Judas Priest in recent years. From left to right: Ian Hill, Richie Faulkner, Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton and Scott Travis.
"There I was, completely wasting, out of work and down Judas Priest
All inside it's 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"
is a Heavy Metal
band that got its original lineup in Birmingham, England, in 1970. Taking their name from an ensemble also called Judas Priest which split up earlier that year, lead singer Al Atkins approached KK Downing, Ian Hill, and John Ellis to become their singer. Atkins and their subsequent drummer Alan Moore (not that one
) left in 1974. Ian Hill's girlfriend suggested her brother, Rob Halford, could fill Atkins's departure.
Halford and his fellow Hiroshima member, drummer John Hinch, joined Downing and Hill, and Judas Priest as we know them was formed with their debut single "Rocka Rolla" in August. JP kicked out Hinch after the Rocka Rolla
album and went through five more until they picked up Scott Travis in 1989 (previously of Racer X).
In 1990, America's Moral Guardians
accused JP of Subliminal Seduction
in the suicides of two teenage boys. Rob Halford responded by stating that the alleged message to "do it" didn't say what to do, and that subliminally provoking his audience to commit suicide would be counterproductive; the ideal subliminal message would have been "Buy more of our records." (And it's not as if it was even possible for it to be their fault anyway, since Spooky Tooth had written the song nearly ten years earlier
.) The case was, predictably, laughed out of court.
Halford left in 1992, and JP brought on Tim "Ripper" Owens in 1996 for Jugulator
. Halford returned in 2003; in the interim, he had publicly come out as a homosexual after five years of rumors. The rest of the band had known the whole time.
Rob Halford also figures heavily in Brütal Legend
. He voices two fairly major characters, one of whom closely resembles him, two other major characters share his surname, and there's a lot of Priest on the soundtrack.
Unfortunately, in 2010, they decided that it was time to retire and announced their farewell Epitaph World Tour
. However, they have stated both in press conferences and online that they will release at least one more studio album afterwards. Also, they decided not to retire after all and will continue touring.
On the 20th of April 2011 the band announced K. K. Downing had left. While this was a shock the band will go ahead with the tour and continue working with new guitarist Ritchie Faulkner, who has previously worked with Lauren Harris, daughter of Steve Harris
Judas Priest have just completed work on their 17th studio album, which is called Redeemer of Souls
. It came out July 8, 2014 to positive reception.
Principal Members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):
- Al Atkins - lead vocals (1970-1973)
- Les Binks - drums (1977-1979)
- Chris Campbell - drums (1971-1973)
- K.K. Downing - guitar (1970-2011)
- John Ellis - drums (1970-1971)
- Richie Faulkner - guitar (2011-Present)
- Rob Halford - lead vocals, harmonica (1973-1992, 2003-Present)
- Ian Hill - bass (1970-Present)
- John Hinch - drums (1973-1975)
- Dave Holland - drums (1979-1989)
- Alan Moore - drums (1971, 1975-1976)
- Tim "Ripper" Owens - lead vocals (1996-2003)
- Glenn Tipton - guitar, synthesizer, piano, keyboard (1974-Present)
- Scott Travis - drums (1989-Present)
- 1974 - Rocka Rolla
- 1976 - Sad Wings Of Destiny
- 1977 - Sin After Sin
- 1978 - Stained Class
- 1978 - Killing Machine
- 1980 - British Steel
- 1981 - Point Of Entry
- 1982 - Screaming For Vengeance
- 1984 - Defenders Of The Faith
- 1986 - Turbo
- 1988 - Ram It Down
- 1990 - Painkiller
- 1997 - Jugulator
- 2001 - Demolition
- 2005 - Angel Of Retribution
- 2008 - Nostradamus
- 2014 - Redeemer Of Souls
- 1979 - Unleashed In The East
- 1987 - Priest...Live!
- 1998 - '98 Live Meltdown
- 2003 - Live In London
- 2009 - A Touch Of Evil: Live
- 2010 - British Steel: 30th Anniversary Live
This band provides examples of:
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- Ambiguously Gay: Or not so ambiguous. Rob Halford's sexuality was sort of an open secret for years until he came out in 1998.
- Badass Moustache: Ian Hill.
- Bald of Awesome: Rob Halford.
- '80s Hair: Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing.
- Fan Nickname: The band are often called "Metal Gods" by fans, in reference to their song. Even though said song was about giant robots, the title for many fans reflects the band's genre and how they are revered.
- Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Rob Halford didn't officially come of out of the closet until 1998. But looking back on some old Judas Priest concert footage and music videos, many younger fans have reactions along the lines of "How could you not know that he was gay?!" Even more amusing is that many female metal fans viewed Rob Halford as a sex symbol (one famous example come from the short documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot where a female fan comments "I'd jump his bones!" in reference to Rob Halford).
- Then again, while promoting the Screaming for Vengeance album, Rob Halford appeared in several publicity stills along with Penthouse Pet of the Year Cheryl Rixon (causing some people to speculate that the two were dating). This may have contributed to many people viewing him as a heterosexual sex symbol.
- Hell-Bent for Leather: Trope Namer, Trope Codifier and the source of leather's prominence in heavy metal fashion.
- Large Ham: Rob Halford.
- Leather Man: Rob Halford.
- Made of Iron / The Show Must Go On: During a 1991 Judas Priest concert, Rob Halford collided with a drum riser while riding his motorcycle onstage, falling off the bike and breaking his nose. After regaining consciousness he performed the remainder of the concert despite the fact that he would have been in excruciating pain at the time. He did not go to the hospital until after the band had completed its setlist.
- Manly Gay: Halford.
- Metal Scream: Rob Halford is a master of it.
- Name's the Same: There's also a jazz upright-bass player named Dave Holland (who was in Miles Davis's band from 1968 to 1970).
- Promoted Fanboy: Tim "Ripper" Owens.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: Like many bands that were popular in the 1980s, Judas Priest had a reputation for drug and alcohol-fueled debauchery that went on backstage at their shows.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Owens was thought to be using a backing track of Rob's voice by members of the band when they heard his demo tape.
- Ambiguously Gay: Rob's homosexuality even seeps into the lyrics of songs like "Raw Deal", which has rather blatant gay rights themes in the lyrics. (In 1977!)
- It's a lot of fun to try to explain every song in the context of Halford's homosexuality.
- "Grinder" from British Steel is a perfect example of this, if you think about it enough:
Off the straight and narrow
I won't keep in time
Tend to bend the arrow out of line
- And of course the chorus...
Looking for meat
Wants you to eat!
- Then there's "Delivering the Goods," which practically sounds like it's about (male-on-male) gang rape. ("We're gonna load you with our brand!")
- "Turbo Lover" could be thus interpreted, though it isn't so specific.
- Ambition Is Evil: Inverted with "You Got Another Thing Coming".
- And I Must Scream: "Brain Dead" is sung from the perspective of a man suffering from locked-in syndrome who wants badly to be taken off life support.
- Audience Participation Song: "Breaking the Law" and "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" are both songs in which Halford has the audience sing the chorus for him. Often, "Breaking the Law" is sung ENTIRELY by the public. Case in point, this video.
- Several tracks, including "Take On The World", "United" and "Red White And Blue" were written with this purpose in mind. In the case of "Take On The World", the chorus even has overdubbed backing vocals to create the illusion that a crowd is singing along to it.
- Big Brother Is Watching: "Electric Eye."
- Call Back / Shout-Out:
- "Sad wings that Heaven sent wipes out in rage!" (a reference to their second album, Sad Wings Of Destiny)
- "Forged in the black country, under blood-red skies....Took on all the world; it had no choice!" ("Monsters of Rock," "Blood Red Skies," and "Take on the World," respectively).
- The songs/albums Stained Class and The Sentinel are mentioned in the song Eulogy from the album Angel Of Retribution (2005).
- "Rock Forever" (from 1979's Killing Machine) has a middle section that almost sounds like a tribute to classic 1950s rock 'n' roll, particularly Danny & The Juniors' "At the Hop."
- Similarly, their music video for "Headin' Out to the Highway" is obviously a tribute to the "drag race" scenes in classic '50s "hot rod" flicks. (Rob, of course, plays the role of the girl who starts the race.)
- Careful With That Axe: Rob Halford does this a lot, to the point of Love It or Hate It territory.
- Concept Album: Nostradamus.
- Cool People Rebel Against Authority: "Parental Guidance."
- Cover Version: They have covered "Diamonds and Rust" by Joan Baez, "Race With the Devil" by Gun, "Better by You, Better Than Me" by Spooky Tooth, "The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)" by Fleetwood Mac and "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry.
- Darker and Edgier: The Painkiller, Jugulator and Demolition albums.
- Dark Is Not Evil/Good Is Not Nice: "The Sentinel."
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: "Heavy Duty" starts out like this, then segues into Heavy Meta. Living After Midnight as well. To quote Rob "'My body's coming', what could possibly that be meaning? [sic]"
- Epic Rocking: Over the 7-minute mark:
- "Run of the Mill", (8:32) from Rocka Rolla.
- "Victim of Changes", (7:44) and Dreamer Deceiver/Deceiver (8:40) from Sad Wings Of Destiny.
- "All The Way", (7:25) from Point Of Entry.
- "Prisoner of Your Eyes", (7:12) from the Screaming For Vengeance remaster.
- "Blood Red Skies", (7:50) from Ram It Down.
- "Cathedral Spires", (9:17) from Jugulator.
- "Lochness", (13:29) from Angel Of Retribution.
- "Revelations", (7:05) "Death", (7:33) "Alone", (7:50) and "Future of Mankind" (8:29) from Nostradamus.
- Evil Is Sexy: "Devil's Child" and "Touch of Evil," among others.
- Filk Song: Blood Red Skies is quite obviously inspired by Terminator.
- Heavy Meta: Lots of it, beginning with Rock Forever. Metal Gods subverts this, since it's actually about a Robot War.
- Heavy Mithril: From Sinner to Loch Ness.
- Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Nostradamus has songs for Death, Conquest and War. Pestilence and Plague share a song as well.
- Humans Are Bastards: "Stained Class"
- Incredibly Long Note: In Painkiller, "Tyrant" and a good few others.
- Intercourse with You: Many, including "Eat Me Alive", "Turbo Lover" and "A Touch of Evil".
- In the Style of...: Their hard rock cover of Joan Baez' Diamonds and Rust. Averted live sometimes: they've played it in a more folky, acoustic fashion in concert before. Similarly, their version of "The Green Manalishi" transforms it so completely from a moody blues piece to metal that, much to the annoyance of Fleetwood Mac fans, many Priest fans wrongly assume it to be a Priest original.
- The Lad-ette: The subject of "Rocka Rolla":
Ten pint a nighter
Feline on the borderline
- Lighter and Softer:
- Turbo, complete with synthesizers. Many fans did not appreciate the change.
- The band did this after they moved from the gloomy themes and complex compositions of their earlier albums to straight-ahead proto-groove-metal and simple lyrics, mostly about "Us vs. Them". Note that fans aren't really upset, since this change did result in "You Got Another Thing Comin'" and others.
- Lyrical Cold Open:
- "All Guns Blazing" opens with Rob singing the first two line acapella before the instruments kick in.
- "Ram It Down" opens similarly, except instead of lyrics it's just "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"
- Metal Scream: They are known for these.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: A 6 or 7, usually, with some of Jugulator and Painkiller crossing into 8 territory. Point of Entry and Turbo would both be 4 or 5. That said, it should be noted that albums like "Sin After Sin" and "British Steel" might seem fairly average today, but were a very hard 11 when released.
- Motor Mouth: Not as extreme as later speed-metal bands, but still impressive. The best example is probably 1979's "Delvering the Goods": "Well, we don't pull no punches. We aim where the crunches are bound to do most damage to your brain. If you're looking for it mellow, you're nothing more than yellow. Gonna do it again and again." That's 37 words spewed out in a mere 12 seconds, or over 3 words per second!
- New Sound Album: Turbo was far closer to Glam Rock or Hair Metal than the several albums preceding it, with a lot of synthesizers and commercially friendly hooks. Ram It Down, the following album, was a return to straightforward metal and actually introduced a number of elements to the band's sound which would crystalize in Painkiller, which borders on being a Thrash album. Interestingly, Turbo and Ram It Down were supposedly written, if not recorded, simultaneously to be released as a double album.
- They were, but the band consciously didn't use many keyboards on Ram It Down, partly because of the bad reception Turbo got, and partly to make the songs distinctive.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and James Dean in "Heroes' End."
- Nothing Is Scarier: The giant carnivorous worm in "Night Crawler" is never seen by its victims, only heard.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: On Nostradamus Ominous Old French Chanting.
- Patriotic Fervor: "Red, White And Blue," a song they recorded but never released except on a remastered version of British Steel. (Ingeniously, although the song refers to Britain's Union Jack, it could also represent the flag of the United States of America, France, Cuba, or various other countries.) Slightly subverted in that the band's comments in the liner notes pointed out that it was slightly tongue-in-cheek.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
"HE! IS! THE! PAINKILLER! THIS! IS! THE! PAINKILLER!"
"LIVING! After MIDNIGHT! ROCKING! To the DAWN! LOVING! 'Til the MORNING! Then I'm GONE! I'm GONE!"
"HERE! COMES! THE REVOLUTION! TIME! FOR! RETRIBUTION!"
"ROCK HARD! RIDE FREE!"
- And so on, ad infinitum.
- Rearrange the Song: Their Cover Version of "Diamonds and Rust", a gentle Folk Music ballad by Joan Baez,is performed in their trademark Heavy Metal style.
- Serial Killer: "The Ripper" (the song, that is)
- Something Completely Different: Countless examples, as they never stopped reinventing themselves throughout their career.
- Point of Entry is practically a pop album, with very few truly heavy songs.
- Turbo, of course.
- "Worth Fighting For" from Angel of Retribution almost sounds like a really Gothic cowboy/western song, complete with a Buck Owens-inspired riff.
- "Lochness" almost sounds like a Genre Throwback to the very earliest metal of Iron Butterfly or Deep Purple.
- Spy Satellite: "Electric Eye".
- Title Only Chorus: Present in quite a few Priest songs, such as "Freewheel Burning", "Hell Bent for Leather", "Breaking the Law", "Eat Me Alive", "Bloodstone", etc.
- Trope Codifier: The band is largely responsible for the modern style of heavy metal. Depending on your definition of "heavy metal", they may also count as the Trope Maker or even the Ur Example. They, along with Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Saxon, Accept and a few others, are one of the most popular and influential bands to play the original style of metal.
- Vampires Are Sex Gods: "Love Bites"
- War Is Hell: "Dying To Meet You / Hero, Hero" from Rocka Rolla:
Take your medal
Wear it now with pride
Consolation for the pain
And sin you feel inside
- Whip It Good: In the intro of "Love You to Death" from Ram It Down. Outro has Halford screaming in ecstasy while he is supposedly being whipped.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Occasionally; taken Up to Eleven on "All Guns Blazing."
- Animated Music Video: "War".
- Canon Discontinuity: The band seem to try and sweep the Owens era under the rug, if their post-reunion setlists are any indication.
- All but confirmed with a recent box set containing all of their albums (including their first two, which were never officially released on CD by the band) except for the ones with Owens.
- Likewise with the period with Al Atkins (and other early members). Not many know that they recorded several demo tapes with him, including tracks that didn't make it to albums. These have never leaked and only tracklists are known. It should be noted, however, that in both cases the splits were without the usual theatrics and upset, and the revision of the band's catalogue was likely a marketing decision rather than grudge-bearing.
- Deliberately Monochrome: The video for "Painkiller."
- Downer Ending: The music video for "Freewheel Burning" ends with a little boy dying after playing a particularly intense video game with a Judas Priest soundtrack. ("Heavy metal can be hazardous to your health.")
- Earth-Shattering Poster: The cover of Ram It Down.
- Fallen Angel: On the cover of Sad Wings of Destiny.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: One of their stage props used for their Electric Eye performance.
- Knife Nut: "The Sentinel" is about a guy who wears throwing knives strapped across his chest, and uses them to rapidly dispatch multiple armed enemies. "The Ripper" is about Jack the Ripper.
- Sigil Spam: Judas Priest are among the few bands to actually have a sigil of sorts - i.e. a simple, recognisable logo that is not a stylized version of their name. The "Judas Priest cross" or "Devil's Tuning Fork" dates back to their second album, 1976's Sad Wings Of Destiny, and has appeared on cover art, merchandise, outfits and stage decorations ever since.
- Straw Feminist: The video for "Locked In" features a tribe of evil (but sexy) warrior women who imprison and torture men. (The song is about a Tsundere.)
- Winged Humanoid: The cover art for Sad Wings Of Destiny and Painkiller.