If you love heavy metal, you love Judas Priest: those are the rules and we trust you will abide by them. Any band that has survived for over four decades will have a few ups and downs along the way, and the Priest catalogue is no different, but that hasn’t made putting the albums in order any easier. Instead, what really hits home when reassessing the band’s colossal contribution to heavy music is exactly how important they have been in the evolution and continued rude health of the entire metal scene. They are the Metal Gods and we salute them.
17. Demolition (2001)
A noble but flawed attempt to be all things to all metalheads, Demolition is no one’s favourite Priest album. A halfway house between the band’s classic sound and the hybrid futurism of the ‘90s, it lacks any truly great songs and, despite Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens’ stunning vocal performance, served largely as confirmation that a reunion with Rob Halford was the only credible way forward.
16. Rocka Rolla ( 1974)
Judas Priest’s debut album was more about hinting at their potential than clicking into the higher gear that the band would later use to conquer the world. Rocka Rolla is enjoyable enough, with its faint whiff of progressive hard rock and its warm, analogue tones, but it’s a patchy affair and never comes close to the grandeur and grit of the classics.
15. Ram It Down (1988)
Returning to their traditional sound after the electronic detours of Turbo, Priest stuck to the basics on their 11th studio album. Unfortunately, with the exception of the title track and Blood Red Skies, Ram It Down is a largely forgettable collection of box-ticking stompers with a perfunctory version of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode thrown in for no apparent reason.
14. Nostradamus (2008)
Priest split opinion with this sumptuous conceptual effort, partly because it saw the band veer into symphonic metal territory, replete with choirs and oceans of keyboards. For all its self-conscious bluster, Nostradamus does contain some killer tunes, however. Prophecy, the title track and Pestilence And Plague are all killer, but the Priest boys couldn’t quite sustain that quality for the album’s daunting 102 minutes.
13. Jugulator (1997)
Rather than attempt to cajole cynical fans into embracing the start of the Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens era by playing it safe, Jugulator declared that post-Halford Priest were in an unforgiving and furious mood. A vicious modern metal album that owed as much to Pantera and Slayer as it did to the trad metal world, it failed to set the world on fire but thoroughly deserves to be reassessed now. If nothing else, the closing Cathedral Spires is an outright classic.
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12. Redeemer Of Souls (2014)
Not quite the sizzling return to form that many proclaimed it to be, Redeemer Of Souls is simply a really good Judas Priest album. New guitarist Richie Faulkner acquits himself brilliantly throughout, the sound falls neatly between Painkiller and Angel Of Retribution and, on the stunning Crossfire, Priest prove that they are masters of metal and the blues.
11. Point Of Entry (1981)
Following the globe-conquering British Steel was never going to be easy, and while Point Of Entry features a brace of platinum-plated Priest gems (Heading Out To The Highway and Desert Plains, since you ask) and both Solar Angels and Hot Rockin’ have been welcome additions during live shows, it never quite hits the heights of its triumphant predecessor.
10. Turbo (1986)
Much-maligned at the time thanks to Priest’s decision to embrace the (then) mildly futuristic sounds of the synthesizer, Turbo is far, far better than you may have heard. The first four tracks offer an unstoppable barrage of driving riffs and thunderous beats and - despite a mild mid-album slump – the overall quality of the songs makes a mockery of the notion that an aesthetic side-step had diluted the band’s metal spirit.
9. Angel Of Retribution (2005)
After the much-anticipated return of Rob Halford to the Priest fold, the Brummie legends’ must have known instinctively that their next album had to be a cracker. And so it proved, with a batch of songs that skillfully updated the band’s classic sound while also remembering to keep the heavy metal flag flying high. Judas Rising is a superb opener, Angel is one of Priest’s finest ever ballads and yes, preposterous 13-minute denouement Loch Ness fucking rules. Yes it does.
8. Sin After Sin (1977)
Routinely overshadowed by the previous year’s Sad Wings Of Destiny, Sin After Sin was a transitional record that saw Priest inch away from their moderately progressive roots and focus in on the unbridled metal glory to come. Obvious highlights like Starbreaker and Dissident Aggressor (which was, of course, memorably covered by Slayer on South Of Heaven) are up there with the band’s best tunes.
7. Killing Machine (1978)
Arguably the album that first showcased the classic Priest sound, Killing Machine is rammed to the gills with bona fide anthems: Hell Bent For Leather, Running Wild, Rock Forever, Delivering The Goods, The Green Manalishi… they’re all here and they all kick a vast amount of arse. Even the elegant ballad Before The Dawn crackles with electrified confidence. A game-changing ripsnorter, basically.
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6. Defenders Of The Faith (1984)
The British legends’ second creative peak arrived in the mid ‘80s, and Defenders Of The Faith was the result. Although lacking the chart hits of Screaming For Vengeance from two years earlier, there is real substance and power to the likes of Freewheel Burning and The Sentinel and an endearing frisson of censor-baiting sexuality to the menacing Eat Me Alive. All killer, no filler.
5. British Steel (1980)
Many fans would doubtless put this album at the top of their lists, and there’s no questioning British Steel’s brilliance, or its huge influence on the entire world of metal. You simply can’t argue with Breaking The Law, Metal Gods or Rapid Fire and Living After Midnight is one of the ultimate party metal anthems. The rest is nearly as good, and that’s pretty fucking good by anyone’s standards.
4. Painkiller (1990)
The end of Rob Halford’s first period as Priest frontman arrived shortly after the release of one of their greatest albums. Painkiller rips from start to finish and single-handedly redefined the sound of traditional heavy metal in the process. There are literally hundreds of bands out there peddling this exact same sound, but no one will ever top the original. And that title track… holy fucking shit.
3. Sad Wings Of Destiny (1976)
Black Sabbath may have inadvertently invented heavy metal, but Judas Priest defined it with their second album. Grandiloquent, adventurous and epic as all hell, Sad Wings… kicks off with Victim Of Changes – one of the greatest metal songs ever written, let’s face it – and then sustains its air of supreme confidence and power for the duration. If you love metal, you need this album in your life.
2. Stained Class (1978)
As the ‘70s drew to a close, Priest were hitting their stride in no uncertain terms. Their fourth album exudes a ferocious energy, as songs like Exciter, Invader and the towering morbidity of Beyond The Realms Of Death upgraded the ‘70s hard rock template for a new decade. Even a cover of psychedelic rock mob Spooky Tooth’s Better By You, Better Than Me slayed and flayed like a maniac. A true metal milestone.
1. Screaming For Vengeance (1982)
Priest’s biggest breakthrough, particularly in the US, came with this immaculate slab of none-more-metal bravado. Screaming For Vengeance is an imperious display of heavy metal in its purest, most exhilarating form: from the ageless rush of Electric Eye and the world-dominating thud of You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ through to the neck-wrenching attack of the title track and the fiery crunch of Devil’s Child, it’s a flawless encapsulation of everything that made metal such a global force during the ‘80s. And 30 years on, it’s still exerting its influence over countless aspiring metal musicians around the globe. A steely masterpiece with a giant heart.