What were Judas Priest’s “Best Years”?

I’m kind of in a bad way right now, and it’s exam season. Despite this, I’m going to try to keep the ball rolling. Here’s a short piece on the different eras of one of my favourite bands, Judas Priest.

I think Judas Priest’s biggest time in the spotlight (definitely their biggest time for sales) was from British Steel (1980) up to Turbo (1986), at which point they got too commercial and then crashed with Ram it Down in 1988 (An album I still really like.) After that we got Painkiller (1991), but Halford must have still been interested in spiralling outward, because shortly after he exited the band and started a solo career. (Not on purpose, there was an issue with the label, but he really wanted to do solo work)

Back in the beginning, Rocka Rolla (1974) to around Stained Class (1978), they were considered by some to be a band with an experimental style. The kind of early metal that still mixed with the blues and was still called rock (check Dreamer Deceiver). The pinnacle of this sound, I think most would agree, was Stained Class. Afterwards Hell Bent for Leather dropped; the transition into the British Steel era.

When Halford left after Painkiller, the band died. There was no Judas Priest from 1992-1995. It was during those exact years that Halford’s solo band Fight ran. Other ex-Priest members weren’t slouching either. Scott Travis actually joined Fight, and Tiptonn recorded material that would later become Baptizm of Fire (1997) and Edge of the World (2006). It was around then that the band decided to get back together. They had everyone except for a singer, (Halford would move on to 2wo in 1994 and then “Halford” in 1999) so they started auditioning. One day Scott Travis found someone who had a crazy vocal range, and even knew how to perform all the Priest classics.

And thus, in 1996, the so called “Ripper era” was born. With Halford gone, Glenn Tipton took the reins (I think) as the leader. A year later Jugulator came out, and it was a little intense, but it made sense after Painkiller. Demolition (2001) was probably the biggest black sheep of the Judas Priest discography, but I have a theory about that. K.K. Downing wrote a lot less of the songs on it (5/13), which meant that Glenn Tipton penned 60% of the album without him. And compare it to Batptizm of Fire! They sound very similar. With Tim Owens as the vocalist it’s true that Priest sounded different, but it wasn’t because of him. It was because the writing team of Halford, K.K., and Tipton, went from 3 to 2, and then almost to 1. (This may have been the beginning of the end for K.K.)

Since Halford returned in 2003, I feel like the band has looking back and trying to figure themselves out. Angel of Retribution (2004) was highly retrospective, referencing a lot of older songs and styles, while adding a new touch. Released in 2008, Nostradamus was an experimental step in an interesting direction. I think with a bit more editing and research it could have been great, but it comes off a little longwinded. Redeemer of Souls, like Retribution, feels like a look back, but also a look forward with songs like, “The Beginning of the End” and “Going Down in Flames”.

The new album, Firepower, looks highly energetic. It sounds like a fusion of Halford’s Resurrection, Jugulator, and Angel of Retribution. They aren’t messing around this time around. Although it’s hard to tell with a 15 second clip, I feel like they’re returning to a more natural direction.

For me, their best years are modern Priest. I like to see what they have been doing most recently, and I want to make the best of the newer albums while the band is still kicking. When Ian Hill was asked what his favourite was, he said, “Ask anybody that, I always say ‘the last album’.” Hill explains proudly, “Which at that moment in time it is the new album. Just because we’ve spent so much time on it, you know? But it is” (Macek). This sense of pride In the end, the “best era” for Judas Priest should be the one that matches your own tastes best. And don’t be afraid to check them all out from time to time as well.


Works Cited

Macek, J.C. “‘We’re All Fans’: An Interview with Judas Priest’s Ian Hill.” PopMatters, PopMatters, 1 June 2017, www.popmatters.com/193529-were-all-fans-an-interview-with-judas-priests-ian-hill-2495529544.html.

Judas Priest has been one of my favourite bands since around August of 2014 when Redeemer of Souls came out to . I listened to them pretty seriously until around early 2017. I still listen to them here and there, but my main band at the moment is Falling Up.

Daniel Triumph.

P. S.

I do have another story in mind, but it’s going to take a bit of work. Hopefully I get it out later this week.

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