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The year was 1980 and a new wave was crashing down upon the face of hard rock. It featured faster tempos and pentatonic-based song structures coupled with more extensive guitar solos. It was called NWOBHM, or New Wave of British Heavy Metal. At the vanguard was Judas Priest.
Ok, so that was a bit sarcastic. I love JP, and I am the dude you will always hear singing along to them. Still though, this has got to be the most generic and bland album they've done. I swear to God, every song ranges from mid-paced bland NWOBHM to fast-paced, bland NWOBHM. There are no aggressive cookers like Screaming For Vengeance or The Sentinel, nor are there any epics like Beyond the Realms of Death or Dreamer Deceiver. This is, for the most part, 1st grade heavy metal.
Also for a good chunk of this it's not even heavy metal, it's just bland-ass hard rock. It doesn't get a whole lot of listens because this really isn't all that groundbreaking. Considering what Priest have done before and what another (at the time) way more obscure heavy metal band was doing: Iron Maiden. This is the album that got Priest famous, but that was simply because they became way more accessible on British Steel. Frankly, I'd bet that most people are hard-pressed to come up with a single Judas Priest song other than Breaking the Law.
Suffice it to say, no instrument shines here. Halford delivers, and I will never call Rob Halford a bad singer, but you won't see his stunning range or piercing high end here. Here he gives a mostly mid-ranged performance. The guitars, bass, and drums are no different. This is late-'70s/early '80s bar rock mixed with their early sound. It's not bad in any sense, just really less special than albums like Screaming for Vengeance or Stained Class. I guess I could make a pun here and call British Steel "Stained Classless" or something like that. Either way, Judas Priest have a whole catalog of better albums than this. If you're new to Priest, do not be deceived, you should definitely start elsewhere. The two other albums I mentioned would be a good place. British Steel, unfortunately, is not.
British Steel is not an album requiring much introduction, since it's one of the most popular of Judas Priest's outings and one of the better known in all of the heavy metal spectrum. The English legends had already built up a staggering momentum by the time 1980 struck, and this put them well over the top into the living rooms and tape decks of enthusiasts the world, and many galaxies over. I've met extra-terrestrials from far down the nearest Spiral Arm who have this on their .mp3 player. Seriously, if you've not heard "Breaking the Law" by now then you're either three years old and under (in which case you've probably STILL been exposed to it, just not retained the chorus), or you're from some undiscovered tribe of aboriginals on some uncharted island who worship overhead air traffic as deities; in which case I should not be addressing 'you' in the second-person since it's unlikely you have the Intertrons.
And it makes sense: British Steel is a more commercial venture, not unlike Hell Bent for Leather before it, only far better written. This album is a veritable hit machine, built for radio without abandoning the whole heaviness of the chords and distinctive screaming that got them to that point. Yet, some of the songs are so damned unforgettable that their appeal transcended wide beyond the borders of the metal/hard rock audience, as prevalent as it was through the 80s. Hell, a live version of pretty much the entire album was available to download and play in Rock Band. I have family members two generations removed that know "Living After Midnight". Despite this level of saturation, though, I would find it dishonest to qualify British Steel as one of my very favorites from the band. Essential to own? Probably. Consistent? For the most part. But I've long felt that there were a few chinks in its armor which brokered the album's dominion from an empire to a fiefdom. A killer fiefdom that hosts a large range of jousts and events, mind you, but it couldn't win a war with its more stunning and grandiose siblings like Stained Class, Sin After Sin, Screaming for Vengeance or Painkiller.
I've already mentioned "Breaking the Law", and where would we be without it? The vocal patterns are so pristine that they truly feel as if they've been engraved into the razor blade on the cover along with the logo and album title. The melodic lead-in guitar pattern is a thing of legend, learned by hundreds of thousands of aspiring six-stringers, and the chugging aggression of the chorus is enough to start a riot in any crowd of inebriated or even sober witnesses. Not to mention the atmosphere on the vocals, and the fact that the whole tune clocks in at around 2 and a half minutes. Concise and mother fucking immortal. "Living After Midnight" is the other giant in the room, with its party rock guitars and chorus that might just as well have been attributed to KISS or the Rolling Stones; but then you've got this 'second string' of semi-legendary tracks that have become regulars in the band's set list throughout the decades. The forceful, airy power metal staple "Rapid Fire" which has been emulated to precision in hundreds of cases; the mid-paced stadium anthem "Metal Gods" with its burly chords and laconic but hooky chorus; the dark grooves of "Grinder" and highway ready "Steeler", both of which would spawn bands using the titles as monikers (as other Priest songs had done in the past).
So what's my hangup? The rest of the album. I can forgive "The Rage" for its reggae-like introduction since the chords in the verse swagger with a particular degree of bad-assery, and I enjoy the flecks of rust Rob Halford places on the vocal lines. But the arena anthem "United", despite its cheesy melodic chorus, simply does not stand out to memory, paling in comparison to "Metal Gods" from the very same album, and suffering from a pretty generic guitar riff even for 1980. Not sure why this was chosen for a single. As for "Don't Have to Be Old to Be Wise", I would not have even remembered the song was on British Steel were I not listening again to review it, a pretty bare bones hard rock track without much appeal to the chorus, though it certainly feels classic Priest in its execution. All things considered, neither of these is necessarily a 'bad' song, just painfully average and overshadowed by the many great tracks that would catapult the band even further into the collective metal conscience. Another slight nuisance is the lack of devastating leads. A lot of the songs have them, but they get lost in the shuffle and often feel more atmospheric than impressive, even in the bigger numbers.
Production is good and dry, clean and appropriate for the mainstream steamrolling that the album would take straight to the bank, but perhaps not one of their best in terms of driving the songs into my noggin. This was the first album with new drummer Dave Holland, who would remain with Priest for six studio efforts before Scott Travis came in for Painkiller, but his output isn't all that wild here. Capable and dependable, like most of the albums he would appear on, and certainly heavy enough to add some ballast to the riffing, but not quite the powerhouse equivalent of his successor. Ian Hill's bass is present, but hardly exemplary and I feel it does get lost under the dry, ruddy industrial strength sheen of the chords; while Halford is his normal self, but he's not executing the same screaming and variation that he manifests on earlier (and later) works. Lyrically, too, this was never one of their most interesting records, especially tracks like "United" which have the poignancy of a kindergartner reciting the Pledge of Allegiance while privately thinking how he's going to stealth a few hours on his dad's XBOX later that evening.
In the end, though, the songs really win out here. At least six of them, and British Steel earns its keep despite the sagging, unremarkable middle cuts. Certainly the first 15 minutes of the album are comparable in quality to nearly anything else in their catalog, and its logical that this would be one of their better sellers in England and the States. Heavily promoted, and not surprisingly, defined as a major milestone in the genre due to its success and the utter stickiness of some of the songs.
Did you like Killing Machine - AKA Hell Bent for Leather? Well, in that case British Steel should go down well with you, since aside from a change of drummer the album is pretty much a refinement and polishing of the general approach of that album. There's the tedious attempt at a football chant that would have been better off removed from the album (United, taking the place of the predecessor's Take On the World), there's the kickass pop-metal fast tracks (Breaking the Law, Living After Midnight) and the occasional nod to the style of Sin After Sin or Stained Class (The Rage, Steeler).
On the whole, the band are on good form, new drummer Dave Holland integrating well into their sound and Rob Halford giving enthusiastic vocal performances as always. Musically speaking, however, the album is a bit less varied than Killing Machine, which had the groovey as hell title track and the intriguing ballad Evening Star to break things up a bit. Still, it's an accessible and very listenable album which will appeal to a broad range of listeners, though aside from the classic Breaking the Law I wouldn't put many pieces of here on my personal Priest "best of" list - a lot of them are rather interchangeable.
The bottom line is this: if you want a Priest album where every single song is distinctive, original, packed with personality and an inspiration to legions of metal bands following it, then go for Sin After Sin, or Stained Class, or Sad Wings of Destiny - well, in fact any Priest album whose title starts with S is a good one. If you want a Priest album which kept the band competitive against the NWOBHM scallywags who were starting to challenge them on their own turf but doesn't exactly break a whole lot of new ground compared to its predecessors, British Steel's got your back.
British Steel. Love it or hate it, you have to admit it’s an important (if overrated) piece of music history. Though it is quite overhyped, the fact remains that this is a decent album – with flaws, of course. It really is much better than Point of Entry and the blasphemous Turbo.
Here Priest scraps the progressive epics in the vein of “Victim of Changes” and the ballads such as “Beyond the Realms of Death” for more concise songs. Halford doesn’t scream here (maybe once), though he proves quite versatile in songs such as “Living After Midnight,” displaying a bit of variation from his typical wail – meanwhile, the variation within the album is less present than without. The interesting basslines that dominated Killing Machine also have disappeared, leaving Ian Hill with not much to do but fulfill the purposes of his instrument. The drums aren’t that special, either. Here it’s the guitars that do the talking. They really expand on the album title – this is undoubtedly the most “metal” sound Priest has had (in the literal sense); the guitars sound much like clashing steel. The riffs vary in quality, from the substandard to the awesome, while leaving the solos to relish in their continued quality. The results of these changes are inconsistent at best.
Starting on a good note is “Rapid Fire.” With its fast pace and heavy tone, it’s a wise choice for an opener. The main riff here is pure gold, as are the unabashedly metal lyrics:
“Pounding the world like a battering ram
Forging the furnace for the final grand slam”
Screaming muscle and might”
The best part of this song, though, is the middle section filled with highly impressive mini-solos. Blazing fast, they grab your attention completely. At the end of the song, Halford holds an excellent final note.
Another good moment is the immediately recognizable “Breaking the Law.” Every person on earth and their dogs know the immortal main riff and lyrics. Concise yet effective, the only thing missing is a guitar solo (luckily, some live versions have a great one). This song is probably what people recognize most about British Steel.
The absolute magnum opus of British Steel, however, manifests itself in “The Rage.” After an odd opening bassline, the best riff on the album comes in, crushing the listener’s skull with its might. “The Rage” comes complete with raging lyrics and a brain-numbing solo. The climax comes after the solo, where Halford delivers his sole scream on the album as Priest “shake with rage.”
Unfortunately, the rest of the album is of questionable quality. Take the single “Living After Midnight,” for example. This here song isn’t even metal – more like a song off Turbo sans a little bit of the suck. Sure, it’s great for parties, but so is every other glam song. There are too many choruses and not enough variation to keep the listener interested, and despite a decent classic-rocking solo, the repetitiveness kills the song.
Other atrocities include the nauseously inane “Metal Gods” refrain (Priest sounds bored out of their wits!) and everyone’s favorite punching bag, “United.”
The latter song is (almost) the worst pre-Turbo song Priest ever unleashed. It opens with a promising riff reminiscent of the title track of the previous album, and then proceeds to embarrass the band with its shameless crowd-pleaser chorus. Its saving grace is its fortunate advantage in quality over “Take On the World.”
Once British Steel was through, Priest began the most turbulent phase of its career. Priest could not keep up the quality from this point on. First came the awful Point of Entry, then the masterpiece we know as Screaming for Vengeance. Next we got the inconsistent Defenders of the Faith, followed by every headbanger’s nightmare from which Priest never recovered. We may never see Priest’s glory days again… at least in the studio.
Y'know I'm really starting to think that as long as the band doesn't go groove metal, a heavy metal band selling out and just trying to record the catchiest thing possible is actually a very good thing! I'm just basing this off this album, the early 90's releases of Me & Me, and, err, Celtic Frost's Cold Lake- that was a travesty, sure, but still 3 out of 4 isn't bad. Judas Priest's release is firmly in the camp of "excellent rocky sell out", a quick streamlining of the previous formula; a natural progression that's been executed well and doesn't sound forced, and some crisp, clean production giving the whole thing a radio-friendly sheen.
I like most of Priest's work but I've generally found that they're at their best when they go for the shorter song- Nostradamus being good proof of this. Here's it's all short and it's all gold - yes, I am a fan of United, in all of it's cheesy, desperate attempt at sing-a-long glory- and the end result is a good-to-excellent selection of heavy metal tunes.
Everything's kept simple and straightforward in this album; the solos short and economical, the structures, simple in their verse/chorus type, the riffs, simple but catchy. Downing and Tipton are in great form throughout, and I find the riffing in particular to be really first-class. Breaking the Law's a good enough example of what's on offer- an intro riff that will stay in your head for years, short and catchy verse and chorus sections, and a bridge that dispenses with any progressive pretensions and keeps you interested until the chorus comes back in. The formula is repeated over and over again with varying amounts of success (Living After Midnight and Rapid Fire being keepers, You don't have to be old and Steeler, not so much) but overall it works, and even when Priest shrug off the restraint and go for the unabashed, completely undignified sing along that's United it's still catchy and short enough to be inoffensive and effective.
This certainly isn't an album that's for sitting in the lotus position, with headphones in a darkened room. An in-depth listening is more liable to make you realise that the slower tunes plod along fairly heavily, that most of the songs lack any really concrete climax or progression, and that some more solos would've been welcome. However, putting this on in the car, or at a party will get you singing along extremely vigorously (Rapid Fire and The Rage in particular must be responsible for a very large amount of car crashes over the years) and it seems that's what Judas Priest wanted to achieve with this.
There's not really much else to say here. The aim, as far as I can tell, was to make a short, catchy album and that aim was achieved. It seems that everyone had a fairly good time doing it- the album has a fair bit of energy and in various interviews Downing, Tipton and Halford named this as their favourite JP record. It's a fun record that will get you head banging and pretty much appeals to everyone. Well worth getting, although those hoping for some more substantial heavy/speed metal may find themselves disappointed.
Judas Priest is one of the most famous metal bands, a lot of people consider it to be one of the best metal bands ever... Are they right? Of course! British Steel is one of the most famous metal albums, a lot of people consider it to be one of the best metal albums ever... Are they right? In my opinion, they aren't. Personally, I consider this album to be one of Priest's worst and one of the weakest famous metal albums. Besides, I don't really consider it to be a metal album, it sounds more like hard rock to say the truth.
This album is extremely overrated. I can't believe that Priest went from awesome albums like Stained Class to this only 2 years later... They went from awesome metal songs with great riffs to simple hard rock songs with average riffs. I fail to understand why so many people consider it to be Priest's best album. My guess is that most of those people prefer 80's mainstream hard rock over 80's metal.
The songs on this album are so ridiculously simple... Most of them have only 4 riffs in total and those riffs are nothing special compared to most of Priest's riffs from the 70's. Ok, there's nothing wrong with simple songs, but the songs aren't only simple, they're also nothing special or in other words, they aren't like most of Priest songs from the 70's. Breaking The Law is so overrated, I used to like it, but I got bored of it fast... Some people think that it has an awesome chorus, but what's so awesome about it exactly? Its one of the least melodic choruses ever! Just say 'breaking the law' 8 times and you have the chorus. Living After Midnight is pretty catchy, but its just a generic and cheesy rock song... Ok, I guess that it wasn't generic in the 80's, but its just a very average song. United has a catchy chorus, but that's it. You Don't Have To Be Old To Be Wise and Steeler are extremely forgettable.
Did I mention that this album has some of Priest's weakest solos? Now I did. I guess that I should also mention that its one of their least melodic albums.
The best song on the album is definitely The Rage. Its actually a great song, it has a cool intro, a great main riff (the best riff on the album) and the verses are pretty catchy (the best verses on the album). Rapid Fire, Metal Gods and Grinder aren't bad either, but damn, they're really nothing special, they're really simple, there's nothing really original about them and they aren't anywhere near as good as most of Priest's songs from the 70's. I know that I'm repetitive with that, but it has to be said.
So, its 50/50, half of the album is very average and the other half is just good. There's nothing really bad on this album, but there's nothing awesome either, its just very average overall.
Now, I have a question... How can anyone prefer songs like Breaking The Law and Living After Midnight over songs like Exciter, Beyond The Realms Of Death, Victim Of Changes, Sinner, Starbreaker... ? Ok, I understand if you're a fan of 80's mainstream hard rock, but otherwise I don't.
This album was nothing more than an attempt at becoming more famous. Thank god that Priest redeemed themselves with Screaming For Vengeance. Even Turbo is better than this album.
Do I recommend it? Well, I guess that most of the people who look at this site have already heard it, but if you haven't, I don't recommend it, but I can't really tell you to avoid it because a lot of people like it, so maybe you'll like it.
So now, we come to the album that put Judas Priest on the map, a band that has already trudged the murkiest of waters and paid their dues for twelve years finally gets their just dues. That story is a commonly told one in the entertainment business it is heart-warming and humorous. Nevertheless, with popularity always comes debts, and a band is always bound to piss off some fans whenever they achieve a substantial amount of success. It has been beaten into the minds of record buyers that if an album sells well then it is because the band has ‘Sold Out’ and it’s not worth buying, another comparison with the ‘underdog’ theory.
What does this have to do with British Steel? Everything if the majority of people had any sense of music, credibility just about everyone would put British Steel right where it belongs, at the very top of any metal list. What sets this album apart from the loads of highly overrated material is the fact that the band never changed their original sound to achieve success.
No, what we have here is a nine-track album, eleven if you have the Re-Master, which is 100% Priest 100% of the time. Therefore, so what if the album does not sound like Stained Class it is not supposed to, it is supposed to sound like British Steel. Besides Stained Class currently ranks number fourth on the ‘All-Time Most Overrated Albums’ list but that is a different review.
The bottom line is one should expect such large debates since this album appeals to a much broader scope of people. Face the fact you are not going to hear FM Radio play Beyond the Realms of Death before Living after Midnight; is that a bad thing? That is up for the individual listener, but I can sympathize with one little fact they often mention, the better songs on BS are sadly overlooked for the lesser ones, but such is life.
There is a different track listing depending on which version you buy but the version I am reviewing is the commonly known, beginning with Breaking The Law on side one and You Don't Have to Be Old to Be Wise on side two.
We begin with the simplest of all songs here that was the logical choice to open the album, simple yet effective. While this is a metal anthem it is not your typical one, it is not about ‘Everybody Rise and Scream for Metal’ garbage, no it’s actually very progressive. The chorus is simple but the story is about… well you know. The 1:35 mark is the best part as all the build up finally reaches the point of no return as we are told we do not know what it is like and an abundance of sound effects hit us. The main riff returns and brings us back to the chorus that effectively ends the song. Okay so it is not Exciter but you must remember that Judas Priest is a band that will do their best to not always sound the same. They do either something they have never done before or something they have but update it with whatever year their in, which brings us to…
Rapid Fire, a song that screams metal from 1982 - 2007 more than anything before it does, including Stained Class. Poetic lyrics, fist pumping rhythm sections, heart-stopping vocals, astonishing percussion as the band roars at full throttle. The guitars are louder, crisper and much more demanding of your attention than at anytime in the past. Interesting to note that the 1:51 mark begins what some could argue helped jump-start the whole rapping of the vocals in any given metal song. Overall, the song is fabulous and the following five songs all follow in that nature, yet have a life of their own, which leave us with the last two.
Never before in metal was their a song quite like the Rage, dramatic, pretentious, childlike and… reggae?
The explosive and second best song on the album begins with a bass intro, something we would not see again for four years, that extends into a reggae journey. Dave may be simple but for drummers they understand how effective he is in creating the backbone of all the songs here, but this one in particular. We would have never been given these outstanding riffs without the simplicity of Dave’s drumming. Some of the best lyrics ever conceived by Priest are located here and it is because they and the riffs are allowed room to breathe instead of changing faster than a person and their underwear. By doing so, the song is allowed to go where it needs to, keep even those who are not Priest fans, interested in the twists, and turns the tracks take. The song also gives a chance for KK to show his licks and ability to play a slower, bluesier and meaningful solo without being crazy; essentially, he is trying to beat Glenn at Glenn’s own game.
However, in typical Priest fashion they save the best song for last, a head banging ferocious monster otherwise known as Steeler. This song is that of an angry monster ready to sink his slime-covered jaws into your cranium and swallow it completely, it is that demonic and very creative. While the riffs are like that of the other songs, simple I mean, they interplay with each other so well you lose your mind in them. The lyrics are once again very poetic and make your imagination open up, but the true greatness of the track begins at 1:36, that pseudo thrash break is flooring. The vocals are the pinnacles of Rob’s career, never before or after will he so naturally go through four lines of aggression and poetry. Each line is louder and harder with the same riff thrown in again before Dave gives us a drum roll and the final verse begins, except this one is that much more aggressive. The riff returns and then ends at 2:46, so the last 1:42 is single-handedly the greatest part of the record. Never before had their been a single pedestrian riff repeated a billion times sounded so refreshing and buoyant, complete with electrifying whammy bar work that reaches in and grabs your most inner desires and strangles them. With each drum roll, the music becomes louder and even more evil sounding before the ending finally climaxes with a scream and explosion. The only Priest song in the entire catalog that can match this one is the final track from Turbo, otherwise known as Reckless, but that is a whole other story.
There are also two bonus tracks, which is my only complaint, the quality of the material was brought down by doing so, but once again so is life. The first is 'Red, White & Blue', a very patriotic song recorded in 1985 (I have no clue why it was included on an album from 1980). The first time I heard it, I fell in love with it, it is has a very uplifting feeling to it and the use of crowd noise and interaction was great. In addition, the second track was from the DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH tour at the Long Beach Sports Arena, Long Beach, California on May 5, 1984. The original song may be from the album but the tour it came from was not, Rob’s vocals are embarrassing. Moreover, a more deserving song from here could have been added, like The Rage or Steeler, mostly because we already have a live version of Grinder elsewhere.
So there you have it, an album crafted in fine style by a band that had it’s core members together for six long years at this point. A drummer who may not be as skilled as the two previous ones, but was veteran so he brought that to the table and he was stable. An album that deserves to sit on your mantle, forget the whole talk of it being overrated, the only reason that is mentioned is that it sold well and continues to do so.
Besides it has the greatest Priest song ever recorded as the final track, that being Steeler, with only Reckless coming close. Do yourself a favor and get the album if you do not have it already, then again if you do not… what is wrong with you?
The late 70s and early 80s were an interesting time in heavy metal, marrying the aggression of Black Sabbath with the speed and energy of jazz and later rock influences. Bands such as Riot, Motorhead and Judas Priest created signature speed metal songs in the late 70s that directly influenced both thrash metal and the earlier NWOBHM, as did much of their slower work. “British Steel” carries a sort of accessible brilliance and energy that, in addition to some certifiable metal classics that are still worshiped by the current metal faithful to this day, differed a bit from previous works in its tendency to augment catchiness over progressive and elaborate songwriting.
Among the more obvious classics are “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight”, both of which have received a great deal of radio play since their inception and have appeared on various tribute albums. The former is quite simple in its approach (there is no guitar solo), but you can’t help but love what you hear. Likewise the latter is straightforward and features a chorus that is quite easy to sing along with and devoid of any high end vocal wails. “Metal Gods” follows close behind in catchiness, though we get some more metal sounding lyrics and some cheesy metallic sound effects in the background. (The sounds were actually the band banging on pots and pans with a ton of reverb)
For once the lads in Priest have decided to allow Ian Hill to stand out a bit with a bass intro on “The Rage”; man I’d hate to have his job. The rest of the song is highly bluesy and subdued, but still carries that essential metal spirit that this band has come to personify. “Grinder” and “You don’t have to be old to be wise” are also cut from a simple grain, but are quite hard edged nonetheless. “United” is probably the lightest of the fold, listening almost like a slower version of a late 90s power metal anthem; in fact I believe Freedom Call borrowed part of this chorus for “Farewell” off the Crystal Empire release.
Obviously these 5 Brits are no slouches in the speed department either, bringing forth two fast moving classics in “Rapid Fire” and “Steeler”. Although the latter has the advantage in terms of aggression, speed, and sheer metalness, both of these songs listen well and give “Exciter” a good run for its money, to speak nothing for the other various speed metal songs put out by Motorhead and company. These two songs alone make the album worth buying.
The thing about Priest is that because they’ve been around so long and evolved so much, different fans will gravitate to different things. If you haven’t heard this album, it most closely resembles “Killing Machine” and to a less degree the later album “Screaming For Vengeance”. If you’ve heard either of those albums, this carries a similar sense of straight up songwriting that didn’t go off into mainstream party metal the way “Point Of Entry” and “Turbo” would. If you somehow have not gotten a hold of this due to owning a compilation containing a few of the songs found on here, it is still strongly recommended that you pick up the album as there aren't any songs here that qualify as filler and it is doubtful that any compilation will contain all the tracks found on here.
Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on January 11, 2009.
As a fan of the faster, heavier early Priest albums, it took me a long time to appreciate this album for what it is. The band kept their tempos limited to mid-paced rockers, simplified their songwriting formula, and started writing songs that didn't sound too out of place on rock radio of the time. A sure recipe for disaster, and yet Priest managed to do it without making themselves completely unbearable. For the most part, this is a great classic metal album, if not necessarily a great Judas Priest album.
The most apparently mainstream aspect of this album is the tempo. Aside from the burst of speed that is "Rapid Fire," the album is pretty consistently slow to mid-paced. The guitarwork and drums are simplified, allowing the songwriting emphasis to shift to the vocals. Therefore the album can't be approached like a metal album; this is pretty much hard rock in the flavor of Judas Priest. However, it works because of Halford. Though he keeps his falsetto in check for most of it, his vocal melodies absolutely rule. He's the primary reason for the album's overall catchiness. Not that the riffing is terrible, just that most of the rhythms are applied solely to highlight the vocal lines.
The songs are highly anthem oriented, and many of them will stick in your head long after listening. The big hits off the album, "Breaking the Law" and "Living After Midnight" are solid examples, although this songwriting approach climaxs with "United," which is possibly the catchiest song ever. Again, it's Halford that makes this own so much. The other great aspect of this album is the Downing/Tipton lead combination. While their riffwork has been simplified, their leadwork has not, and the soloing throughout the album is great. Typical of classic metal, but I'm not about to start complaining.
While there is no song I really dislike on this, the album is weaker overall than their earlier works. The mainstream influence works here, but it's not the ideal Priest sound. For the high-speed, rifftastic Judas Priest of the past, check out Stained Class, but if you don't mind a little hard rock influenced metal, British Steel is pretty much the best Priest album of its kind.
I used to have a total hard-on for this album, but I've definitely learned my lesson. Buy Painkiller and Stained Class if you want Priest perfection. Buy British Steel if you want what your local classic rock radio station and VH1 think Priest should sound like. Despite the glaring good moments pointed out below, this isn't really a very great album.
1) Rapid Fire- It certainly gets your attention from the get-go, using some elements that would be found in the big thrash boom three short years afterwards. The title is fitting, despite their lack of use within the lyrics, considering the riffs spit out in rapid fire succession, much like bullets from a machine gun. Another huge Priest milestone is reached here as well---the song is a word jumble about absolutely nothing. See the last four albums if you want the "nothing lyrics" in huge doses.
2) Metal Gods- A signature Priest track if ever there was one, this one actually earned Halford his undisputed nickname and quasi-title, The Metal God. The production scores big here, the intro being the best any 1980 record could pull off as far as I'm concerned. The twin lead work of Downing and Tipton is slightly abbreviated in exchange for pure songly purpose, but one can still see them working hard, trying to one-up new scene hotshots Murray and Stratton.
3) Breaking the Law- Two-and-a-half minutes that every metalhead knows. What much can one say about possibly the greatest hard rock anthem this side of Quiet Riot? Other than the fact that it's simple, skullbashing main riff and clear purpose hit home with just about everyone in the world, I'll say that it is missing a solo, which would really make it the quintessential metal song. No complaints, though, I really love the tune.
4) Grinder- This is my second least favorite on the album (behind utter crap song "Steeler"), but it is undoubtedly the inspiration for most of DEFENDERS and a little of PAINKILLER, musically, and definitely lyrically. The pure hard rock format of it, paired with Halford's razor-sharp vocal precision makes it a song that is...fun. But not really epic or great, when you think about it.
5) United- Another anthem, meant for the big arena sing-along, "United" is a tribute to any band of brothers, be they metalheads, bikers, Brits, or Americans, that with whomever we associate, may we stand united. A little cheesy, maybe, but at least it has a clear purpose. The absolute happiness in the song is a little comical but mostly just incredibly rocking, and I can safely say this is at least my third favorite song on the album.
6) You Don't Have to Be Old to Be Wise- Long title, but a really great anthemic song. Halford took a good-natured poke at the song in 2000's "Saviour" with the lyric "I'm older so I'm wise", but that can only be expected. When you write a song about youth and last well into your middle-aged life, it really bites you in the ass. The song rocks out though, as does most everything on this album. Not terribly cerebral, but BRITISH STEEL and its era was all about fun. And fun this is.
7) Living After Midnight- Shockingly glam and mainstream, yet still my favorite song on the album, "Living After Midnight" is alongside "Breaking the Law" and "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" as the Judas Priest songs that everyone can enjoy, not just those of us on the metal side of the spectrum. The song is effectively catchy, loaded with hooks courtesy of Tipton and Downing. Ian Hill pounds away in that severely mediocre way of his, while Dave Holland beats up the drums in a blatantly foot-tapping kind of way. Halford is on top of his game here, none of the falsettos that make you want to hit something, but none of his attempted lower register we saw demonstrated on the Two album VOYEURS. The solos rock, of course, and the song crosses the all-too-quickly reached finish line without even a scratch.
8) The Rage- My second favorite on the album, and not even one people recognize, "The Rage" is Ian Hill's attempt at jazz bass, and a sloppy if not oversuccessful one. Halford is the co-show stealer with Hill, though, and with his powerfully delivered verses the song maintains a cutting metal edge alongside its jazz element. The guitars get the job done in a basic fashion, at least until the solo comes in and cuts the song up, bleeding and ribboned. We get back into the verse melodies and Halford closes with a powerful delivery of the song's short, effective title.
9) Steeler- Ouch...filler. Well, I guess they earned a lesser song in this sea of greatness, but I'm not sure why they closed on it. I can't say too much more, just that it didn't keep the album from being my fifth favorite of all time. That says something for the other eight songs, don't it?
The album that launched Judas Priest into the minds of the masses. That is British Steel. It also started a string of Priest albums that were more or less written to be as catchy as they could. The albums until and including Ram It Down - perhaps even including Painkiller - were written in the same formula. Simple, mid-paced songs with catchy choruses and perhaps a ballad and a couple of faster songs to vary things a bit. This is perhaps a good way to appeal to the masses but as an piece of art, its merits are few.
The whole album suffers from being overtly pedestrian. Simplistic guitar patterns aiming for catchiness, formulaic songwriting and a mediocre performance by Halford lend this album no credentials to rise among the revered group of Sad Wings of Destiny and Stained Class. Plain heavy metal or hard rock do work in some contexts like say Motörhead, but Judas Priest don't manage to do that. British Steel isn't all bad though. Rapid Fire, the Exciter of the album, strives to break away from the mediocrity of the rest of the album and actually accomplishes this feat along with Steeler though the songs are rather similar with each other and their forefather. Both songs feature excellent lead play by Downing and Tipton as well as increased tempo compared to the clutter.
The lead work of the two guitarists is what saves the rest of the songs from being a total waste of time. Downing and Tipton may not be technical wizards, but they do know how to write leads. Not much else sets the mid-paced rockers apart from each other. I believe the album would have benefited from more variance in the tempo department. The production on British Steel is very fitting. It is as average and odorless as the rest of the album. Every instrument is clear, in its own space and nicely mixed together but that just adds to the albums lack of distinctiveness. The beginning of Judas Priest's descent into the world of non-flavor.
I keep hearing all these classic metal bands, especially Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, being praised, so when I saw this album for 2 dollars at a pawn shop, I decided to pick it up. Well, I'm not impressed. Sure, they have riffs and balls, but so do 189,398,123 bands out there. I suppose this album isn't the best example of a good Judas Priest album to buy, but I have a feeling that I wouldn't even like the mighty Painkiller. Maybe I will just have to train my brain to appreciate the 'classic' guitar sound and poor production, and I'm willing to do that, but I think it will be awhile, and I can't foresee any NWOBHM/classic metal bands such as Judas Priest gaining the same prestige in my metal collection as artists such as Devil Doll and Pain of Salvation do.
There's a single I remember hearing on the radio from this album all the time, Living After Midnight, but once again it is just kinda 'there' I don't find anything redeeming about it since it probably sounds very similar to a gazillion other songs I've already heard. Also, I'm tired of just hearing 'melodies'. I want to hear something that either has unnatural aggression or progression. I'm sure other people, such as Prog_ Power_ Adam, could empathize with me.Judas Priest, at least on this album, seem to have a "We're gonna party til we drop" attitude that I just don't find too appealing. I can see it right now....two fat unshaven rednecks drinking beer and listening to this album.
I respect the fact that Judas Priest paved the way for many of today's metal bands, but is it totally off-color to suggest that many of the bands inspired by Judas Priest took what they heard from Priest and made it better? Think about it. That's what Metallica did with "Turn the Page". The original by Bob Seger was incredibly lame, but Metallica's cover livened it up a bit. Hetfield extended many of the notes in the song that Seger just deadpanned. I just find modern metal to be much more appealing to me than bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Chalk it up to my youthful age, but that would be faulty, since I know some people(at least one person) my age who love Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.
I'm no Judas Priest fan. Not yet, anyway. That said, I bought this album a couple of weeks ago, knowing that it is considered one of Priest's best, and their definitive breakthrough. Judas Priest are often compared to Iron Maiden when it comes to "vs."-threads and other things. I don't quite see why, as they have little in common. "British Steel" consists of simple and catchy metal songs, with some cheese thrown in for good measure. Opener 'Rapid Fire' is pretty much everything you could want from the first song on an album. It's fresh, catchy and to the point. Well, it WAS fresh back in 1980. Now it's just another good metal song. Song number two, 'Metal Gods' is also good, but not quite up there. It's definitely worth hearing, though. Then comes one of Priest's most well-known songs; 'Breaking the Law'. It's also the shortest song on the record, clocking in at only 2:35. As usual, everything is catchy, and it's easy to hear why it was chosen as a single. Personally I think it's better than the two tracks before.
'Grinder' has a very cheesy chorus, but after repeated listens I can't help but like it. "Grinder! Looking for meat!" That's cheese if I ever saw it, haha. As with the rest of the songs, the riffs are very catchy. But then comes 'United'. This is one of the most obvious fillers I've ever heard. It has this brotherhood thing going on, and is hardly metal at all. And even while it stinks, I don't really mind listening to it. There's something strange with this album...'You Don't Have to be Old to be Wise' is quite the stupid song title, and I don't really care much for the song either. It's ok, but a bit anonymous compared to the other songs. Song 7 is named 'Living After Midnight'. This has got to be their most famous song, right? And it's kick-fucking-ass as well. The riff is supercatchy, same with the chorus, and the verse is so cheesy it's good.
'The Rage' is next up. It's a good song, but not as good as most of the other songs found on "British Steel". The last song (excluding bonus tracks), is 'Steeler'. It's a great finisher. When the lyrics end, and the song just keeps on playing, that's my favourite part. That was the original tracklisting. But there are also two bonus tracks. The first is 'Red, White & Blue', a very patriotic song recorded in 1985 (I have no clue why it was included on an album from 1980, but whatever). The first time I heard it, I thought it sucked. But now I think it has this uplifting feeling to it. The other bonus track is a live version of 'Grinder', recorded during the "British Steel"-tour. It's pretty much as good as the studio version.
Hey, is this my shortest review yet, or what? I think so, hehe. "British Steel" is a good metal album. I find it to be a bit too simple, though, and it's not much here to get my head banging. The production is good enough (it's remastered, by the way), but doesn't exactly add power to the songs. Compared to Iron Maiden's (there they are again!) debut from 1980, this is pretty lightweight stuff. But I guess that's why it has sold so damn much. At least I'm glad I bought this album, and finding out what the big fuss is. Plus, my friend loves the album already. Good for him!
Ahh yes, "British Steel". One of the most well-acclaimed albums in the history of Heavy Metal, and one of the most well-known, with probably the two most well-known songs from Judas Priest, those being - of course - "Living After Midnight" and "Breaking The Law".
And while these two songs certainly do rock, the remaining material should not be overlooked in favor of them.
"British Steel" is pretty much what you’d expect from a metal album in the early 80s. This baby is chock-full of razor sharp, and for its time pretty damn heavy riffs, that are made especially awesome with that monstrous guitar tone. Guitar Gods Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing also deliver some godly guitar solos on this album, as always. I won’t even try to describe just how much they own, just listen for yourself - most notably the insanely catchy guitar solos of "Living After Midnight" and even more so "Grinder" - but most of all, the crazy section of dueling guitar solos between every vocal line there in the middle. One of the greatest, craziest moments on the album right there.
On top of this, we also have Ian Hill’s very groovy basswork, which stays in the background for the most part (only exception being the bass highlighting in The Rage) and just builds up a very solid backbone, along with the drumming of Dave Holland, who could kinda be considered the weak link in the line-up. His drumbeats are very standard and fairly predictable, but he maintains an underlying catchiness throughout and lashes out some damn nice fills every once in a while, and at the end of the day he gets the job done, even though the other band members play circles around him.
And finally, of course, the ever-changing vocal work of Rob Halford. On this one, he complements the music perfect by mostly keeping his voice in a mid-ranged tone, and fills it with a tough attitude and lots of energy. This guy sings with so much inspiration and power, which is the main reason why I regard him as my favourite vocalist of all time, no doubt about it.
The songwriting on here is catchy, hard-hitting and memorable, relying on a couple of 3-5 riffs in each song, each one more catchy than the previous, and as already mentioned, for its time this is pretty damn heavy. Just listen to stuff like "Grinder", especially the crushing slowed down middle section. Or how ‘bout the total speed metal frenzy of "Rapid Fire"? Yeah, this is just brilliant stuff all through.
There’s the anthemic "United", a very catchy song with a groovy midpaced beat and a wicked memorable sing-along chorus. Then we have the brilliantly titled "You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise", which is often overlooked, sadly. Catchy as hell, especially with that main guitar melody and the great lyrics. And let’s not forget "The Rage", a more experimental and very interesting tune, featuring the previously mentioned bass highlighting, and an overall great mood. And of course the classics. "Breaking The Law", with one of the most well known main riffs in metal history, along with the likes of "Smoke On The Water". The song kicks ass all through, though it does get a million times better in live environment. Same thing with "Living After Midnight"- the big chorus was written to be played live, undoubtedly. But even in the studio, the song kills. Full of energy and attitude, incredibly catchy, and let’s not forget the solo! Short, but oh man, it’s so effective.
But really, the best of the bunch here is "Grinder". The riffs, the vocals, and the fucking solo! Yes, when played right, a guitar solo can make a song many times better than it already is. With "Grinder", this is the case- and even without the solo, it owns so fucking much that I cannot even start to describe!
I'll just sing along and bang my head instead.
Close after "Grinder" comes "Rapid Fire" as my second favourite on here, though it took me quite some time to really appreciate it - but the crazy riffs and middle section along with the powerful lyrics and vocal delivery, it all makes up for another masterpiece.
Finally we also have "Steeler", which is slightly less interesting than the other stuff, and is really “just” good, while the other stuff is all fucking great. Yes, this album is one of the most essential albums ever, and while not nearly the best Judas Priest album, it’s definitely the most classic.
British Steel is where Judas Priest started to move towards a more commercial rock sound, the one that was hinted on, well, maybe more than hinted, on Hell Bent For Leather. There are still some pure Heavy Metal tracks on here, but this release also has its fair share of rock-oriented tracks, but unlike on Hell Bent For Leather, in my opinion, Judas Priest were successful this time.
So as mentioned this CD can easily be broken down into two sections. One section contains the Metal tracks: “Rapid Fire”, “Grinder”, “Metal Gods”, and “Steeler”. All of these songs are very good. Both “Rapid Fire” and the lesser-known “Steeler” have some classic riffs that as Boris mentioned, had to influence a lot of bands. Hell, some, such as Gamma Ray, have even chosen to completely rip-off “Rapid Fire”. “Grinder” is another excellent mid-paced, riff heavy track, however, “Metal Gods” isn’t perfect. I really like everything about the song except the chorus, which just sounds annoying. It does sound a lot better live though. When I went to see Priest on their latest tour, I was subjected to 45 minutes of the opening band, who played extremely cheesy Pop Punk. After the heinous torture that was the opening band, and of course the obligatory sound check, The Priest came out driving home some pure Heavy Metal with “Metal Gods”… so the point is “Metal Gods” seemed about hundred times better at the moment than it actually was, but I digress. The Hard Rock songs are a mixed bag influence wise. I liked all of them, but “Breaking The Law” and “Living After Midnight” are especially catchy, but very simple rock songs. I know they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but these are classic songs, even if they aren’t typical “Judas Priest Metal”. “The Rage” is kind of interesting; the intro sounds like a Reggae song, which thankfully doesn’t last very long. What makes “The Rage” so good though is the vocals. Halford really shines on this song with excellent phrasing and emotion. “United” is sort of like “Metal Gods” in my books: solid verse with a shitty chorus. I do like the vocal melodies in the chorus of “United” but that Queen sounding percussion is very poorly used and it almost ruins the song for me. “You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise” sounds a lot like early Van Halen, in fact, the first time I heard the song I thought I’d somehow put Van Halen’s self-titled release into my CD player by accident. Regardless of its somewhat unoriginal nature, it’s still a decent song but nothing great.
The guitar work is more simple on British Steel, but catchy as always, and the leads in some songs are classic Priest. Dave Holland, the new drummer, gives us some quality moments, mostly with his fills, although he seems to lack the immediacy of Les Binks. Ian Hill is also given a chance to shine on some songs, and while it is limited to short-lived breaks or intros, it is better than nothing I suppose. British Steel is also where more obvious gay references in the lyrics come out. You got to love the following line from “Living After Midnight”: “I’m getting harder by the hour”. Hmmm… it could be worse though, Halford could be singing “Locked And Loaded”.
The remaster contains the bonus track “Red, White, and Blue” which is an anthem based ballad concerning the bands patriotic nature to UK. This bonus track is utterly forgettable and may only appeal to you if you call the UK your home. However, the live version of “Grinder” is very well done, sounding heavier than it does in the studio.
If you’re opposed to Hard Rock and more simple, catchy guitar songs, then British Steel will only appeal to you with a couple of tracks. But if you’re like me and enjoy both sides of the Priest spectrum, played well mind you, then I suggest you add British Steel to your collection.
Song Highlights: Rapid Fire, Breaking The Law, Grinder, Living After Midnight, The Rage, Steeler.