The Best and Worst of Judas Priest (Part 1)

Source
The author's ticket stub from Priest's TURBO tour in 1986. Yes, Virginia,  it was actually possible to see two awesome bands for less than 20 bucks back then.
The author's ticket stub from Priest's TURBO tour in 1986. Yes, Virginia, it was actually possible to see two awesome bands for less than 20 bucks back then. | Source

A Trip Through Time With the Metal Gods...

In 1986 I attended my first-ever heavy metal concert: Judas Priest's TURBO tour at the Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey, with Dokken in the support slot. (The ticket price -- yes, I still have the stub -- was a mere $15.50. Sheesh, I don't think that would even pay for your parking at the Meadowlands nowadays...) I was a sixteen year old metal nerd at the time, and needless to say I had the time of my life. Over the next 20+ years I would see literally hundreds of other concerts and bands (including three more Priest shows and two Rob Halford solo gigs), but through it all, Judas Priest has always represented the Gold Standard of the live metal experience for me.

As of this writing, the Judas Priest catalog encompasses seventeen studio albums, numerous live discs and an assortment of best-of/greatest hits compilations. In this three-part Hub, I'll be taking you directly into the mouth of the Priest Beast and listing what I feel are their finest (and not-so-finest) works. I'll be sticking mainly to the studio albums, though one or two live discs may make the cut as well. Put on your studded leather undergarments and follow me on a trip through the history of a band that helped shape Heavy Metal as we know it today!

THE ESSENTIAL PRIEST:

This entry will cover the albums that I feel represent the cream of the Judas Priest crop. This is a six-pack of the absolute finest, purest Heavy Metal ever to exist on this planet or any alternate dimensions thereof. In other words, if you're about to enter the Witness Protection Program and can only take one Judas Priest album with you, make sure it's one of these.

SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE (CBS/Sony, 1982) Five simple words are all you need to know about this album: "You've Got Another Thing Comin'." SCREAMING was Priest's breakthrough album in America and remains their best selling record, deservedly so. In addition to the aforementioned signature song, SCREAMING also features the crushing classics "Hellion/Electric Eye," "Bloodstone," and "Devil's Child." Basically, if you don't own this album, you have no business calling yourself a Judas Priest fan, or a Heavy Metal fan, for that matter.

SAD WINGS OF DESTINY (Gull/RCA, 1976) When fans of the Priest's later material start digging into the early stuff, they are often shocked at how different their late '70s albums sound. The band displayed a much more intricate, almost 'progressive' bent during their formative period, and SAD WINGS OF DESTINY in particular has held up extremely well over the years. This sophomore disc was a complete 180 degree turn from the rather basic, bluesy/Zeppelin-ish ROCKA ROLLA debut and sees the band starting to discover their "own" apocalyptic sound. Some of Rob Halford's most insanely high pitched vocals EVER can be found here. Key tracks: "Victim of Changes," "Tyrant," "Genocide," and the classic "The Ripper."

STAINED CLASS (CBS/Sony, 1978) Priest's fourth album was their most highly polished slab thus far, and the more energetic sound drew a line in the sand between their early "progressive rock" period and the simpler, yet more aggressive, metal style that would become their bread and butter for the next several decades. "Exciter" is considered in some circles to be the first-ever "speed metal" song, while the bombastic "Saints in Hell" and the epic ballad "Beyond the Realms of Death" continue to blow minds even all these years later.

UNLEASHED IN THE EAST (CBS/Sony, 1979) One of the finest live albums of the late 1970s, UNLEASHED... captured Judas Priest at the height of their late '70s power in front of a rabid Japanese audience. It's been argued for years in metal circles that this one should be re-titled "Unleashed In The Studio" due to persistent rumors of massive post-production tampering, but when the material sounds this good, does it really matter? The then-current songs sound killer and the sprawling, epic songs from the earliest JP albums take on a whole new, much nastier dimension in the live arena.

PAINKILLER (CBS/Sony, 1990) After dabbling (mostly unsuccessfully) in radio-friendly pop metal during the last half of the '80s, Judas Priest came roaring back to metal prominence with PAINKILLER, an intense collection of full throttle anthems that quickly gave notice to all of the younger, heavier thrash bands that had popped up while Priest were exploring other sonic pastures: "We're still here, we're not going anywhere, and we can still kick your ass." Respect!! Despite rave reviews and the highest profile the band had enjoyed in several years, Rob Halford shocked the metal world when he chose to leave Judas Priest at the end of the tour for this album. Thankfully, he eventually regained his senses (though it took a while...)!

BRITISH STEEL (CBS/Sony, 1980) Let me get this off my chest right off the bat: I'm officially sick of hearing "Living After Midnight" and "Breakin' The Law," because both songs have been played to death by rock radio over the past 30 years. Despite that, BRITISH STEEL remains one of the pillars of the Judas Priest catalog and was one of their first albums to achieve chart success (thanks, no doubt, in part to the music videos for the two aforementioned singles). If you look past those two overexposed tracks, you'll find killers like "Metal Gods," "Grinder," and "Rapid Fire." With this album, Judas Priest officially positioned themselves as leaders of the Metal movement.

Part 2 Coming Soon...y'all come back now, y'hear?

But wait, there's more! In part 2 of this series we'll explore some Priest albums which may not be quite as famous or high-profile as the ones shown above, but are still well known and loved by the band's hardcore fans. Join us, won't you?

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Which is your favorite of the albums discussed in this Hub?

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Comments 24 comments

A.A. Zavala profile image

A.A. Zavala 5 years ago from Texas

My favorite song was "Hell bent for Leather." It always turned my girlfriend on.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 5 years ago from The Garden State Author

Haha, that's cool. Stay tuned because the "Hell Bent for Leather" album will be making an appearance in Part II of this Hub, coming soon!


MarlonC profile image

MarlonC 5 years ago

Nice work, the metal scene is niche to non-existent where I come from but I like what little I have heard of the band so far and wish to thank you for a very informative insider's guide.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 5 years ago from The Garden State Author

Glad you liked it, Marlon... parts 2 and 3 of this Hub (covering the rest of the Priest discography) is in the works so watch this space!


MarlonC profile image

MarlonC 5 years ago

Listening to Screaming for Vengeance right now - wanted to thank you and thought you'd like to know :-)


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 5 years ago from The Garden State Author

Awesome! Hope you dig it and I'm honored to have been your guide. :)


TheHeavyReview profile image

TheHeavyReview 4 years ago

Great hub! My two favorites would have to be "Sad Wings..." and "Stained Class". Judas Priest are a very consistent band. Love "Painkiller" too, it showed that the band could excel at a different style.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Cool. STAINED CLASS is quite possibly my all time favorite Priest, THR... at any rate, it's the CD I reach for most often nowadays...


BayAreaLawyer profile image

BayAreaLawyer 4 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

Vengeance was my first Priest record, but Unleashed is the one that really made me a fan, which is weird because I normally don't like live albums that much. The versions of Diamonds and Rust and The Ripper on this album are just incredible.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx for your comment, BayAreaLawyer. I agree w/you on UNLEASHED... I'm generally not big on live albums either but that thing is a monster!! (Legend has it that most of the albums is not truly "live" anyway...haha)


BayAreaLawyer profile image

BayAreaLawyer 4 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

I'm okay with that, it's amazing. I wore the cassette out in my car tape player during the 80s!


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Me too, in fact if memory serves I went through two cassette copies back in the day before I finally upgraded to CD!!!


ScurvySkalliwag profile image

ScurvySkalliwag 4 years ago from Judith River, Montana

I dig Priest a lot. all eras have stuff to headbang to and stuff to scratch your head as well. No big deal though. I grew up in a biker household, so it was obvious to me as a teen in the late 70's that Halford was gay. Never really gave a rat's @$$. Dude could sing and perform, all that really matters in the end.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Haha, right on Skurvy. I never understood why so many people were "shocked" when Halford "came out," cuz to most of the Priest fans I knew, it had been screamingly obvious for years... and nobody cared cuz he was still the Metal God!!


Jordan X profile image

Jordan X 4 years ago from San Fernando Valley

2 words: Turbo Lover.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Would that be a "best" or a "worst" in your book, Jordan X?


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Updated with some new info about the forthcoming Priest album, "Redeemer of Souls!"


hotwebideas profile image

hotwebideas 2 years ago from New York

Great hub! I agree with the 6 albums you mentioned, but I do have to say that their last studio album Angel of Retribution was an amazing album as well. Maybe it is too new for this list, but the album definitely rocks and I saw Priest on the Angel of Retribution tour with Queensryche opening.

I am surprised that Hell Bent For Leather did not make the list of the top 6. I would suggest making it the top 7 with Hell Best For Leather added. That album has amazing songs as well and for me, Hell Bent For Leather was one of my favorite albums.

I do love that you added Unleashed in the East. I first discovered Judas Priest when they released Point of Entry and wanted to learn the older Priest material, so I went out and bought Unleashed in the East. You are right. Those older songs like Victim of Changes from Wings of Destiny sounded MUCH better on Unleashed as well as Sinner from Sin After Sin.

My first JP concert as during the Point of Entry tour in 1980 with Iron Maiden (Paul D'ianno) singing.

Going to read your part 2 ;)


hotwebideas profile image

hotwebideas 2 years ago from New York

Hey FatFreddysCat, the new album Redeemer Of Souls is FINALLY OUT! It is truly the best album since Painkiller! I think this is like if Rob Halford never left the band. And it has 18 studio tracks to boot!

I also mentioned your hub (this hub) in my new hub where I reviewed the new album, so check out my hubs where I review Redeemer of Souls. I thought it was only right since you worked your butt off on this 3-part hub ;)

Interestingly enough, the last track "Never Forget" has to the PRETTIEST Judas Priest song they have ever recorded. LOL


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Hi there hotweb... I haven't heard the new album in full yet, but picking up the CD is on my "to-do" list for the very near future.

I will check out your review of "Redeemer," thanks for the props!


Revolution Kev profile image

Revolution Kev 23 months ago from U.S.A.

I know the rumors about "Unleashed In The East" being post-produced in the studio are understandable, but I have a bootleg tape of a 1976 performance in Cleveland and it sounds incredible. I also saw Priest live in Toledo in the late 70's and again, amazing performance and sound live. They were/are certainly capable of sounding great in concert!


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 23 months ago from The Garden State Author

Hi Rev-Kev... thanks for your comment... I've seen JP live numerous times as well so I can also vouch for their excellence as a live band... as for those persistent rumors about "Unleashed," I guess only the band knows for sure.


Mark 13 months ago

Judas Priest will always have the edge over the other bands I like.it was at School on the bus that I first heard British Steel the song ''Breaking the Law'' caught my attention,interest asked the owner of the Boombox who was that and what is the album Iwas told...few weeks later I bought the album on vynil.Judas Priest's music helped me saw me through some dark periods in my life it gave me the will to gone on when I wanted to Give up.


John 4 months ago

I love every priest album,but for me defenders of the faith was their best album by far,and that's hard to say because there all so damn good.

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