Formed in West Bromwich, England in 1969, Judas Priest is a heavy metal band that is often hailed as one of the greatest metal bands of all time. Even if the band had some few line-up changes throughout their career, they still managed to be successful and sold over 50 million copies of their albums and won a Grammy award for Best Metal Performance in 2010. In this article, we are going to know more about Judas Priest and their contribution to the music industry.
The band was formed in West Bromwich in England by Al Atkins in 1969 together with Brian Stapenhill on bass, John Perry on guitars, and John Partridge on drums. However, before the band became famous, John Perry died in a road accident and he was replaced by Ernest Chataway. It was Brian Stapenhill who thought of the name Judas Priest and he said that he got it from a Bob Dylan song entitled The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest. After the band performed at a gig in Walsall in mid-1969, Judas Priest landed a three-album recording contract with Immediate Records. However, the record label went out of business even before the band recorded an album. This incident led to Judas Priest splitting in 1970. Later that year, Al Atkins formed a new heavy rock band called Freight together with Ian Hill on bass, John Ellis on drums, and K.K Downings on guitars. Ellis quit the band after their first gig and he was replaced by Alan Moore.
At first, the band performed cover songs of Jimi Hendrix and the band Quartermass. But in 1972, their setlist included some original songs such as Winter, Never Satisfied, and Caviar and Meths. After that, Moore left the band and he was replaced by Christopher Louis Campbell and it was also during this time when Judas Priest joined Black Sabbath’s guitarist, Tony Iommi’s management agency. In early 1973, Campbell left the band and the band hired two new members, John Hinch on drums and Rob Halford on vocals. In 1974, the band signed a record deal with Gull Records and the record label suggested that they should add another member that’s why they recruited Glenn Tipton to be their second lead guitarist.
Judas Priest released their debut album on September 1974 called Rocka Rolla. The album featured different styles of music such as progressive rock, straight-up rock, and heavy riffing. Rocka Rolla featured the singles such as The Ripper, Tyrant, and Genocide. To promote their album, Judas Priest embarked on their first international tour but their album flopped upon its release which gave the band financial problems.
In 1976, Judas Priest released their second album called Sad Wings of Destiny. The album featured cover art that depicts a grounded and struggling angel that is surrounded by flames and wearing the devil’s three-pronged cross which also became the band’s official symbol. The album featured the songs Victim of Changes, Ripper and the band supported it by embarking on a tour. Sad Wings of Destiny received some positive reviews but it failed to be successful in the market.
Judas Priest eventually landed an international recording contract with CBS Records and in 1977, they released their third studio album called Sin After Sin. That was the first album Judas Priest released under CBS and it received positive reviews and the band embarked on their first American tour to promote their album. When the band returned to England, they recorded their fourth studio album called Stained Class which was released in 1978. The album helped the band establish themselves as an international heavy metal band because it defined the promising new wave of British heavy metal movement. After the album’s release, the band gained some following and other bands adopted their leather-clad image and their louder, faster, and harder music.
In 1979, the band released their fifth album called Hell Bent for Leather which became their first platinum album in America. But it was also during that time when Les Blinks left the band and he was replaced by Dave Holland who was the former drummer of the band named Trapeze.
It was during the early 1980s when Judas Priest became a top concert attraction around the world because of their album called British Steel which was released that same year. The album peaked at the third spot of the charts and spawned the hit singles Living After Midnight and Breaking the Law. British Steel became the band’s second album that went platinum in the American market. After a year, Judas Priest followed up their success and released their seventh studio album called Point of Entry which became nearly as successful as British Steel.
In 1982, Judas Priest released their eighth album called Screaming for Vengeance which featured the hit song You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’. The album peaked at the seventeenth spot of the charts and sold over a million copies in the United States alone. That’s why this album marked the height of the band’s popularity. In 1984, the band released their ninth album called Defenders of the Faith which nearly matched the success that Screaming for Vengeance had. In this album, it is quite noticeable that the band’s metal tastes were beginning to change as other thrash metal and heavy metal groups become popular. And it was in their 1986 album, Turbo, when the band seemed out of touch with the trends but the album still sold over a million copies in the United States.
In 1988, Judas Priest released their eleventh studio album called Ram It Down which saw the band’s return to the raw metal sound and also returned them to gold status. Dave Holland left the band after the album was released and he was eventually replaced by Scott Travis.
in 1990, the band released their twelfth studio album called Painkiller which didn’t make that much impact commercially but it didn’t lessen the fact that they were still a popular concert act. It was also during this time when Rob Halford created his own thrash band called Fight and he soon left Judas Priest. The band replaced him with Tim Owens and they recorded their thirteenth album called Jungulator. The album was released in 1997 and it debuted on the 82nd spot of the Billboard album charts.
in 2001, Judas Priest released their fourteenth studio album called Demolition which featured the songs Hell is Home, Metal Messiah, and Machine Man. It was also the time when Judas Priest’s entire catalog for Columbia was reissued with remastered sound. In 2003, the band released a compilation album called Metalogy which brought Halford back into the group while Owens left that same year. In 2005, Judas Priest released their sixteenth studio album called Angel of Retribution which debuted at the 13th spot of the Billboard 200 chart. It featured the singles Deal with the Devil, Judas Rising, Revolution, Wheels of Fire, and Hell Rider. The band released their album Nostradamus in 2008 which is a two-disc concept album that is about the famous 16th-century writer, Nostradamus. The band embarked on the Metal Masters tour together with Heaven and Hell, Motorhead, and Testament to further promote their album.
In 2010, the band announced that their upcoming Epitaph tour would be their last but they assured the public that they were not disbanding and they would just be working on new material. Before the Epitaph tour began Downing decided to leave the band because of some conflict that he was having with their management and his co-members. Downing was replaced by Richie Faulkner and the band worked on their new album while they were on the Epitaph tour. The tour lasted until 2012 but their album’s release was delayed several times. In 2014, their seventeenth album, Redeemer of Souls was finally released and critics described it as Judas Priest’s return to their traditional sound. The album debuted at the sixth spot of the Billboard 200 chart making it Judas Priest’s first album to reach the top ten in the US charts. in 2016, the band released a concert album called Battle Cry which featured their performance at Germany’s Wacken Festival.
That same year, the band began to conceptualize their next studio album but they didn’t start recording until 2017. The following year, the band announced that they’ve completed their 18th studio album called Firepower and released it on March 9, 2018. The album featured the songs Spectre, Never the Heroes, No Surrender, and Lightning Strike. Critics said that in this album, Judas Priest revisited their original and organic way of producing songs.
In March 2019, Halford said in an interview that Judas Priest was definitely going to release another album in the near future. He said that Tipton was already composing riffs and rhythms for the new album and that they had some strong ideas that they are going to put in the album.