Judas Priest is one of heavy metal’s most important bands — the ultimate defenders of the style for four decades running, through periods of both acclaim and scorn, and hard-ly any interruption along the way. Hailing from the same industrial metropolis as heavy metal forefathers Black Sabbath, Birmingham, England, Priest debuted in 1974 with ‘Rocka Rolla,’ to a modest reception; but steadily grew in prowess and prominence over the course of landmark albums like ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ (1976), ‘Stained Class’ (1978), and ‘Hell Bent for Leather’ (1978). The latter also saw the group helping to define heavy metal’s visual iconography, largely based on vocalist Rob Halford’s penchant for metal-studded accessories and leather bondage gear, which, ironically, reflected his closeted gay lifestyle. Come 1980’s pivotal ‘British Steel’ LP, a slightly more accessible metal sound helped Judas Priest turn a commercial corner in America, and ensuing hit albums like ‘Screaming for Vengeance’ (1982), ‘Defenders of the Faith’ (1984) and ‘Turbo’ (1986) saw them conquer even the once elusive radio waves, to say nothing of MTV. Then, just as their creativity and relevance appeared to be waning near the close of the decade, Priest stunned all cynics by bouncing back with one of their best and fiercest albums in 1990’s ‘Painkiller.’ The group appeared poised to flourish throughout the ‘90s until Halford surprisingly left the band to pursue other musical projects, including Fight and 2ow. Priest’s remaining members, guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Down-ing, bassist Ian Hill and recently recruited drummer Scott Travis waited nearly five years for Halford, but finally carried on with a new singer — former tribute band phenom Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens — and released two albums to mixed reviews. Then, following the example set a few years earlier by fellow British metal gods, Iron Maiden, Halford and Priest reunited for 2003’s ‘Angel of Retribution’ and resumed their all-conquering ways — even surviving Downing’s retirement in 2012 with the help of new guitarist, Richie Faulkner. In sum, when all is said and done Judas Priest will likely figure among the all-time greats in heavy metal history, alongside Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Metallica.
Selected Discography: ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ (1976), ‘Stained Class’ (1978), ‘British Steel’ (1980), ‘Screaming for Vengeance’ (1982), ‘Painkiller’ (1990)