1980, Music

British Steel (1980) by Judas Priest

I have heard that this was sort of the Black Album of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal – the genre’s more popular and most accessible record to date. I don’t know Judas Priest, and I have no idea how much of a departure this was from earlier Priest albums, but it’s certainly significantly more accessible than Maiden or Motorhead – also, obviously far more “metal” than the latter.

For years I have struggled with purposefully accessible music, wondering if artists sell out when they make their sound easier to access for the public. When I was young the idea seemed like a cardinal sin for artists. The older I get the less important I think it is – we all have to make a living and everyone (or at least the vast majority of us) wants to be successful.

They walk a fine line but I think they walk it well: this is still very clearly what heavy metal was in 1980. You wouldn’t mistake this for anything else or for the arena rock erroneously labeled “metal” that would soon appear. And yet it’s also clear why this was a big hit: the hooks are stronger than other contemporaneous metal bands, there are singalong choruses and no song is too long.

As someone else said, it’s like AC/DC and Judas Priest had a baby. (Of course I don’t know if that’s really true, but it makes sense to me without knowing any better.)

It doesn’t exactly make me want to seek out any of their other “commercial” albums but it does make me want to hear what they sounded like before they went “commercial”. And, if it helped expose more people to metal, then all the better.


All tracks written by Glenn Tipton, Rob Halford and K.K. Downing.

  1. “Rapid Fire” 4:08
  2. “Metal Gods” 4:00
  3. “Breaking the Law” 2:35
  4. “Grinder” 3:58
  5. “United” 3:35
  6. “You Don’t Have to Be Old to Be Wise” 5:04
  7. “Living After Midnight” 3:31
  8. “The Rage” 4:44
  9. “Steeler” 4:30
  • Rob Halford – vocals
  • K. K. Downing – guitars
  • Glenn Tipton – guitars
  • Ian Hill – bass
  • Dave Holland – drums

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