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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.