After Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and even Alice Cooper, it seemed as though Rock had gone as far as it could. Wrong! Heavy Metal went further, faster and harder, often with violent or satanic imagery.
Beginning in '73 Judas Priest featured the twin guitar attack of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing along with Rob Halford's screamin' vocals. Over their career they had five drummers before Scott Travis joined in '89. Ian Hill handled bass. Their first release was on the Gull label in '74 but it wasn't until '77 that they had their first major label release "Sin After Sin" that was produced by former Deep Purple bassist, Roger Glover.
Throughout the late '70s and early '80s, Judas Priest released approximately an album a year including "Unleashed In The East" in '79 with the song "Victim Of Changes" and "Screaming For Vengeance" in '82. The latter perfectly illustrated why they were the premier Heavy Metal group. Tipton, Downing and Halford composed most of the songs. Critics dismissed them as nothing more than a grunting, churning band specializing in recycled Zeppelin riffs. However, despite the critics, and perhaps because of them, Judas Priest became both a major recording and concert draw.
In '93 a disillusioned Halford left Judas Priest to briefly front Black Sabbath and work with Pantera before launching Fight and later Two. He also sang the national anthem on opening day of the Arizona Diamondback's ' 98 season. Judas Priest continued by hiring Tim "Ripper" Owens as lead singer. Owens, an Ohio native, was a massive Judas Priest fan and had worked in a tribute band. He did a competent job as the group resumed their recording career. But when push came to shove, Owens was unceremoniously dumped as Judas Priest reformed, with Halford, for an '04 world tour that included an Ozzfest stint. As this was going on, the group went into the studio to record "Angel Of Retribution."
With a handful of landmark CDs from over twenty released, Judas Priest was the best full-on Heavy Metal band. To prove the point they released the four-disc career retrospective "Metalogy" with a live version of "The Hellion" and "Electric Eye."
Judas Priest unleashed "Nostradamus" in June, '08. The limited edition deluxe double CD was housed in a 48-page hardbound book package with an insert containing an exclusive code for one free general admission ticket to see Judas Priest on the summer's Metal Masters Tour. The 23-track CD featured instrumental interludes and incorporated orchestration and a choir.
"Nostradamus" became the group's highest charting effort on the Billboard 200 album chart selling about 42,000 units in its first week of release to land at #11. '05's "Angel Of Retribution" only made it to #13.
Halford and his Metal God Entertainment company launched Metal God Records in '09. "It's been a long desire of mine to be a co-owner and participate in the operation of a label focused on supporting the Rock and Metal communities," said Halford. Metal Gods Records first project was a DVD/Blu-ray disc from the singer's solo band Halford titled Crucible World Tour -- Live In Anaheim.
"The Hellion" (the opening track on "Screaming For Vengeance") was used in a '10 commercial for the Honda Odyssey van. If a classic Judas Priest song had to be played in a car commercial most fans thought the track would be better used promoting a faster, sleeker car - not a van. But obviously that was the point.
But two years later, Priest was ready to park it (sort of). They played the final show of their "Epitaph" tour on May 26th, '12 to a sold-out audience at the Hammersmith Apollo in London. According to Priest, the "farewell" tour their last extensive world tour - but not their last shows.
1974 Rocka Rolla
1976 Sad Wings Of Destiny
1977 Sin After Sin
1978 Stained Class
1978 Killing Machine /Hell Bent For Leather
1980 British Steel
1981 Point Of Entry
1982 Screaming For Vengeance
1984 Defenders Of The Faith
1988 Ram It Down
2005 Angel Of Retribution
The road to Metal supremacy is a long, hard one. Starting their recording career in '74 with "Rocka Rolla," Judas Priest spent the remainder of the '70s honing their twin guitar attack and building a faithful following. "Best of Judas Priest" gleans the highpoints from this period. The early '80s saw the group release the landmark Metal album "Screaming For Vengeance." Nearly as good are "Defenders of the Faith," "Turbo" and "Priest... Live!" "Metalworks '73-'93" covers the rise, the glory and the fall. The more complete "Metalogy" contains live tracks and unreleased material. The appeal depends on the level of fandom.
When the classic (best known) line-up of legendary groups finally get together it can be a dicey situation. Age, addictions, personal problems , grudges, and a countless other issues usually take their toll. But there is no reason to worry about Judas Priest. On "Angel Of Retribution," with Halford fronting once again, they exceed expectations. "Deal With The Devil," "Wheels Of Fire" and "Hellrider are classic Priest. "Angel Of Retribution" proves the group's most popular line-up is still the best - but hardly infallible.
Often when a band issues an epic effort like "Nostradamus," named after the spookily accurate 15th century seer, the default line is the set should have been distilled to a 'killer' single disc. That may be a little too generous for "Nostradamus." Surveying the album's 23 tracks there is an EP's worth of great songs - "Persecution," "Revelations," "Visions" and the title track. Throw in the ballad "New Beginnings" as a bonus.
"Nostradamus" travels from the "Dawn Of Creation" to pondering the "Future Of Mankind" but suffers from too many dramatic ballads and sleepy interludes. If you're going to sing about death, destruction and ultimate annihilation it's best to deliver it with a thunderous rhythm and searing riffs (Priest trademarks - see the songs listed above).
Here's a question: When did Judas Priest become a Prog Rock group? "The Four Horsemen" could pass for an Emerson, Lake & Palmer track from the "Brain Salad Surgery" era. "Prophecy" comes off as a rip of Alice Cooper's cartoonish horror. But at least the song has some credible power. On many of the ballads (and there are way too many) Halford takes them right over the top. He tries to infuse some drama but it's just overreaching.
A piece of reckless advice - lose the synth strings, keyboards and acoustic guitars - you're Judas Priest for Godsake!
Gotta Haves: Screaming For Vengeance 1982
There isn't a Metal album that can touch it. "Screaming For Vengeance" opens with the searing twin guitar instrumental "The Hellion." A supercharged beginning and Halford hasn't even opened his mouth yet. The title track is a wailing, guitar pounding, blast furnace of a song. "You've Got Another Thing Coming" and the ominously rumbling "Electric Eye" keep up the attack. "Screaming For Vengeance" is Judas Priest's defining moment.