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!