Bands

Judas Priest

Origin – West Bromwich, England

Genres – Heavy metal

Years active – 1969–present

Website – judaspriest.com

Judas Priest are an English heavy metal band formed in West Bromwich in 1969. Despite an innovative and pioneering body of work in the latter half of the 1970s, the band struggled with indifferent record production, repeated changes of drummer, and lack of major commercial success or attention until 1980, when they adopted a more simplified sound on the album British Steel, which helped shoot them to rock superstar status.

The band’s membership has seen much turnover, including a revolving cast of drummers in the 1970s, and the temporary departure of singer Rob Halford in the early 1990s. The current line-up consists of Halford, guitarists Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner, bassist Ian Hill, and drummer Scott Travis. The band’s best-selling album is 1982’s Screaming for Vengeance with their most commercially successful line-up, featuring Halford, Tipton, Hill, guitarist K. K. Downing, and drummer Dave Holland. Tipton and Hill are the only two members of the band to appear on every album.

Halford’s operatic vocal style and the twin guitar sound of Downing and Tipton have been a major influence on metal and have been adopted by many bands. Their image of leather, spikes, and other taboo articles of clothing were widely influential during the glam metal era of the 1980s. The Guardian referred to British Steel as the record that defines heavy metal.

Judas Priest’s style has always been rooted in heavy metal, and many of their albums reflect diverse aspects of the genre. For example, their first album, Rocka Rolla (1974), is primarily rooted in heavy blues rock. From Sad Wings of Destiny (1976) through Stained Class (1978), their style was somewhat progressive, with complex guitar passages and poetic lyrics. Songs would often shift in dynamics and tempo, and the music was some of the heaviest of its day. This would later have a major influence on progressive metal bands.

1977’s Sin After Sin used a combination of double bass drum (or “double kick”) and rapid 16th bass rhythms combined with rapid 16th guitar rhythms used by Black Sabbath, Venom, and Motörhead that came to define the genre. While the double-bass rhythms of Judas Priest are generally measured and technical, the song “Dissident Aggressor” (1977) pushed an increase in “tempo and aggression” which was later adopted by other bands with a much harder-edged approach.

Starting with their fifth album, Killing Machine (1978), the band began to incorporate a more commercial, radio-friendly style to their music. British Steel has been referred to as the “record that, more than any other, codified what we mean by heavy metal”. The lyrics and music were simplified, and this style prevailed up to their seventh album, Point of Entry (1981). With their eighth album, Screaming for Vengeance (1982), the band incorporated a balance of these two styles.

This continued on Defenders of the Faith (1984). With the follow-up album, Turbo (1986), the band incorporated guitar synthesizers into its signature heavy metal sound. On 1988’s Ram It Down the band retained some of the more commercial qualities of Turbo but also returned to some of the fast tempo heavy metal found on their earlier works. This fast-tempo style continued with 1990’s Painkiller. Jugulator (1997) tried to incorporate some of the 1990s contemporary groove metal styles. Demolition (2001) has a more traditional heavy metal sound with nu metal elements. Following the return of Halford for Angel of Retribution and Nostradamus, the band returned to the style of its early albums.

The band’s popularity and status as one of the exemplary and influential heavy metal bands has earned them the nickname “Metal Gods” from their song of the same name.

Discography

Rocka Rolla (1974)

Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)

Sin After Sin (1977)

Stained Class (1978)

Killing Machine (1978)

British Steel (1980)

Point of Entry (1981)

Screaming for Vengeance (1982)

Defenders of the Faith (1984)

Turbo (1986)

Ram It Down (1988)

Painkiller (1990)

Jugulator (1997)

Demolition (2001)

Angel of Retribution (2005)

Nostradamus (2008)

Redeemer of Souls (2014)

Firepower (2018)

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