Created out of the same ashes as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest formed in Birmingham, England. Turning depressive poor elements of their youth into their songwriting, they elevated metal to the next level. The melodic and high pitched vocals of Rob Halford blended with the two guitar attack of Glenn Tipton and KK Downing set the standard for metal.
Judas Priest have had a major impact on the metal movement in five straight decades. With seventeen releases under their belt, their music is distinctively diverse. One of their greatest characteristics is that they never look to repeat themselves and have had the courage to step out of the box and challenge the listener. Judas Priest are one of the most influential bands in metal history. Here is our take on the best releases of their career. Also make sure to check out our list of the Best Judas Priest Songs.
1980 was a legendary year for metal with blockbuster releases by Black Sabbath, AC/DC and Iron Maiden. The metal world was changing and no release brought on those changes as much as their sixth release British Steel. Their breakout release in America, it includes classics “Living After Midnight” and “Breaking The Law.”
Opener “Rapid Fire” is a breathtaking non stop attack. A furious pace is set as Halford spews forth his lyrics like someone possessed. The reggae inspired “The Rage” showcases their diversity and how they are more than just a metal band. British Steel is one of the most pivotal releases in metal history as it helped bring metal to the masses.
Recommended Track: “Rapid Fire”
Painkiller is quite simply the heaviest record of Judas Priest’s career. The title track literally changed metal in the early ’90s and helped expand the power metal genre greatly. Halford was still at the top of his game and has never sounded as vicious or angry throughout. One would never know that internally they were having issues, as the
songwriting is intense and sophisticated.
Halford’s last album before returning eleven years later, Painkiller also introduced the world to monster drummer Scott Travis. There isn’t a weak moment as “A Touch Of Evil,” “One Shot At Glory” and the fantastic “Night Crawler” find the band incredibly still at their peak on their twelfth release.
Recommended Track: “Painkiller”
With the most definitive opening in metal history, Screaming For Vengeance wastes no time to punch you in the throat. After the less than stellar Point Of Entry, Priest were back, better than ever. “The Hellion/Electric Eye” is metal royalty. Tipton and Downing execute some of the best riffs in metal history throughout.
Songs like “Riding On The Wind,” “Devil’s Child” and the fiery title track find them retaining their heavy side that they had perfected by this point. They also include pop elements in the insanely popular “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” “Pain and Pleasure” and “(Take These) Chains.” It is the most commercially successful release of
their career and boosted their popularity into the stratosphere.
Recommended Track: “Electric Eye”
Building on the success of the phenomenal Screaming For Vengeance, 1984’s Defenders Of The Faith takes it to another level. Priest were at the height of their popularity and penned uptempo songs that worked flawlessly in a live setting. Halford’s melodies are on point as it features some of the most memorable of his career.
Tracks like “Freewheel Burning,” “Jawbreaker,” “Love Bites,” “Rock Hard Ride Free” and “The Sentinel” all play like it’s a “best of” album. The hard hitting “Eat Me Alive” and the moody “Night Comes Down” are two of the most underrated in the bands stellar catalog. One of Priest’s most hard hitting records, it has only gotten better with time.
Recommended Track: “Freewheel Burning”
Judas Priest’s third release Sin After Sin found them incorporating heavier themes into their songwriting. Recorded over six days, the album was produced by Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover. This is the first true proto-thrash release as tracks like “Sinner,” “Let Us Pray” and “Dissident Aggressor” are all blazing with quick tempos, fast picking and explosive double bass drumming. “Dissident Aggressor” is so ahead of its time that it still stands as one of their heaviest songs.
Session drummer Simon Phillips is a monster behind the kit as his energy is splattered throughout the release. They also showcase a different side of their writing with the gorgeous “Last Rose Of Summer” and the haunting “Here Come The Tears.” Halford’s vocals are legendary with an impassioned performance that shows why he is the metal god. Also included is a fantastic cover of Joan Baez’s “Diamonds & Rust” which Judas Priest completely make their own.
Recommended Track: “Dissident Aggressor”
At a time in metal history where the legendary three of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple were all on a decline, Judas Priest stepped in and released one of the most important records in their history. Their sophomore release Sad Wings Of Destiny was a breath of fresh air at a time when metal desperately needed resurgence. Introducing the larger than life screams of Halford’s vocals, the twin guitar attack of Tipton and Downing and the uptempo galloping staple of heavy metal developed a completely new sound.
“Victim Of Changes” is a true epic that raised the bar and is one of the best tracks ever put on tape. The combustible “Tyrant,” “The Ripper” and “Island Of Domination” all blend aggressive riffing with over the top vocals. The true genius is the dynamic wonder of “Dreamer Deceiver” and “Deceiver,” which perfected the use of dynamics. The Queen inspired “Epitaph” shows their ability to morph their sound, as they weren’t pigeonholed to a specific sound. Without Sad Wings Of Destiny, metal would have taken a completely different path.
Recommended Track: “Victim Of Changes”