By DJ Monk

Artwork for Hail To The Priest by Thobbe EnglundWe have a cardinal rule here at Über Rock, which has remained unbroken for the decade we have been kickin’ rock ‘n’ roll ass… and that is that we do not – no, make that do NOT – do tribute acts. NO. NEVER. EVER. Now, Thobbe Englund is not a tribute act – he is, after all, a former guitarist with Swedish metal gods (and that’s a hint of what is to come) Sabaton, sensationally quitting the band between the recording and release of their 2016 album ‘The Last Stand’ to pursue a solo career.

To say what has happened in the interim has been somewhat underwhelming would come close to being the understatement of the year. His first two albums were OK, to be generous to them: decent enough exhibitions of his ability as a guitarist if somewhat underwhelming in the songs department, while his last offering, ‘Sold My Soul’ had our resident shredder threatening to burn his guitar if we didn’t give him a refund for the sale! Now, for reasons best known to himself – perhaps the previously displayed lack of imagination when it comes his own song writing skills, or maybe the perennial excuse of “contractual obligation”, who knows – he has decided to release an album dedicated to… yes, Judas Priest, with his interpretation of ten tracks from across their career (yes, there’s even one from the much-maligned Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens era) plus two (‘Immortal Sin’ and ‘Into The Pit) from the first Rob Halford’s Fight album.

To be honest, he shouldn’t really have bothered plundering the metal gods’ back catalogue for his own devices, as this collection does absolutely no justice to the Brummie legends’ extensive back catalogue.  By and large, his selection of tunes to cover (‘The Sentinel’, ‘The Ripper’, ‘Hell Bent For Leather’, ‘Desert Plains’… you get the gist) is as unimaginative as his interpretations. Yes, they are faithful, but they’re just that: Englund has failed, on a massive level, to add his own twist to these classic tunes – something which could have raised this project out of the muddy mire in which it wallows.

His narrowing down of Priest’s classic twin guitar sound into a single instrument is, unsurprisingly, one dimensional, and there is a distinct lack of imagination applied to the re-interpretation of those iconic solos. Vocally, Englund is no Halford – well, could anybody be? – and when he tries to be, such as on the screams that pollute ‘The Ripper’, ‘Burn In Hell’ (in particular) and ‘Blood Red Skies’, the results are so painful that you’re not only reaching for the ear plugs but also the stop button.

There is a reason we don’t do tribute acts here at Über Rock. Thobbe Englund has just reminded us why. And let’s hope he doesn’t even think about doing the same thing with Sabaton’s back catalogue: his former bandmates would never speak to him again!

  • ‘Hail To The Priest’ is out now. If you feel you really have to, you can get your copy HERE.

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