Thursday 15 October 2020



In case you didn't know, this year marks the 50th anniversary of Judas Priest. Having recently read KK Downing's book 'Heavy Duty', and Rob Halford's book 'Confess' having recently arrived through my letter box, I felt inspired to write about the awesomeness of Judas Priest and rant like an opinionated old man in a pub.

Throughout my life, I've always had two favourite bands: Kiss and Judas Priest. Despite several tracks that are clearly 'Metal', Kiss have always been more of a good time Rock n' Roll band. Judas Priest, however, are full-on Heavy Metal. For me, the definitive Heavy Metal band. Yes, Black Sabbath arguably created the genre, but Judas Priest have contributed more to it than any other band I can think of, in terms of both image (leather biker jackets etc), and also musically, time and time again. 

Each of their albums sees the band evolve, and in turn, influence countless other bands with each subsequent release, developing Heavy Metal even further. Speed Metal, Thrash, Power Metal... all of these sub-genres and many more wouldn't be what they are today without the innovators that are Judas Priest

In short, I believe that Judas Priest is not only the greatest Heavy Metal band that has ever existed, but also one of the most important. Even your own shit band wouldn't exist without them. If you disagree or wish to give me that 'Iron Maiden are better' crap, you should re-evaluate your life at the earliest opportunity. Incidentally, I do love Iron Maiden. Judas Priest are just better. They're better than Black Sabbath too. Fight me!

Anyway, I've decided to do what all nerds do and rank their studio albums. I've seen this done by various journalists before, but as they were all clearly wrong, I thought I should do it properly. 

I've had great fun digging out all of these albums again and no doubt the neighbours enjoyed them too. 

Oh, and for the record, I've ranked them in order of preference, not historical significance, before a handful of internet bitches moan that Sad Wings Of Destiny isn't higher up the list.

Anyway, without further ado. Ladies and Gentlemen. I give you JUDAS FUCKING PRIEST!

#18. Rocka Rolla (1974).
Their debut album is a solid Blues-based Rock album that sounds like a band finding their feet. It's decent enough, and has some Led Zeppelin vibes here and there. The mix isn't the greatest and it does sound really dated by modern standards. It's a cool record nonetheless, but if the band had broken up after this album, would people still be listening to it today, or would it have disappeared into obscurity? Personally, I think the latter. It's still worth a spin as a point of interest. Oh, and the title track is annoyingly catchy.

#17 Nostradamus (2008).
Their double concept album and magnus opus about the life and times of Nostradamus was an ambitious and gloriously pretentious project. Musically, it veers a little too far into pompous Symphonic and epic Power Metal territories for my tastes, especially with those synthesised strings that sound like they were programmed on GarageBand. In all honesty, this isn't an album I listen to much. There are some fantastic moments though, such as the songs Nostradamus and Prophecy.

#16 Demolition (2001).
The second and final studio album with Tim 'Ripper' Owens on vocals, Demolition is a mixed bag. The sub-par production and that shit album cover didn't exactly help the masses to warm to it when it came out. However, it's far from the turkey so many have made it out to be. It's still a solid album with a handful of truly killer songs such as Bloodsuckers, Subterfuge, One On One, and the tongue-in-cheek Metal Messiah.

#15 Redeemer Of Souls (2014).
Redeemer Of Souls
is their first album without KK Downing and their first with his replacement Richie Faulkner. After Nostradamus, the band made a straight-forward, no-messing about Judas Priest record. My only issue with it is the production. Sonically, it's good but it doesn't stand up to, say, Angel Of Retribution. I guess I'm just picky. My favourites on this one are the opener, Dragonaut, and Halls Of Valhalla.

#14 Angel Of Retribution (2005).
This album was the first since their reunion with Rob Halford. It's best described as a very good Judas Priest album, and it's also worth mentioning that Roy Z's production is superb. For the first time, I felt that this was a Priest album that was looking backwards instead of forwards. You can hear all eras of the band throughout the record, masterfully done in such a way that it sounds cohesive and definitive. After the dodgy Demolition, this was Judas Priest back in the game. Stand-out tracks for me are Judas Rising, Worth Fighting For, and the magnificent ballad Angel. This is also the album with the thirteen and a bit minute song about the Lochness monster. Sometimes I forget that they actually did that. Utterly ludicrous, but great nonetheless.

#13 Stained Class (1978).
Now, this is classic 70's Heavy Metal. The song Exciter spawned the seeds of what would soon become Thrash Metal. This record also has that brilliant cover of Spooky Tooth's Better By You, Better Than Me, which would be the recording used against them in that ridiculous court case over a decade later. It was the one where the band were accused of putting subliminal messages in their music to encourage teenagers to kill themselves. This album also features Beyond The Realms Of Death which is an undeniable Metal classic.

#12 Sad Wings Of Destiny (1976).
After Rocka Rolla, Judas Priest took a huge leap forward with Sad Wings Of Destiny, creating their first masterpiece of many. They honed their sound, and this album is consequently packed with Priest classics that are still played live today. This record also has huge historical significance and has been cited as an influence by countless Metal bands. For me, the best tracks are Victim Of Changes, The Ripper, and Tyrant.

#11 Sin After Sin (1977).
Produced by Deep Purple's Roger Glover, this was Judas Priest's major label debut. It is also a hugely significant release in the history of Metal. Opening track, Sinner, spawned a million other Metal bands by itself. What a fucking track! My other favourites are Dissident Aggressor and their phenomenal cover of Joan Baez's Diamonds And Rust.

#10 Jugulator (1997).
After the departure of Rob Halford, who said that he wanted to play heavier music, this album feels like the rest of Judas Priest shoving his statement where the sun doesn't shine, as it's the most brutal record they've ever released. It had been a few years since Rob quit, and the band recruited the then-unknown Tim 'Ripper' Owens as their new lead vocalist. I remember wondering what this new version of Judas Priest would sound like, as so much had changed within the world of Metal. Before its release, I heard the song Bullet Train on a CD that came with a magazine, and I was so happy I nearly cried. Ripper sounded like a hybrid of Rob and Layne Stayley from Alice In Chains. He was perfect. The music was post-Painkiller Priest with a modern de-tuned heaviness that matched the most popular Metal bands of that time, like Fear Factory and Machine Head. My favourites, along with Bullet Train, are the title track and the epic Cathedral Spires.

#9 Point Of Entry (1981).
This album gets a lot of shit, and is widely regarded as a poor follow-up to British Steel. OK, so it may not be as good as one of the greatest Heavy Metal albums of all time, but it is still a 'mostly' amazing album in its own right. Let's face it, Heading Out To The Highway, Hot Rockin', Desert Plains, and Solar Angels are four of the coolest Rock/Metal songs ever written. Anyone who thinks this record is a dud needs a new pair of ears.

#8 Killing Machine (1978).
Killing Machine
, also known as Hell Bent For Leather in America, is another bona-fide classic. I know plenty of Judas Priest fans who believe that this is their best. I get that. It's packed with sacred gems including Hell Bent For Leather, Running Wild, Delivering The Goods, and the funky Burnin' Up. It also has that cheesy hit single Take On The World. I also love their cover of Fleetwood Mac's The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown).

#7 Firepower (2018).
Wow. Just fucking wow! This is the ultimate comeback album and their best record since Painkiller. Despite having the dream team of Tom Allom and Andy Sneap producing, I still didn't expect Firepower to be this good. Rob Halford's voice seems to have become twenty years younger, and everyone involved is simply on-point. What makes Firepower so much better than their previous few releases is down to the song-writing. This is a brilliantly put together album that sounds 100% Judas Priest, yet manages to stay fresh, modern, and utterly essential. My top picks from this beast are Firepower, Never The Heroes, Rising From Ruins, Spectre, No Surrender, and the utterly ridiculous yet wonderful Flame Thrower. CLICK HERE to read the review I wrote when it came out.

#6 Ram It Down (1988).
Chronologically, this record sits between Turbo and Painkiller, which I think explains it quite well. It has the upbeat euphoric vibes and riffage of Turbo, but also some speed and aggressive playing that we will hear more of on Painkiller a couple of years later. Ram It Down isn't all good though. Their cover of Johnny B Goode is just horrid. That minor gripe aside, Ram It Down has some of the best Judas Priest Songs ever. It's fun, crackles with energy and life, and sounds truly massive. I absolutely adore Come And Get It, Heavy Metal, Ram It Down, Hard As Iron, and the epic Blood Red Skies. The latter features some of Rob Halfords finest singing ever. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up every time I hear that song.

#5 British Steel (1980).
British Steel
was a massive success for Judas Priest and features the legendary Breaking The Law. Strangely enough, that has never been one of my favourite Priest songs. I like it, but they have so many better songs in their repertoire. Regardless, there is no questioning this classic. The track-listing is legendary track after legendary track. For me, the best are Rapid Fire, Metal Gods, The Rage, and the Heavy Metal party anthem Living After Midnight.

#4 Defenders Of The Faith (1984).
Defenders Of The Faith
is another timeless classic. It is to their back catalogue what pyramids are to Egypt. A very big deal indeed. Historic, gargantuan, timeless. Even that album cover is amazing. By the time this record came out, Judas Priest were the kings of Heavy Metal, and with a damn good reason. From the blistering opener, Freewheel Burning, the hits come hard and fast. My most essential picks from this one are Jawbreaker, Rock Hard Ride Free, The Sentinel, Eat Me Alive, and the dark, heavy, epic ballad Night Comes Down.

#3 Turbo (1986).
If the band have one album that has been unfairly berated over the years, it's Turbo. Let's get one thing clear. Anyone who doesn't like Turbo is a sexless, taste-free, gremlin who probably still lives with their mother, and has no right to call themselves a fan of Heavy Metal. This album sums up the excess of the 80's for me. It's an upbeat, masterpiece that's more about fast cars, sex, drugs, and the hot summer sun, than fictional monsters or any kind of misery or hardship. Big Hair, massive sunglasses, and amps turned up to eleven were the order of the day, and Judas Priest unleased the best album of that entire era.

There are lots of synthesisers here, plus synth guitars, electronic drum beats etc. Priest embraced modern technology and used it to further their music. I strongly suspect that the production values of Turbo were used as a template for Def Leppard's Hysteria, which went onto become one of the biggest selling albums of all time. Maybe I'm wrong? Just listen to them again and have a think about that one.

Turbo sits nicely alongside the massive Heavy Metal releases of that time from bands like Ratt, Kiss, and Motley Crue, but sounds a bit more futuristic.

I want to also point out that some of Rob Halford's most impressive and borderline inhuman vocals are on this record. Turbo boasts what may well be the greatest Heavy Metal vocal performances of all time. I can't emphasise how mind blowing he is.

I still wonder why the band never shot a music video for Wild Nights, Hot & Crazy Days. That track would have owned MTV back in 1986. Turbo Lover and Locked In were chosen instead, which, to be fair, are also awesome.

The songs on Turbo are out of this world. Out In The Cold is an epic masterpiece, and, even now, when I watch them open the Fuel For Life live DVD with it, sends shivers of excitement down my spine. 

I also adore the sexually charged Hot For Love and Reckless, the latter being the song that nearly ended up on the Top Gun soundtrack. 

Turbo may be fun, commercial, and consequently not the album some fans wanted from Judas Priest, but there's no denying that it's utterly phenomenal.

#2 Painkiller (1990).
Apparently, back then, many fans and journalists thought that, by the end of the 80's, Judas Priest had lost their edge. God, they were fucking stupid. Who underestimates Judas Priest? Painkiller is classic Priest with a new found ferocity, partly due to the addition of Scott Travis on drums. This is a perfect Heavy Metal album with a contemporary, almost extreme edge and continues to be cited as a huge influence on bands across the globe even to this day. 

The title track is just so fast and heavy. Rob's vocals are like a ravenous banshee, tearing the listeners face off after the first few seconds. The lead guitar work is exceptional, and it's all just so relentless. It may well be the greatest Heavy Metal song ever written. 

Painkiller also saw Judas Priest tour with new kids on the block, Pantera, and you can hear how this record had a huge influence on their legendary Cowboys From Hell album.

The songs are all on-point too. There are no fillers here, just exemplary slabs of impeccable Heavy Metal. Obviously, I love the whole record, but were I to be forced at gunpoint to choose my absolute favourites, I'd have to go for the title track, Night Crawler, A Touch Of Evil, and Between The Hammer & The Anvil.

#1 Screaming For Vengeance (1982).
Beating the legendary Painkiller to the number one spot by a hair on a gnat's bollock, Screaming For Vengeance takes gold. 

If having the coolest title of any Metal album ever wasn't enough, just look at that cover! Some kind of robot bird of prey with missiles on its back swooping down, no doubt to tear apart some duplicitous Kerrang! journalist or some other fucker, all against a backdrop that looks like a burning red sun. When one gazes upon its cover, there is no doubt that Screaming For Vengeance contains the greatest Heavy Metal music ever.

Starting of with The Hellion, which is the most iconic Heavy Metal intro of all time, the following majesty of Electric Eye is irrefutable. Right here, Judas Priest  redefined and updated Heavy Metal music. The bar had truly been reset very high indeed. No prizes for guessing what that bar was made from- Judas Priest Heavy Metal! (Sorry, I got carried away there).

Those guitar tones on the intro to Bloodstone must have sounded like they'd come from the future in a time machine. Considering it came out in 1982, the whole album still sounds so vital and alive. Like AC/DC's Back In Black, it may be vintage, but it never gets old. 

Packed with killer tracks like (Take These) Chains, You've Got Another Thing Comin', Fever, and the super-catchy Devil's Child, Screaming For Vengeance is a record you can listen to in its entirety, time and time again, without ever wanting to skip tracks. 

So there you have it. If you disagree with me, let me know how wrong you are in the comments section. Incidentally, Judas Priest have apparently written plenty of material for a new studio album and will be tracking it very soon. I guess it'll come out after their belated anniversary shows next summer. Before then, I'm expecting the release of KK Downing's new band 'KK's Priest' featuring Ripper Owens on vocals. I'm really excited for that too. Who knows, maybe KK will re-join Judas Priest someday? Whatever happens, 2021 is sure to be a great year for Priest fans.


No comments

Post a Comment

Blog Layout Designed by pipdig