Another great album in the metal world released on April 14, 1980, is "British Steel" by "Judas Priest".
This is the band's sixth album and its first with drummer Dave Holland who came from "Trapeze".
This album comes two years after the album "Stained Class", which we wrote about and in our opinion was an album that breathed new life into the metal world. Remember, "Judas" went through a kind of external and internal upheaval there, which not only established its musical identity, but also was a right-wing marker for all the metal bands that would come after. They abandoned jeans and a T-shirt in favor of leather clothing and accessories, they changed their logo, and most importantly K. K. Downing and Glenn Tipton thickened and hardened their guitar sound while singer Rob Halford sharpens his screams.
So this trend of sound thickening and sharpening of the duel guitar technique continued on the album "Killing Machine" as well, only where Judas' desire to go in a more commercial direction.
Judas has changed quite a bit over the years. Their songs became shorter, the bluesy influences were neglected, the dark lyrics were replaced by more optimistic themes and the heavy rhythm became happier and lighter.
(Photo: Paul Natkin)
This evolution process of Judas over the years has reached a new high on this album. Judas has managed to put the melody and even the pop into the ragged riffs of metal. it managed to do here what none of the metal bands had been able to do until that time. "Judas" was able to find the formula that would make metal catchy and accessible to the masses, and that formula screams out from almost every song on this album.
It exists in the song "Breaking the Law" which includes one of the most catchy riffs in metal, a riff that just can't stop humming, and also includes such melodic and beautiful singing in the verses that it's melody can easily be used as a lullaby. This song was released as the second single from the album and is one of the breakthrough songs of Judas which brought them to the masses, with a little help from the video clip that the band shot for it. Surprisingly this song does not include solo guitars, probably intentionally, and to make this song more accessible and radio-friendly. It also features shattered glass effects, an effect achieved by smashing milk bottles placed in the doorway of Ringo Starr's mansion where the album was recorded, and a police siren effect that might surprise you to discover was achieved solely through K. K.'s guitar. This song, which is played in almost all the band's performances, has over the years developed in the form of a solo by K. K. that is not part of the album version, and it manages to make the audience crazy in the band's performances even today more than 40 years later.
The formula also exists in the song "Living After Midnight" with its 4/4 drumming that could easily have become a pop hit, had it not been for the heavy riffs of Tipton and Downing and without the rough sound of Halford. This song was created in the very same Ringo Starr mansion in which the album was recorded, after Tipton woke Halford up in the middle of the night with riffs from his guitar. Halford looked at his watch and told Tipton the phrase "really living after midnight" which became this excellent song from the album. And what a beauty of a clip this song has, with Dave Holland's invisible drum set, Halford's marvelous entrance to the stage with a motorcycle, giving the masses a glimpse of what the band's performance looks like, and the fans mimicking Tipton in his excellent melodic solo with the "air guitar".
The Formula is also reflected in songs like "United" - the stadium anthem that preceded "Queen's" "Radio Ga Ga" with the "clap" drumming that was intended to make the audience stomp and clap joining in with the band. This song was released as the third single from the album and was inspired by a protest against the UK government in those years.
And if the idea was not yet clear then "Metal Gods" comes and put the stamp that crowns Judas as "God of Metal". Surprisingly Halford did not write the song about the band but about a science fiction world dominated by robots and in protest of the growing takeover of "Big Brother" controlled by the metal god - the robots.
The album also features "Grinder" with the riff that "grinds" the ear to a fine, which was influenced by "AC/DC" with whom the band was on tour in 1979. Halford will also later admit that they were influenced by the Australian gang while writing the album. What's nice is that this effect was in a sense two-way because "AC/DC" also took some back from "Judas" with the album "Back In Black" which came out a few months later and included some incredibly melodic riffs.
And there's also "Don't Have to Be Old to Be Wise" whose riff was borrowed by "Motley Crue" for the song "Looks That Kill" taken from the album "Shout at the Devil", and the fast and furious "Rapid Fire" that reminds us who brought it always one of the first speed metal songs with "Exciter" two years earlier and more and more ...
The British Steel album was "Judas'" first to become a gold album and later a platinum one. Is the album that exposed them to the general public and made them one of the most recognizable bands in world metal, with Halford, Tipton, and K. K.. Raised to the level of "Metal Idols" just like in the song from the album.
The importance of this album was in inventing the formula that would later make metal accessible to the masses. The combination of the melody with the roughness. A version that will be further refined later on by bands like "Def Leppard" and will slowly shift the metal towards the mainstream.
This is probably also the reason why this album is in third place in Rolling Stone magazine's 100 greatest metal albums of all time and also in the list of "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die".