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"British Steel" is the 6th studio album by British heavy metal legends, Judas Priest. The album was produced by Tom Allom and released in 1980 on Columbia Records. The line-up for the album was Rob Halford (vocals), Glenn Tipton (guitar), K. K. Downing (guitar), Ian Hill (bass) and Dave Holland (drums).
Coming two years after the band's 1978 classic, "Killing Machine" ("Hell Bent For Leather" in the United States), "British Steel" saw Judas Priest work with producer Tom Allom for the first time in the studio of what would be a partnership that spanned a further five studio albums. Commercially, "British Steel" was Priest's most successful album which peaked at No.4 on the UK album charts and had three top 40 hit singles - "Living After Midnight" and "Breaking the Law" both reached No.12, while "United" crashed in at No.26. This was the first Judas Priest album to feature drummer Dave Holland, having replaced Les Binks in 1979.
"Rapid Fire" brings the album in to a storming start with pounding drums and some classic Tipton/Downing riffs. The main riff sounds a bit like Motörhead's "Ace of Spades" which came out in the same year. There's a great solo interchange between the two guitarists during the bridge that adds to what is already a very good song. Rob Halford makes his singing so effortless before hitting the high notes on the last bar. This is a song about what would happen is a nuclear war was to begin culminating in the end of civilization as we know it.
"Metal Gods" is up next and the title tells you all you need to know about Judas Priest in that they are gods of heavy metal. However, this song isn't about the band - it's about machines that were built to be man's slave and end up taking on personas of their own, enslaving man and hunting him down. It's a good song with a great beat but the chorus is pretty weak which is a shame because it could have been one of the better songs on the album.
If you're a heavy metal fan, "Breaking the Law" needs no introduction. It is as metal as anything I've ever heard. There's no other heavy metal song that broke down so many walls than this did in its two and a half minutes and it's one of the best records I've ever heard. It is a song which deals with high unemployment in the band's home town of Birmingham and the lack of opportunities for someone leaving school. The main riff is excellent and Halford has the listener exactly where he wants them with his stunning vocals.
"Grinder" is a song with a rocking tempo that carries a meaty riff along with it, backed by a timely drum beat. It's a song of a controversial nature at that time with Rob Halford's homosexuality still very much in the dark at the time, although it was always pretty obvious and on this song he's telling us that he's different from the most of us and what he does is underground because it was frowned upon.
"United" is a heavy metal anthem with a chorus that everyone can sing along to. It's everything you'd expect from Judas Priest with slow guitar riffs and a boppy bass line that rocks the speakers if played loud enough - and why wouldn't you play Judas Priest loud?! It's a song that epitomises heavy metal fans as unique and that they stick together through thick and thin. It's a great song for me, but some might think it's a little too corny.
Teen angst is the subject with "You Don't Have to be Old to be Wise" and although it's not considered by some as good as some of the songs on the album, it still has its classic moments. For me, Judas Priest are on fine form here with a hard rocking song that doesn't fail to give listening pleasure to my ears. It's kind of a strange song for the band to be playing now because they're past their younger days and it's all about rebelling against the older generation.
After "Breaking the Law", "Living After Midnight" is the other monster song on the album with another heavy riff that's instantly recognisable. As the story goes, Glenn Tipton kept Rob Halford awake one night by playing the main riff over and over. Halford knocked on his hotel door and told him he had the lyrics for it. It has a nice solo in the bridge and Halford's vocals are in excellent form here.
"The Rage" is very AC/DC in style with a funky sounding bass line but it's Halford that shines with some of the impressive vocal ranges he's famous for, reaching all the high notes in amazing harmony. There is a ripping solo in the bridge that changes the shape of the song but it's then brought back down to earth with a bluesy sound. It's hard to define which column this song should go in - whether it's brilliant or bad - but I mostly always learn towards it being a work of art.
"Steeler" is a strange number to finish the album with. I like it but I think that's because the tempo is just right for the song. If it was any slower I don't think it would have had the same effect, somehow. I like the blend between the speed of the song and Halford's vocals, which seem to be running at completely different speeds which makes it work. It's played out at the end to some frantic riffing from Downing and Tipton, backed by timely drumming.
In summary, you can't fail to dislike this album from a heavy metal point of view because it is the ultimate heavy metal album. Scott Ian of Anthrax once said that it IS heavy metal because it disowned the blues that most previous metal albums had and said "Even the title. ow does it get more metal than that?" He is, of course, very right. This is one of my all-time favourite albums because it was groundbreaking in shaping the path of things to come from the heavy metal genre.
1. Rapid Fire
2. Metal Gods
3. Breaking the Law
6. You Don't have to be Old to be Wise
7. Living After Midnight
8. The Rage
My rating: 9/10
An album that came along at the right time, with the right promoters and an iconic album cover, Judas Priest's 'British Steel' is a household name among rock fans, often awarded the same level of recognition as 'Metallica,' 'Ace of Spades' 'The Number of the Beast' and 'Machine Head.' The thing these albums have in common is obviously that they contain each band's biggest hits, but are some distance from being the finest work they have produced.
'British Steel' is full of accessible songs based around repetition, which can sometimes (in the case of the ad nauseam riff in 'Rapid Fire' and anthemic choruses of 'United' and 'Living After Midnight') become incredibly annoying by the end. Elsewhere, the simplicity is a distinct advantage, the band's biggest hit 'Breaking the Law' being an undeniably fun song about stealing. This focus on accessibility doesn't mean that the band's former progressive talents have been lost entirely though, evidenced by the overlooked gem 'The Rage' that contains some great instrumentation throughout, and the excellent plodder 'Metal Gods' that achieves a more compelling atmosphere than the aforementioned later anthems could even begin to hope for.
1. Rapid Fire
2. Metal Gods
3. Breaking the Law
6. You Don't Have to Be Old to Be Wise
7. Living After Midnight
8. The Rage
Probably the most unlikely successful heavy metal band ever to come out of an unassuming Birmingham was the unbeatable, unstoppable Judas Priest. Named, surprisingly after an early Bob Dylan track (and it is here where the connect between Judas Priest and folk music starts and stops,) this motley bunch of guys looking like scaffold workers in 1980, appeared to us, as rather what Def Leppard would have looked like if they hadnt discovered setting lotion seven years later.
By 1980, they were already causing madness and complete mayhem across the airwaves since their humble beginnings way back in 1969. In famous rock band style, they went through the usual mixture of line up changes practically every day of the week. Through their haze of sweaty gigs, a new dirty haired miserable face would appear in front of a drunken teenage sea of metal victims. It became common place for the spine of any rock band to under go abrupt surgery every once in a while and Judas Priest were certainly no exception.
British Steel, released in 1980, is still regarded today as JPs highest acclaimed album. Perfectly polished and beautifully cleaned, despite its raw, gritty content, this album still stands firm in the rock album hall of fame twenty six years after its release. With five albums already under their hard leather belts, (the first two, were released but didnt chart) they, unwittingly embarked on the peak of the bands career. It was to be British Steel, that gave the band their yard stick. Notably, due to the charisma of this extraordinary album, it quickly became the same yard stick for every one else
Perhaps it had been the unmistakeable line up of this band at the time of recording the album that was the key to its incredible success. Rob Halford lead the vocals throughout the set with Glenn Tipton on lead guitar, Dave Holland (who left in 1988) on drums, all recruited by the masters of metal, the creators, K.K Downing (guitar) and Ian Hill (bass.) This line up lasted another eight years, thats some record in the hard, cruel world of heavy metal.
Collaborating with Hill and Downing on all the tracks, the mighty, mop haired, studded Halford seemed to give the band its urging driving force that was so desperately needed to put the finishing touches to the powerful album. Presenting us with only nine tracks (the usual set of a vinyl L.P in those days) it still only just enough to make us, the listeners, want more. Like a intimidating angry dog, this album shows off quite a bite and to an old rocker like me, it was still just as captivating and exciting to listen to it again. Even the pain of all those head banging headaches seem to fill my brain once more...
We can sufficiently lose ourselves in this ocean of thunderous, thrusting rock without feeling threatened by a beast that is unfamiliar. For those of us who perhaps didnt take Judas Priest into our hearts until the end of the bands career, this early mastered album is still appealing to the numbers amongst us who hung up the leather a long time ago. Even the teeny boppers who sit surrounding us will still blush at the shock of actually recognising the odd track here and there within this album. The fast, Motorhead themed, Breaking The Law, was used as the Beavis and Butthead track and who could forget the steadiness of Living After Midnight, which always reminds me of The Eagles in forceful mode. It will trigger off some foot tapping if not the odd spark of air guitar among us. Even the union moving United, will have us standing with pride in an Arthur Scargill kind of way .
The Rage, perhaps will not appeal to the masses on a reflective note. This dirty, hill climbing track is dipped generously in molten lava with such metal grace that one can almost smell the band from here. Yet if we sit back and let the maturity of this band flow over us, we will no doubt stand at the end of Steeler, and sing whole heartedly, God Save The Queen. If only those hyper paced drum solos could be tinned, then we would not ever feel an empty feeling metal starvation ever again. It is embarking on one of these rock journeys that I find myself aching, longingly for the music industry toady, to run incredibly hard into a brick wall. There must be a corner to turn eventually, surely we cannot go on churning out such spirit crushing, conveyer belt rubbish for all eternity? This is why I think it is important as well as inspiring to dig up such gems as Judas Priest and give them a damn good airing, whether they want us to or not.
We are so spoilt in this album to be allowed to witness a hard working, beer swigging band create a piece of British rock history. The first track, Rapid Fire, virtually says it all, if this isnt rocks interpretation of a dozen machine guns firing then I dont know what is. The speed of this band really is quite worrying. The pace is unimaginable, and I also dont agree that it is a good idea to visualize the band playing this track, youll only make yourself sick. Complete with its grinding factory like sound effects like an advert for Terminator, the second track, Metal Gods, is a title that you couldnt possibly argue with. It was tracks like these that put JP high up on the pedestal of British rock. The only other true fore runner of the sound they pigeon holed between punk and progressive rock, was Iron Maiden. Both bands, it was true had us hypnotised by their leads, high pitched wails, unlike rivals, AC/DC who, had yet to hand over the microphone to an equally high screaming Young. Places like Donnington would not have ever been the same without them
So, if the album title and the cover (picturing a razor blade, an example of British steel) wasnt enough to stir up any patriotic thoughts in your head, then perhaps never mind. There are not enough things in this country today that make you proud to be British. What we do have is too many things that make us ashamed rather than proud.
Things were a great deal different in those days. Particularly for bands like Judas Priest. The hard rock members of this outfit, today are fast approaching their sixties. If there is one thing that this album will do and thats stir up emotion in any Union Jack hugging Brit. There is something very patriotic about this album and about the feeling of it. Its steady, forth right and dependable like a faithful pet, it will never let you down, and it will always be there in a crisis.
For old rockers, new ones and even those who have never dared to taste the delights of British rock, this album should NOT be in a record collection by any means .
It should be sitting on the mantle piece .
Breaking The Law
You Dont Have To Be Old To Be Wise
Living After Midnight
All songs written by Halford/Tipton/Downing
CBS records 1980
Bought at a record fair 2005 for three pounds.
The seminal metal album created by Priest, a raw mentality and even more raw guitar riffs. If you are looking to discover what heavy metal is really all about then i cannot recommend this album enough. It's a rare album in which everything comes together to create a sublime near perfect end product. The album includes an all time metal classic in "Breaking the law", a track driven by angst and public unrest. So in short if you won’t an album you can put on at any time and just rock out, you can't really go wrong with 'British steel'. Truly a classic metal album that people are still undoubtedly trying to emulate. British metal has never looked or sounded so good, and i doubt it will ever be back with the force and strength created in British Steel. The Band Rob Halford: Lead Vocals Glenn Tipton: Lead Guitars K.K Downing: Lead Guitars Ian Hill: Bass Guitar Dave Holland: Drums Created in the 1970’s Priest was a rough and ready metal band. They were able to create a unique effect by having two lead guitarists; this added an extra bit of power. The band only really came out of the underground when their seminal ground breaking metal album British Steel album was released in 1980. There name was now known to hundreds of thousands and the legacy they have created would live on with them for many years to come. The songs Rapid Fire A good old classic metal song with great riffery and a beat to match. This is the kind of song that deserves to be plaid at full volume, and if you like metal you will be very willing to comply. The lyrics are justly British Metal combining odd combinations of words that rhyme, in order to make a rather obscure patchwork story. A superb opening song, which prepares you the listener for what is to follow. Metal Gods In true metal style Priest slow it down with an extremely catchy anthemic tune. Here lies one of the greatest
treasures in this album, a superb metal song with Iron Maiden-esque sing-a-longability. The haunting Rob Halford lyrics really do reach their full potential in this song especially during the chorus section. Breaking The Law This is truly one of the greatest if not the greatest metal songs ever created. It was produced in a period of great social problems in the early 1980’s. It is about a person giving up with their degradation, and choosing to turn to crime as a form of excitement. This song still has meaning today with the disenchanted youth, although probably a more powerful statement during the problems in Britain under Thatcher, in the 70’s and 80’s. This is also a great metal song in its own right, if you are disengaged from the political messages. “There I was completely wasting out of work and down, all inside its so frustrating as I drift from town to town, feel as though nobody cares if I live or die, so I might as well begin to put some action in my life, Breaking the law…” Grinder Returning back to a more nonsensical style of metal, with heavy riffs but no real meaning. This is a live favourite, as is symbolised in the songs reappearance in the bonus tracks, as indeed a live song. Superb heavy song to just rock out to, no strings attached. United Here the band returns back to the anthemic metal song, with what appears to be more of a football song than anything else. A little corny but still a thoroughly enjoyable song to sing a long to and clap your hands randomly to. You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise With the catchy title aside this is a thoroughly enjoyable metal tune. With all the typical features of any Priest title, a strong drumbeat, stronger vocals and even stronger guitar riffs. Perhaps not as catchy and as some of the other songs on the album (Breaking the law, grinder etc.) but still as metal goes this is still very much an
acceptable piece. Living After Midnight The opening drumbeat sets up the rather surprising upbeat status quo style song. Look past the pop rock and enjoy the song for its excellent overall style including a much more diverse and entertaining use of vocals by Rob Halford. You will soon be tapping your feet and singing along to this one, this is also a good one for the car. The Rage Starting off with the initial rather disjointed and obscure bass introduction this song develops into a good heavy riff driven song. I really do enjoy the guitar work in this one, it doesn’t resort to random heavy thrashing, but instead utilises a more intelligent aspect of musicianship. It does have a rather odd reggae theme going throughout though, quite odd but still excellent. Steeler Another great upbeat great metal song. With more than a slight reference to the problems facing the country at the time of its writing. Especially with the songs title, being more of a reference to Sheffield where problems where as bad if not worse than it was in the rest of the land. A great metal song that is thick with metaphor and hidden meanings. A superb conclusion to the original section to the album. Bonus songs Red, White and Blue I don’t have a clue why this hasn’t been used in any albums before, this is an excellent song. Once again this is one of those rousing anthems of which Priest love to use. It has a real Emerson, lake and palmer/star spangled banner/Sharpe theme quality to it. A real rebel rouser, extremely corny in its rather false patriotism, I cannot help feel that this might by a little ironic as a statement, but still superb. Grinder (Live) Is it only me that thinks all good acts perform better live than in the studio, well if this theory is to be agreed with then this proves without doubt Judas Priest are a superb band. From the rather extravagant introduction the song progresses
louder, heavier and subsequently better than the original. What a finale to the remastered album Conclusion This is a defining album in the history of rock and metal, it’s only real subsequent challenger from these isles came in the form of Iron Maidens “number of the beast”. There is a depth and sincerity to this album which is really unparalleled especially in today’s trivial manufactured society, this bolt of raw steel hits home in a wake up call to all metallers. There is another way, there is an alternative purchasing this album would be a good step in the right direction.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Rapid Fire
2 Metal Gods
3 Breaking The Law
6 You Don't Have To Be Old To Be Wise
7 Living After Midnight