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Tuesday Two-Fer I: Judas Priest

Today's post is from our friend HIM. This is a special Tuesday series we'll explore over the next few weeks, all penned by HIM.

My distaste for “lists” is well-established. Increasingly, it seems that every metal site with space to fill features lists of the “greatest” or the “best” or the “ultimate” songs by bands. Often, these just reduce down to whatever songs the author likes, often with a thin veneer of justification as against any other competing list of its kind.

I tend towards the middle period of Judas Priest. That is partially a function of when I started listening to them, partially a result of what I think “makes” Priest so awesome. Can I enjoy a cover of Joan Baez? Sure. Can I get behind, ahem, “Ram It Down”? You bet.

First Pick: “The Rage,” British Steel (1980)

It is hard for me to find a Priest song that so perfectly captures all the different tones in the ‘classic’ Priest canon. Does it rock hard? Undoubtedly. Does it features quirky digressions? Ditto. Is Halford’s scream used like a weapon, dispatched only when needed? Certainly. The song retains some of the lyrical elements from their earlier years, while not straying too far into the paint-by-the-numbers range displayed on later releases.

Second Pick: “Night Comes Down,” Defenders Of The Faith (1984)

I realize that many see Defenders as Screaming-lite. I see it as more of a continuation, and one that doesn’t suffer by comparison to the slightly better previous release. This song shows how easy it is for Judas Priest to switch into reflective mode, only to ramp it right up when the moment requires. It also highlights the variations in Halford’s vocals, the way he can amp up the emotional content without leaning too hard on those screams for which he is rightfully celebrated.

Honorable Mention: “Devil’s Child,” Screaming for Vengeance (1982). Don’t drink all of Priest’s gin.

Dishonorable Mention: “Johnny B. Goode,” Ram It Down (1988). Not goode. Not goode at all.

Reader Comments (14)

Great post - Defenders of the Faith is one of the first albums I ever truly fell in love with, and it made me realize just how powerful & heavy music could be. I got it for Christmas when I was 11 or 12 and it was basically glued into my Walkman for a solid few months. There is a ton of great Priest, but nothing will ever beat Defenders for me.
March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBryon
British Steel was the Priest album that “shivered me timbers” so to speak. I’d seen them on the their Hell Bent for leather tour in like 1978(?) , where they opened for Angel. I’d liked them before that, but when they released British Steel and I head the crunching guitars of Grinder, it was over. 😂😂😂 They only got better with Screaming and Defenders. A veritable juggernaut during that period 🤟
March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGary
Still one of my favorite bands. Defenders of the The Faith is right up there on my list, as is Painkiller. And Angel of Retribution is pretty darn good too. The new one is not half bad either.

Can't go wrong with the Mighty Priest. Except maybe like Him says, Johnny B Good. That was wrong.

The Metal God still has it. Shame KK and Glenn are no longer on the stage though. Richie is a good fit though. I'm just glad I got to see the original line up, at least once.
March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRita
What, No "Point of Entry". The album was stuck in between two absolute classic metal records, British Steel and Screaming for Vengeance and does not get it's due. I'll have to admit it was a somewhat diluted metal sounding album. It would be much more accurate to say that it was a straight up rock record. If given the chance today go and listen to Desert Plains very loud and tell me it doesn't make your heart beat a little faster. For my money, Screaming for Vengeance may be the quintessential metal record for all time and Defenders of the Faith was not far behind. The Defenders tour was the first time I saw them live and it was a wonderful night.
March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJCD
For me, my favorite Priest era is Stained Class through British Steel. the production on those three albums is so thick and ballsy without a lot of the extra reverb that they started exploring during the rest of the 80s. After British steel, although I enjoyed everything they put out, the next album that truly blew me away was Painkiller. Scott travis behind the drumkit gave them a huge shot in the arm to get back to the heavy stuff and stop trying to follow commercial trends. Gary, I also saw Priest on the hell bent tour. It was in 1979, and they were opening for KISS on their Dynasty tour. KISS was falling apart at the time, so Priest easily blew KISS off the stage, at least from a musical standpoint.
March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBob
JCD, I'm with ya on desert Plains. absolutely phenomenal song. That said, I never liked the way they did it live. They sped up the tempo in concert which killed the majestic quality of the studio version.
March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBob
@Bob They toasted Angel that night I saw them also. Glen and KK blew me away. I remember saying to my friend Ed that "these guys should be headlining". Angels stage show was great,but musically Priest smoked them (much like the bud we were partaking in during the show at the old Agricultural hall in Allentown) Ah,hazy memories... lmao
March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGary
Gary, you and I really need to share war stories sometime. I forgot that we had similar stomping grounds back in the day. the '79 Priest and KISS show was at the Spectrum in Philly, and the dank haze in the air was particularly thick that night. speaking of Allentown, did you ever go to the old airport Music Hall? It was that big place that held bingo tournaments during the week, and concerts on the weekend. I saw tons of amazing shows there in the 80s.
March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBob

Thanks for JP post on eve of their latest US Tour.

I was 14 when Defenders tour blew me away and I haven’t looked back..

Like others; Screaming & Defenders is ranked equally. British Steel #2. Painkiller #3. Sin After Sin #4.

What a band!
March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKixchix
I do agree, Bob. They played it way too fast, at least on the recorded versions I have heard. When played at the correct speed and at adequate volume it is devastating.
March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJCD
Bob. Yeah! Saw Blue Oyster Cult in there! Also the Allentown fairgrounds would have some good summertime bills. And the old Spectrum in Philly is where I saw pretty much everyone back then. We were down there at least once a month for whomever was there that was even half way decent. Probably saw at least 100 shows there over the years. I’d bet we were in that building together more than once over the years. Lol 👍
March 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGary
British Steel was it for me. We even performed Rapid Fire at a Air Band contest at my high school. 😆 Only the pot heads knew of Priest at that time. Does anyone remember Air Band contest or even pot heads? Lol
March 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBadland
Great topic, HIM!

I’m all over the lot with these guys, also one of my fave bands, ranking just below all my classic faves (Zeppelin, Sabbath, etc.) but well above all the Hair Metal sh*t I listen to (Crüe, RATT, WASP, Cinderella, Junkyard, Poison, etc.) ...

My favorite tracks range from “Exciter” (my top Priest song pick) to, yes, brace yourselves — “Johnny B. Goode” !!!
March 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
Some awesome responses everyone. Glad I could get a conversation going (unlike my AC/DC bass post . . . which was a total cricket farm!).

I hope my subsequent posts have the same impact. And I know that some of my choices will be a touch controversial. But what else sparks debate?

Thanks again to Allyson for giving me the space to mull over topics related to metal. Much appreciated.
March 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHim

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