Judas Priest

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Rocka Rolla (1974), 5/10
Sad Wings Of Destiny (1976), 7/10
Sin After Sin (1977), 6/10
Stained Class (1978), 6.5/10
Killing Machine (1978), 6/10
British Steel (1980), 6.5/10
Point Of Entry (1981), 5/10
Screaming For Vengeance (1982), 6/10
Defenders Of The Faith (1984), 5/10
Turbo (1986), 4/10
Ram It Down (1988), 4/10
Painkiller (1990), 6/10
Jugulator (1997), 5/10
Demolition (2001), 4/10
Angel of Retribution (2005), 4/10
Nostradamus (2008), 4/10

(Translated by Troy Sherman)

The British band Judas Priest, which came to light at the dawn of hard rock and began declining during the uproar of punk, was the precursor of Britain's new wave of heavy metal.

By the time they recorded their first album, no member of the original lineup, fronted by Al Atkins and with bassist Bruno Staphenhill (the one who named it Judas Priest), remained. The quintet never stabilized because of the lack of a stable drummer, but the other four were bassist Ian Hill, vocalist Rob Halford, and two guitarists, Kenneth "KK" Downing and Glenn Tipton.

The funeral atmosphere of Judas Priest in the early years was still composed and rational in comparison to their demeanor in later years, but they were, effectively, the ones who coined the majority of what would become the stereotypes of British heavy metal: on the one hand the apocalyptic sound (razor guitar and cannon-like drums) and the iconography (studs and black leather), and on the other hand (Rob Halford’s Luciferian one) the lyrics (horrific and violent). In reality, Judas Priest laundered the rock of the dark shades of Black Sabbath and B.O.C. They began in 1973, and debuted with the album Rocka Rolla (Gull, 1974), containing the strong cadences of the Rolling Stones-esque title track. The second album, Sad Wings of Destiny (Gull, 1976 - Koch, 2001), was, from its inception, already a classic of the genres of gothic, psychedelic, and hard rock. Highlights include the long and gruesome Victim of Changes, which is along the same lines of the most hypnotic and melodramatic early Led Zeppelin, Ripper, with a terrorized cabaret melody and gruesome arabesques of guitar, Genocide, and Island of Domination. With this album, the epileptic and furious style of the “new wave of British heavy metal” was born, which was a bridge between the British hard-rock, heavy-metal, and American punk-rock.

Commercially speaking, the band’s golden season began with Sin After Sin (CBS, 1977), which contained Sinner, Last Rose of Summer, and Dissident Aggressor, and the hit of Diamonds and Rust, a Joan Baez cover. This continued with Stained Class (CBS, 1978) and Killing Machine (CBS, 1978), also known as Hell Bent on Leather (1979), which were scientific exploitations of the stereotype that they had invented. The better songs include Stained Class's power-ballad Beyond the Realm of Death, Exciter, Invader, and Saints in Hell, and Take on the World from Killing Machine.

The first part of the career of Judas Priest was well summed up by the live album Unleashed in the East (CBS, 1979).

The climb onto the charts began taking place progressively with British Steel (CBS, 1980) containing Breaking the Law and Living after Midnight, Point of Entry (CBS, 1981), containing Solar Angels, and especially Screaming for Vengeance (CBS, 1982), thanks to a new look to futuristic sadomasochism, more careful and less grim arrangements, bombastic songs, and the melodic Screaming for Vengeance, Another Thing Comin’, and Devil’s Child.

Defenders of the Faith (CBS, 1984), with Freewheel Burning, Turbo (CBS, 1986), with Turbo Lover, and Ram it Down (CBS, 1988) were less “pop” than the previous ones but were also the most unrealistic, continuing the saga between high and low, but especially between contractual commitments that imposed their records with a cadence of which they were capable.

I precursori dell'heavy metal Britannico degli anni '80 furono i Judas Priest, che vennero alla luce proprio negli anni in cui il fenomeno dell'hard rock sembrava essersi spento nel gran bailamme del punk-rock.

Quando registrarono il primo album, non rimaneva nessuno dei membri originali, quelli capeggiati dal cantante Al Atkins con il bassist Bruno Staphenhill (quello che diede il nome al gruppo). Il quintetto non si stabilizzo` mai per i continui cambi di batterista, ma gli altri quattro erano: il bassista Ian Hill, il cantante Rob Halford, e due chitarristi, Kenneth "KK" Downing e Glenn Tipton.

Le atmosfere funeree dei Judas Priest erano ancora composte e razionali al confronto di cio` che verra` dopo, ma furono loro a coniare gran parte degli stereotipi dell'heavy metal britannico, dal sound apocalittico (rasoiate di chitarra e cannonate di batteria) all'iconografia (borchie e cuoio nero) dal canto (quello luciferino di Rob Halford) ai testi (orrifici e violenti).

In realta` i Judas Priest riciclavano il rock a tinte scure dei Black Sabbath e dei B.O.C. Avevano iniziato nel 1973 e avevano esordito con l'album Rocka Rolla (Gull, 1974), forte delle cadenze Rolling Stones-iane della title-track. Il secondo album, Sad Wings Of Destiny (Gull, 1976 - Koch, 2001), era gia` un classico del genere gotico/psichedelico/hard, grazie alla lunga e macabra Victim Of Changes, sulla falsariga dei primi Led Zeppelin ipnotici e melodrammatici, a Ripper, una melodia da cabaret terrorizzata da macabri arabeschi di chitarra, a Genocide e Island of Domination. E` con questo album che nasce lo stile furente ed epilettico del "new wave of British heavy metal", che fa da ponte fra l'hard-rock britannico, l'heavy-metal americano e il punk-rock.

Commercialmente parlando, la stagione d'oro ebbe inizio con Sin After Sin (CBS, 1977), contenente Sinner, Last Rose Of Summer e Dissident Aggressor (anche se l'hit sara` una canzone di Joan Baez) e continuo` con Stained Class (CBS, 1978) e Killing Machine (CBS, 1978), anche noto come Hell Bent On Leather (1979), all'insegna di uno sfruttamento scientifico dello stereotipo da loro inventato. Su Stained Class almeno la power-ballad Beyond The Realm Of Death e` da antologia (con i due assoli prima di Tipton a poi di Downing) seguita da Exciter, Invader, Saints In Hell. Su Killing Machine svetta Take On The World.

La prima parte della carriera dei Judas Priest e` ben riassunta dal live Unleashed In The East (CBS, 1979).

La scalata alle classifiche avviene progressivamente con British Steel (CBS, 1980), con Breaking The Law e Living After Midnight, Point Of Entry (CBS, 1981), con Solar Angels, e soprattutto Screaming For Vengeance (CBS, 1982), grazie a un nuovo look futuribile e sadomaso, arrangiamenti piu` curati e meno truci, canzoni magniloquenti e melodiche come Screaming For Vengeance, Another Thing Comin' e Devil's Child.

Defenders Of The Faith (CBS, 1984), con Freewheel Burning, Turbo (CBS, 1986), con Turbo Lover, Ram It Down (CBS, 1988), meno pop dei precedenti ma anche piu` velleitario, proseguono la saga fra alti e bassi, ma soprattutto fra impegni contrattuali che impongono loro dischi con una cadenza di cui non sono capaci.

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Painkiller (CBS, 1990), with Scott Travis of Racer X on drums, marked a return to form but also the end of the classic line-up, led by a Rob Halford at the peak of his art. This album could be the epitome of the heavy/dark/epic/gothic sound of Judas Priest (Painkiller, Metal Meltdown, A Touch of Evil).

In 1991 Rob Halford was replaced with Tim Owens and the band converted to speedmetal on Jugulator (1997) only to embarrass itself on Demolition (2001), possibly their worst album.

After a decade-long hiatus, Judas Priest reunited with Halford for the mediocre Angel of Retribution (Epic, 2005) and Nostradamus (2008).

Charred Walls Of The Damned was a supergroup formed by Judas Priest's vocalist Tim Owens, Death's drummer Richard Christy, Death's bassist Steve DiGiorgio and guitarist Jason Suecof that played old-fashioned Iron Maiden-style pop-metal on Charred Walls Of The Damned (Metal Blade, 2010) and Cold Winds On Timeless Days (Metal Blade, 2011).

Judas Priest launched a new career with Redeemer Of Souls (2014), Battle Cry (2016), and Firepower (2018).

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