Judas Priest are an English heavy metal band from Birmingham, formed in 1969. Judas Priest's core line-up consists of bass player Ian Hill, vocalist Rob Halford and guitarists Glenn Tipton and K. K. Downing; their drummer is Scott Travis. They have been cited as an influence on many heavy metal musicians and bands. Their popularity and status as one of the definitive heavy metal bands has earned them the nickname "Metal Gods" from their song of the same name. They have sold over 35 million albums worldwide.
Musical Style and Influence
Judas Priest were one of the first heavy metal bands to modernize the twin-guitar sound, with the duo of K. K. Downing and Glenn Tipton. They combined this sound with Rob Halford's unique vocal style create their own unique style of heavy-rock. They are cited often for their influence on heavy metal.
Many people, including influential musicians and members of prominent hard rock and heavy metal bands, believe that among the foundations for what would define "pure" heavy metal were three early Judas Priest albums: Sad Wings of Destiny (1976), Sin After Sin (1977), and Stained Class (1978).
The band often played faster than most rock groups of the time and brought a more "metallic" sound to the guitars. The songs varied from simple and straightforward tunes (e.g. "Starbreaker") to fairly structured material, changing from fast and loud to slower tempo and softer tunes in one song (e.g., "Victim of Changes", "Run of the Mill", "Beyond the Realms of Death"). Some songs, such as 1978's "Exciter", were groundbreaking for their sheer ferocity and speed; others, like "Dissident Aggressor", "Sinner" and "Tyrant", are considered to be the heaviest songs of their day, and today are considered classic metal tracks.
Their 1978 album Killing Machine (retitled Hell Bent for Leather and released in 1979 in the USA) saw a change of direction towards shorter, poppier, more American-influenced songs. The following release, British Steel, (April 14, 1980), took an even sharper turn in the same direction and was perhaps the first heavy metal album to record radio-friendly songs with pop hooks, in a concise format.
The band's next effort, Point of Entry (February 26, 1981), is harder to define — the sound was very "raw" (i.e. minimal sound manipulation) and the songs were somewhat moody, and paced at a slower than usual tempo. As guitarist Glenn Tipton later admitted, Point of Entry had the tough task of living up to the standards set by its predecessor, and failed to do so. Subsequent albums Screaming for Vengeance (July 17, 1982), which contained the popular radio hit "You've Got Another Thing Comin'", and Defenders of the Faith (January 4, 1984) once again set high standards in intensity and production, and continued to influence the sonic shape of heavy metal. Turbo (April 15, 1986) found the group introducing a "synth-guitar" sound to their metal template.
Ram It Down (1988), an album containing several cast-off and reworked tracks from the previous album Turbo, including the eponymous tune, garnered little commercial attention. The style was heavier than the material found on Turbo but still contained the synth elements of the previous release.
For Painkiller (1990) Judas Priest returned to a more straightforward heavy metal style with more technical and double-bass drumming from new member Scott Travis. This album represents one of the heaviest and most intense in the band's discography, with Halford's trademark high-pitched wail rising to an ear-splitting shriek on certain tracks. Indeed, Florida death metal band Death have even covered the title track on their album The Sound of Perseverance.
Judas Priest also released two albums with Tim 'Ripper' Owens following Rob Halford's departure. Jugulator (1997) was given mixed reviews, although it contains the epic "Cathedral Spires" which became one of Ripper's more popular songs. Demolition (2001) was generally considered another disappointment, although holding some memorable tracks.
Judas Priest's Angel of Retribution (2005), which was Rob Halford's first Judas Priest album since 1990, contributed to the current revival of classic heavy metal. It contains songs in the band's classic style, such as "Judas Rising" and "Hellrider", as well as mid-tempo songs with clear and prominent drums and less prominent guitars ("Worth Fighting For", "Wheels of Fire"), a ballad ("Angel"), and the epic ("Lochness") which runs 13:28, a length of song the band had not done since its concerts in the early 1970s.
The latest installment in the Judas Priest discography, Nostradamus was released in June 2008. The double-CD/triple-LP concept album details the life of the 16th century French prophet Michel de Nostredame. The style is mostly slow to mid-paced heavy metal, though some songs (particularly the title track) still display the band's trademark speed metal sound.
Influence on the Genre
Judas Priest have influenced all metal music since the late-mid 70s either directly or indirectly. Their influence was so important that MTV.com named Judas Priest the second most important band in heavy metal, just behind Black Sabbath.
In addition to the sound, Judas Priest are also known for being revolutionaries in heavy metal fashion. Rob Halford began incorporating a macho/biker/S&M style into his look as early as 1978 (to coincide with the release of their album Killing Machine), and the rest of the band followed. It became a mainstay in heavy metal; soon, several other bands, particularly of the NWOBHM and early black metal movements, began incorporating Halford's fashion into their look as well. This sparked a revival in metal in the early '80s, and catapulted them to fame, in both the mainstream and underground. Even in the present, it is not uncommon to find metal artists sporting such a look at concerts.