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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?