Judas Priest

Judas Priest is the surviving elder prophet of the metal tribes. This English quintet didn't invent a single move, mind you, but its mid-'70s sound codified the previous five years or so of metallic developments, minus any significant blues content. The rigid, intense music was a key influence on the accelerating speed-metal hordes of the 1980s. Since then, Judas Priest has refined its attack with a near-religious zeal. Lead singer Rob Halford can match the range and sharp impact of Robert Plant, but his shrieks and moans aren't nearly as deep. No matter: Glenn Tipton and K. K. Downing trade solos in a dueling-guitar approach, and their best tandem riffs give the Priest a hooky, driving momentum that's usually absent in metal's doomy end. And make no mistake, these guys are doom-oriented; Judas Priest pumped out apocalyptic epics like "Island of Domination" (from the RCA best-of collection) and "Dissident Aggressor" (from Sin After Sin) when Metallica and its followers were still in junior high, and both albums contain the group's mincing desecration of Joan Baez's "Diamonds and Rust" (in case anybody thought this music genre lacks a sense of humor).

With its exaggerated leather-'n'-studs theatrical bent and polished musical consistency, Judas Priest encapsulates the metal experience for true believers. There were bigger, better bands pushing hard rock in more interesting directions (AC/DC, Zeppelin, Van Halen, etc.) but by the time Hell Bent for Leather was released, Judas Priest could be counted on to fully represent the standard metal sound of the moment. No surprises ever. Every Columbia album sports at least one tuneful, surefire drive-time rocker, though. British Steel kicked off the '80s with the fierce "Breaking the Law" and the rollicking, Kiss-like pop of "Living After Midnight," while the coming wave of hair metal found a blueprint in "United," a ready-made anthem for Bon Jovi. Screaming for Vengeance maxes out with "Freewheel Burning" (catchy, whatever the hell it means) and the campy send-ups that raised Tipper Gore's foolish ire: "Eat Me Alive" and "Love Bites."

By 1985, the Birmingham rockers had fully implemented the speed-metal tempo they inspired. Priest backed off just a touch on Turbo, adding guitar synthesizers, but the high-speed Painkiller defied the power-ballad imperative that ultimately killed off the '80s pop-metal scene. And who better than Judas Priest? In the early '90s, Halford quit the band for a more experimental solo career that touched on grunge and industrial rock. Judas Priest was in limbo until Tipton and Downing took the bizarre step, in 1996, of recruiting Halford's replacement from a Priest tribute band in Akron (a story crazy enough to inspire the 2001 Mark Wahlberg movie Rock Star). Tim "Ripper" Owens had all the right moves and a voice that could pierce eardrums, but on Jugulator, he still sounded like a man who sang for a cover band. Demolition was much stronger. Priest stretched out with electronic effects at the margins; on the stormy "Hell Is Home," Owens sounded increasingly like Metallica's James Hetfield. But if Owens had any lyrics in him, songwriters Tipton and Downing don't leave him much room. And the dream was soon over anyway because Halford was back as frontman in 2003. The entire Columbia catalogue was reissued in 2001, with bonus studio and live tracks, and the box set Metalogy gathered 65 songs and a live DVD, making a powerful case for Priest's influence and longevity for new generations of needy heshers, but the small number of previously unreleased songs included here are unessential and beside the point. As long as there's heavy metal, Judas Priest will continue to administer the rites of passage to an eager audience.

From 2004's The New Rolling Stone Album Guide



1 comment:

yanuar catur rastafara said...

lets go to rock...
hehehehehehe