes, who also played in Ripper’s first band, a Priest tribute group called British Steel. His work with both of these bands is nothing short of amazing
Ripper’s current project, Charred Walls of the Damned, is a powerhouse supergroup with a ton of potential for success. Unfortunately, the group has been inactive since the release of 2011’s Cold Winds on Timeless Days. However, once the group starts releasing new music again, Ripper will be able to showcase his signature style once again.
On top of his musical prowess, Ripper is just a nice guy. He makes sure that he has time to meet fans and respond to their questions after concerts. Ripper also co-owns a restaurant called Ripper’s Rock House in Akron, OH. He’s very active on social media, and he keeps in touch with fans that way when he’s not on tour. It’s a privilege that few people enjoy with other musicians, but everyone is able to take part in it with Ripper.
The conclusion: Ripper may be known best for his short tenure in Judas Priest, but he’s done so much more and deserves to be recognized for it. So throw on Jugulator and let “Cathedral Spires” scare the hell out of your neighbors! The Ripper thanks you for it!