Wednesday, 29 August 2012

CD Review: British Steel, by Judas Priest (1980)

Taking a giant step towards commercialization and a broader fan base, Judas Priest achieve their breakthrough with British Steel, their sixth studio album. With shorter running lengths, a dramatic pulling back on the solos, and a more controlled Rob Halford curtailing most of his visits to the high register, British Steel is, for better or for worse, filled with radio-ready music.

The strategy worked to the benefit of popularizing the band at the time when the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was expanding the allure of metal. Longer term, the results were not as good for Judas Priest, the band's future albums for most of the rest of the decade slipping down the slope of too much mindless music attempting to garner cheap airtime and popularity with the single-celled crowd.

The flabby middle of the album is quite unfortunate, the band parking metal's soul in search of popularity, United being the worst of the bunch, a track almost intolerable in its juvenile pandering to pimple-faced fist-pumpers.  You Don't Have To Be Old To Be Wise and Living After Midnight are less nauseating, but no more inspired, both defaulting to the simplest of bland beats and steering clear of any complexity.

Fortunately, and although none of it is stellar, British Steel does deliver some fine heavy duty metal. Opener Rapid Fire is by far the best track, the aggressive riff riding a bulldozer and ploughing through a mud field in first gear, smoke billowing from an engine refusing to get bogged down. Breaking The Law is less inspired but just as purposeful, while the album ends with a couple of more serious selections, both The Rage and Steeler proving that Priest's heart is still made of a stern alloy. Steeler signs the album off with 100 seconds of wild glory, Tipton and Downing finally letting loose with unconstrained carnage, a wistful look back at where the band came from, radio be damned.


Rob Halford - Vocals
Glenn Tipton - Guitars
K. K. Downing - Guitars
Ian Hill - Bass
Dave Holland - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Rapid Fire - 9
2. Metal Gods - 7
3. Breaking The Law - 8
4. Grinder - 7
5. United - 5
6. You Don't Have To Be Old To Be Wise - 7
7. Living After Midnight - 6
8. The Rage - 8
9. Steeler - 8

Average: 7.22

Produced by Tom Allom.
Engineered by Lou Austin.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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