"British Steel" is the 6th studio album by British heavy metal legends, Judas Priest. The album was produced by Tom Allom and released in 1980 on Columbia Records. The line-up for the album was Rob Halford (vocals), Glenn Tipton (guitar), K. K. Downing (guitar), Ian Hill (bass) and Dave Holland (drums).
Coming two years after the band's 1978 classic, "Killing Machine" ("Hell Bent For Leather" in the United States), "British Steel" saw Judas Priest work with producer Tom Allom for the first time in the studio of what would be a partnership that spanned a further five studio albums. Commercially, "British Steel" was Priest's most successful album which peaked at No.4 on the UK album charts and had three top 40 hit singles - "Living After Midnight" and "Breaking the Law" both reached No.12, while "United" crashed in at No.26. This was the first Judas Priest album to feature drummer Dave Holland, having replaced Les Binks in 1979. Is it any good? Let's find out!
This song brings the album in to a storming start with pounding drums and some classic Tipton/Downing riffs. The main riff sounds a bit like Motörhead's "Ace of Spades" which came out in the same year. There is a great solo interchange between the two guitarists during the bridge that adds to what is already a very good song. Rob Halford makes his singing so effortless before hitting the high notes on the last bar. This is a song about what would happen is a nuclear war was to begin culminating in the end of civilization as we know it.
The title tells you all you need to know about Judas Priest in that they are gods of heavy metal. However, this song is not about the band – it is about machines that were built to be man's slave and end up taking on personas of their own, enslaving man and hunting him down. It's a good song with a great beat but the chorus is pretty weak which is a shame because it could have been one of the better songs on the album.
Breaking the Law
If you're a heavy metal fan, "Breaking the Law" needs no introduction. It is as metal as anything you have probably ever heard. There is no other heavy metal song that broke down so many walls than this did in its two and a half minutes. It is a song which deals with high unemployment in the band's home town of Birmingham in England, and the lack of opportunities for someone leaving school. The main riff is excellent and Halford has the listener exactly where he wants them with his stunning vocals.
Here is a song with a rocking tempo that carries a meaty riff along with it, backed by a timely drum beat. It is a song of a controversial nature at that time with Rob Halford's homosexuality still very much in the dark at the time, although it was always pretty obvious and on this song he's telling us that he is different from most of us and what he does is underground because it was frowned upon back in the day.
This is a heavy metal anthem with a chorus that everyone can sing along to. It is everything you'd expect from Judas Priest with slow guitar riffs and a boppy bass line that rocks the speakers if played loud enough – and why wouldn't you play Judas Priest loud?! It is a song that epitomizes heavy metal fans as unique and that they stick together through thick and thin. It is a great song, but some might think it's a little too corny.
You Don't Have to be Old to be Wise
Teen angst is the subject with "You Don't Have to be Old to be Wise" and although it is not considered by some as good as some of the songs on the album, it still has its classic moments. For the seasoned fan, Judas Priest is on fine form here with a hard rocking song that doesn't fail to give listening pleasure to the ears. It is kind of a strange song for the band to be playing now because they're past their younger days and it's all about rebelling against the older generation.
Living After Midnight
After "Breaking the Law", "Living After Midnight" is the other monster song on the album with another heavy riff that's instantly recognizable. As the story goes, Glenn Tipton kept Rob Halford awake one night by playing the main riff over and over. Halford knocked on his hotel door and told him he had the lyrics for it. It has a nice solo in the bridge and Halford's vocals are in excellent form here.
This is very AC/DC in style with a funky sounding bass line but it's Halford that shines with some of the impressive vocal ranges he's famous for, reaching all the high notes in amazing harmony. There is a ripping solo in the bridge that changes the shape of the song but it's then brought back down to earth with a bluesy sound. It's hard to define which column this song should go in – whether it is brilliant or bad – but most will learn towards it being a work of art.
This is a strange number to finish the album with, because the tempo is just right for the song. If it was any slower it would not have had the same effect, somehow. The blend between the speed of the song and Halford's vocals, which seem to be running at completely different speeds, makes it work. It's played out at the end to some frantic riffing from Downing and Tipton, backed by timely drumming.
You can't fail to dislike this album from a heavy metal point of view because it is the ultimate heavy metal album. Scott Ian of Anthrax once said that it IS heavy metal because it disowned the blues that most previous metal albums had and said "Even the title. How does it get more metal than that?" He is, of course, very right.
- Rapid Fire
- Metal Gods
- Breaking the Law
- You Don't have to be Old to be Wise
- Living After Midnight
- The Rage