Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Those three bands and the twin guitar dynamic they developed and adopted for their sound essentially created the heavy metal you listen to today and this re-release shows how important Priest were to the last 30 years of heavy music.
Forming in 1969, Judas Priest hit the big time by following a successful tour opening for AC/DC with the release of their seminal album British Steel in 1980, but it was 1982’s Screaming For Vengeance (the bands’ eighth album) that became the top seller of their career and proved to be the release that broke Priest in America.
The album reached number 11 in the UK charts and is chock full of examples of classic Judas Priest – from chugging guitar riffs, to squealing guitar solos and banshee like vocals, all held in place by probably the most solid rhythm section in metal.
Opening with the short instrumental The Hellion, the album then smacks you in the face with the metal as fuck Electric Eye, a song made all the cooler by Rob Halford (vocals) screaming “I’m made of metaaaal!” in the chorus. As Riding on the Wind and Bloodstone come round, the listener is in full on “Priest Mode”, which essentially involves headbanging and playing air guitar whilst hunting down any leather that might be wearable.
(Take These) Chains, a song written by Bob Halligan Jr, is probably the only song that really sounds dated on this anniversary edition as the rest of the album a) has been remastered so well and b) the songs are so damn good they will always stand the test of time, as proved by the title track itself which challenges anyone listening to stay still and followed up by the huge Stateside hit You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ makes this a Side B (I imagine that’s how it went) to be reckoned with.
Fever showcases another classic Priest move of putting a layer of effect over the rhythm guitar tracks, which really helps to make them stand out in the mix and gives the band that signature sound that’s so important when everyone else is trying to copy you.
The original album closer, Devil’s Child, is a groove heavy track that sounds written for arena audiences to raise their horns aloft and is an excellent ending to a basically faultless album. Sure the band have perhaps become parodies of themselves these days with all the leather and chains that make up their stage attire, but at the end of the day it is all about the songs and Screaming For Vengeance is practically a Greatest Hits package in itself, which brings us neatly to the bonus live tracks added for this 30th Anniversary Edition from a concert in 1982 performed just 2 months after the album’s release.
Almost starting again at the beginning of the album, the band play solidly through The Hellion, Electric Eye and Riding on the Wind, the tracks themselves mixed and mastered so well that were it not for the subtle nuances that tell you it’s a live vocal you could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to the album. Halford works the crowd in a fairly obvious call and response for You Got Another Thing Comin’ before Glenn Tipton and KK Downing show why they are such a great guitar duo as they perform a flawless Screaming For Vengeance.
Just as Devil’s Child closed the original record, so it closes the live portion of the bonus tracks, whilst it is obviously a storming performance, I can’t help but feel this would have been better as a second disc of the full concert, being as I literally just heard all of these songs. Halford’s voice is incredible throughout though and actually sound like they garnered the same reaction from parents in the 80’s as bands like 3 Inches of Blood and Motionless in White do today.
There is one more bonus track of Prisoner of Your Eyes, a song recorded during the sessions for Priest’s 1986 album that is probably the nearest thing to a ballad you will ever hear from the boys in leather.
This special edition also features a DVD (how long before these become blu-rays?) of the entire Judas Priest set at the US Festival in 1983, which had an estimated audience of 375,000.
Opening (once again) with The Hellion and Electric Eye, the band play fantastically, but it is Rob Halford that steals the show, casually singing from behind the stage and strutting onto the stage mid-verse. Although it’s interesting to see Halford with hair and no beard or tattoos, it seems to be the beginning of taking the look too far as he has handcuffs hanging from one side of his belt and a whip from the other.
Metal Gods thunders along appropriately, Breaking The Law rocks with an equal amount of measure and shows just how long Halford has been using the line “Breaking the what?” as an intro to the song. The scariest moment has to be during the intro for their now famous cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Green Manalishi, when the cameras give an indication of exactly what 375,000 people might look like and this is a time before all the barriers and big gaps that are now common place at festivals.
Sadly, the band’s hour is up all too soon (this wasn’t a headlining performance) and KK has to stop headbanging, Halford has to stop screaming like a boss, Glenn Tipton has to stop smirking for all the girls that might be looking at him and it’s time for the Harley Davidson to roar onto the stage, signalling set closer Hell Bent for Leather.
It’s a top set by a top band at the top of their career…for the first time. If you already own this album, the live tracks and DVD make it a worthy purchase even before the remastering and if you don’t then you need to buy it before you have your metal status revoked.
Now where did I put my stud gun…