British Steel is a classic Heavy Metal album from Metal’s mid period. Judas Priest was the band that really bidged the gap between 70’s doom laden metal and 80’s Speed and heavier Metal…Iron Maiden/Metallica…etc.Let’s start with the albums strengths….Early Speed Metal….Rapid FireMetal Classics…….Metal GodsHidden Gems……….The Rage/SteelerHeavy but up-beat tracks…You Don’t have to be old to be wiseRadio staples….Breakin the Law/Livin After Midnight.At one time I was reluctent to re-visit this album becasue the Radio songs, along with the anthem UNITED seemed so over-played and dated…..however, the re-mastered preduction seems to breath new life into these tunes.The down side is that the two “Unreleased tracks” are quite unremarkable…The live version of Grinder is pretty cool, but the track Red,White, and Blue is horrible….Also, I refrain from giving more than 4 stars, because if you are not a fan of the Heavy Metal of that period, this album is probably not for you…..However, if you love Priest and have never picked this up on CD or then definetly but the re-master over the original CD release, becasue the sound is far more crisp and heavy…..Priest,Priest,Priest,Priest!
Metal Album Reviews[RSS]
In 1980, the musical landscape was going through some big changes. Punk rock and disco were considered dead, and new wave music was gaining popularity. However, in the U.K., a new musical scene was emerging: heavy metal. Many bands came out in this time period including Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Diamond Head, Angel Witch, Witchfinder General, and of course Judas Priest. Now, the band had been around for years, but this was when they started gaining more mainstream recognition. In fact, many people credit Judas Priest for influencing the whole British metal scene. On this album, the band went for a more commercial sound that was hinted at on their previous album, Hell Bent for Leather (1979). However, the band still manages to keep their trademark ass-kicking sound.
The album begins with the speed metal song Rapid Fire. Fast paced guitar riffs start the song, a bit of drum pounding, and Rob Halford growls, “Pounding the world, like a battering ram.” Very old school speed metal right here. Listening to this song is like someone throwing concrete blocks at your head. Glenn Tipton and KK Downing really display their guitasr abilities well on this album and this song is no exception, the guitar solos they play on here are FAST. The song segues into the more mid-paced Metal Gods. I love the part when Rob sings “Fearing for our lives, reaped by robot scythes.” And then he starts chanting “Metal Gods” It may be a slower song, but it is still heavy as hell. Next is Breaking the Law, a very commercial and catchy song that I am sure everyone knows. The riffs on here are just powerful, I really can’t get enough of this one. United is VERY anthemic, it’s almost impossible not to sing along. This would be an awesome song to hear in concert. Another well known song by the band. Speaking of hits, Living after Midnight is probably one of the most mainstream songs the band has ever made. I can guarantee you that you will drive your family crazy when you sing this one in the shower. This song is very pop-metal flavored, but it still rocks. I wish more fans would give it a chance. And you know you love that guitar solo!
Grinder is a tough and heavy number. Those riffs are just mean, as is Rob when he growls “Grinder looking for the meat, Grinder wants you to eat.” Cheesy? Yes but awesome? Hell yeah! Tell me you don’t feel like destroying something! You Don’t Have to be Old to be Wise is another killer song with a good message. Very catchy and insightful. I love the part in the middle where it seems to quiet down, and then BAM, the guitar solo kicks your ass across the street. The Rage is another mid-paced song, and it is pretty damn heavy. Ian Hill does a nice bass solo at the start. Then a few guitar notes, and then the song really kicks in. Like I said, it is slow but crushing. Guitar players will drool over this one. Steeler is an awesome closer, it is another fast song. Not the speed metal attack of Rapid Fire, but close enough. WICKED guitar solo on this one. I love the end when the band just rocks out, that piece right there is some pretty good old school speed metal.
The bonus tracks are also good. The live version of Grinder rocks (Rob sure can get a crowd going) and Red White and Blue is an unreleased track. It is a very emotional song and even the band admitted that they wanted it to bring a tear to your eye when you heard it. Nice keyboard playing on this one. i wonder why it was never released.
So there you have it. One of the best known albums of the early 80s British heavy metal scene. Anyone who has the slightest interest in heavy metal must buy this album. Ignore the people that say it is “too commercial” screw that. There are some mainstream tracks, but overall, don’t expect anything less than heavy metal. And you gotta love any album that has a razor blade with the words BRITISH STEEL written on it on the cover!
This was the first Judas Priest album I ever got, and along with Black Sabbath’s “Heaven And Hell” (which I also got around the same time, summer ‘81), these are my two “Desert Island Discs”. I’ve owned various permutations of both on vinyl, cassette and CD.
This remaster is, of course, excellent, but curious in a couple of ways.
1. Why change the track order? It was fine as-was.
2. The extra tracks are more of a curiosity than anything else. The live “Grinder” is excellent, but “Red, White and Blue” is from the “Turbo” sessions (in my estimation, Priest’s lowest point) and is a typical mid-80’s lighters-in-the-air chant-along. Clever (if contrived) title, though, since both the British and U.S. flags are red, white and blue.
However, as to the actual music, this is music that has, and will last, the test of time. At this time the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was happening in the UK, where bands would go to a studio, set up, play live, and put the finished product out as a record (the early Iron Maiden and Saxon efforts were done this way). Priest did this on “British Steel” and the results showed the new upstarts that the elder statesmen had as much energy as they did.
Some have said that Priest “commercialised” on this album. With the exception of “Living After Midnight”, I disagree. This is as heavy as anything they’ve done, the Tipton/Downing guitars are well upfront, and Rob Halford (with hair!) sounds as angry as ever. Listen closely, bass fans: Ian Hill is actually AUDIBLE doing the intro to “The Rage”!
Dave Holland (is he still in prison?) made his debut on this album, and while he is the weakest drummer Priest ever had (not a patch on predecessor Les Binks or successor Scott Travis), he does a credible job here, though his drum sound is a bit “boxy”. Still, though, he’d have to have done his drum tracks on syn-drums to let these excellent songs down…but wait, he did that on “Turbo”.
As stated, this is the first Priest album I ever got, and I would recommend it as the first Priest album to buy (other than one of the many compilations) to a neophyte Priest fan.
They did other good, sometimes excellent, albums after this, but their steel was never this sharp again.
What can be said about the great JP and their contributions to the Heavy Metal genre? Other than Black Sabbath, these guys were soley responsible for what I consider to be TRUE Heavy Metal…. A “crunching” guitar assault, “Head-pummeling” tempos, and “soaring” vocals abound. And as far as “looks” go, this band epitomized the visual side of the genre BETTER than any band before or since….literally Hell bent for Leather…and studs…and chains…and boots.
Although “British Steel” is not my all-time favorite from the band (that HAS to go to “Screaming”), I feel it contains a varied mix of music that encompasses what made this band so acssesable and likeable. Metal Anthems such as “Breaking the Law”, “Grinder”, “Metal Gods” and “Livin’ After Midnight” can still be heard on FM stations across the land. Cult followers of the band would surely cite cuts such as “Rapid Fire”, “The Rage” and “Steeler” as the real “treats” on this album. Personally, I like every song here…including the “lesser” tracks such as “United” and “Don’t Have to be Old to be Wise” (though somewhat “burnt” on “Livin” and “Breaking the Law”). The first band I was ever in (Pure Grain…are you out there!?!), literally “cut their teeth” to this ‘Metal’ great, and played no less than half the tracks on this album on any given “Gig”. If there is anybody reading this that is not familiar with The Priest and is searching for the REAL DEAL, “Old school” version of Heavy Metal….look no further, you’ve found IT! Also recommended for the “budding” Metalist: Maiden’s “Piece of Mind”, Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning”, Priest’s “Screaming for Vengeance” and Sabbath’s “Master of Reality”.
P.S. As I was about to submit this review, it occured to me that I failed to mention the individual members of Priest. The rhythm section of Ian Hill and Dave Holland were as tight and “spot-on” as any in the business….holding the “Bus” together with a mighty, pounding ‘Pulse’. The dual guitar “assault” of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing never gave the music of JP a chance to even think about “blinking an eye”, and literally “steam-rolled” anything in their way….rivaled in intensity only by Iron Maiden and The Scorpions. And then there’s Rob Halford….This man WILL go down in Metal’s history as one of the best, if not THE best vocalist ever….”Pipes” the likes of Rob’s aren’t “handed-out” just any day of the week….His IS the voice of Heavy Metal and is not likely to be “Dethroned” in my lifetime! Many bands calling themselves “Metal” have come along in the years since this album—-some faster, some harder and some ‘flashier’…However, this band will forever remain “The Standard” to which ALL others are judged. Don’t Miss Out!
Reissued in the original non-U.S. running order, this record cemented Judas Priest as the preeminent heavy metal band. I say “heavy metal” because of the music and the themes. On its previous studio records, the band had intermixed Sabbath-type lyrical themes and plodding melodies with songs that could best be described as hard rock (a la AC/DC). They would return to the hard rock format on later (and lesser known) records like 1981’s ‘Point of Entry’ and 1986’s ‘Turbo’. But ‘British Steel’ is the first of a line of records that would define heavy metal.The record had its share of thematic anthems, such as “Breaking the Law” and “United” – paving the way for pop metal of the 1980s (e.g., “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister). But the record also had faster and more intense songs, with lyrics of darker mythology, such as “Rapid Fire” and “Steeler”, which were the precursor for a metal style of bands like Metallica that has aged more gracefully. As for the bonus tracks, “Red, White & Blue” is an anthemic outtake from the ‘Turbo’ sessions which should have probably remained an outtake. “Grinder” is a good live version of one of the classics on ‘British Steel’ which was taken (despite what the liner notes say) from a show that was performed and broadcast live on the radio at the height of Judas Priest’s career (the 1984 ‘Defenders of the Faith’ tour).