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 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"
Judas Priest 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 and Demolition. 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)
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.
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.
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.
"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.)
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)