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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Judas Priest

British Steel 30th Anniversary Edition

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve already reviewed the British Steel album, and in fact, the version that’s released here as the audio CD. That doesn’t mean I’ve reviewed this set. The first disc is the remastered version of British Steel that appeared a few years back. I’m going to copy that review under this paragraph and use those track by track reviews for the sake of consistency. This set doesn’t end there, though. We get a live DVD for the second set. That is a video of their 2009 tour that included the British Steel album as the highlight. They play everything from the disc, and I have to say hearing the underrated “The Rage” and “Steeler” live is worth the price of admission without anything else. Those two songs are among my favorites by Priest and I don’t think I’ve ever heard them performed live. They really seem even more powerful that way. This DVD is well produced and it includes more than just the British Steel performances. We also get “Prophecy” from the Nostradamus album and a lot more. This might be the best live video of Priest ever, and we get as a bonus disc. You can’t complain about that. There is another edition of this set that includes a second CD, just the audio tracks from the DVD. I would recommend this to any fan of Judas Priest. Even if you own the original disc, get this one. It’s worth it. Here comes the original British Steel review I did earlier (complete with the track by tracks).

British Steel was the first introduction many people had to the music of Judas Priest. For me, it was the latest disc from one of my favorite bands and I judged it in that context. For that reason I’m not as completely blown away by this album as some others. That said, there is no such thing as a bad Judas Priest album, and this one is quite good. I just prefer the albums leading up to it over British Steel. The edition I’ve reviewed here has a couple bonus tracks. It should also be noted that I’ve reviewed some of these songs on The Essential Judas Priest and the box set reviews – for the sake of consistency I’ve used the same track by track reviews here.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Rapid Fire

This frantic number is definitely a winner. The drumming here really keeps the pace fast and furious and Halford's "rapid fire" delivery keeps up the tension. This song is well titled, that much is certain. The second segment is particularly furious, and I love how the guitar punctuates each "catch your breath" extended vocal line.

Metal Gods

This is a rather plodding cut, and the sci-fi lyrics are a bit cliched and juvenile, but somehow it still works remarkably well. The solos on this one are quite meaty.

Breaking The Law

One of a couple Priest songs that are so well known as to be considered almost part of the mass consciousness of the modern world. I've always found this one to be stronger than "Living After Midnight" and really like it quite a bit. If you haven't heard this one, you have probably been living in a cave for the last twenty or so years.

Grinder

In many ways this rocker is sort of a stripped down piece. It’s got a plodding texture and feels a bit like “Metal Gods.” I’ve never quite understood the lyrics – but that’s not unusual for a lot of Priest. It’s definitely a strong piece.

United

A percussively based number, this is an anthemic number. It’s not bad, but frankly I’ve never been crazy about this kind of piece. It’s probably the weakest number on the original version of the album.

You Don't Have To Be Old To Be Wise

While the youth oriented lyrics might not hold the same luster for those of us who are no longer extremely young, this is still a great anthemic and empowering cut. It’s got some of the more exploratory sound that would dominate the next album. I’d say this is on my short list for favorite tracks here.

Living After Midnight

Starting on drums, this rocker is another of the band's best known pieces. I am not crazy about it, but I'm probably biased after having rehearsed it hundreds of times in various cover bands. That kind of repetition can kill any song for you.

The Rage

When Priest released Point of Entry , I believe they coined the term "progressive metal" to describe the sound, but this cut from British Steel, the previous album is truly the first example of that type of sound. While I am not sure that that term even really applies to either this cut or to the Point of Entry album, I would say that this is definitely not the Priest sound of old. This cut, starting, and driven by the bass guitar, has always been a favorite of mine. This has it all; slower segments, a powerful arrangement, great soloing, and a killer vocal performance. This does really represent a new type of metal that would certainly be worth further exploration.

Steeler

I know this is an oft-overlooked song, but for my money it’s the best track of all on British Steel. It starts strong – with a powerful motif that feels like it could have fit on Hell Bent For Leather (Killing Machine for you folks outside the US). Then around the minute and a half mark it starts to get even more fire thrown into it. Just before the three minute mark the cut is stripped down and then reborn into a screaming jam that’s just plain incredible. It reminds me a lot “Sinner."

Red, White & Blue

The first bonus cut on the CD, this one is like Judas Priest does late era Beatles. It doesn’t work any better than that analogy would make you think it does. For that reason this one is even weaker than “United.”

Grinder

The second and final bonus track, this is a live version of the song from earlier in the set. This is a strong rendition and the recording quality is good.

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