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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.