25. Metal Gods
A staple in Priest shows for nearly 40 years, this metaphorical hymn to the might of the music we all love amounts to a bullish manifesto from Rob and his comrades. In a year full of astonishing albums, British Steel was still an obvious benchmark for the entire genre and this imperious shuffle said it all.
24. Delivering The Goods
Streamlining their sound for a looming new decade, Priest ended the 70s sounding immaculate and unstoppable. You can almost hear the blues being stripped from the riffs and something tougher, sharper and spikier being put in its place, as the Brummies effectively defined metal as a genre across three minutes of anthemic bluster.
23. Metal Meltdown
Ash Gray, Venom Prison: “My favourite Priest song has to be Metal Meltdown. It’s a pure headbanger and just keeps coming at you with mad riffs and insane vocal harmonies. My old man use to jam this a lot at home when I was a kid; now when I jam it, I want to just cruise on a motorbike. Fuck yeah, Judas Priest!”
22. Rock Forever
Harriet Hyde, Black Moth: “There’s a special place in my heart for rock songs about how much they love rock songs. This is metal onanism at its finest and Halford’s inimitable (though oft-attempted) vocals alongside that dual guitar solo make damn sure this big, dumb, 70s rock song gets me dancing on the tables every time.”
Rob Griffiths, Fan: “Jugulator was a brilliant follow-up to Painkiller. Some say it’s too distant from Priest’s previous work, but there was a seven-year gap between those records and the metal scene had changed so much in that time. Jugulator is not only an album standout, but an immediate Priest classic, along with Burn In Hell, Bullet Train and Cathedral Spires.”
20. Blood Red Skies
Doro Pesch: “I really love the song Blood Red Skies. I just had to listen to it over and over and over, and I got really hooked! It’s down to the great melody and the magical atmosphere; it’s a very unique song and had a totally different vibe in a very cool way.
"Rob Halford’s voice made the song one of a kind and I think the vocals are really amazing on this tune. What a performance! It’s timeless as well, I still love it! Really an epic!”
19. Riding On The Wind
Screaming For Vengeance marked an undeniable high point for 80s heavy metal, thanks in part to blistering chunks of riff-driven fury like this one. Extra marks should be awarded for Rob’s lyrics: ‘Thunderbolt from hell / Shattering aloud / Screaming demons yell / Bursting through the clouds!’ Metal as fuck, mate.
18. Victim Of Changes
Devin Townsend: “My favourite song is Victim Of Changes, from the live version on Unleashed In The East. I remember this song acting as a paradigm shift in my young mind when I first heard it at the age of 10. The vibe, the vocals and, above all, K. K. Downing’s echo and whammy bar-centric solo.
"I said to myself as a kid that this was my favourite song that I’d ever have. I remember thinking if I were to get married, or at my funeral, or any significant life event, this song would be the most appropriate! Although my connection to it has somewhat changed over the years, I still mark it up there as a pinnacle of musical transformation in my young life. Thanks, JP!”
We say: It’s such an accepted part of the great heavy metal canon that it’s easy to forget how revolutionary Victim Of Changes was when Sad Wings Of Destiny was released in 1976.
While their first album, Rocka Rolla, was in tune with the hard rock tropes of the era, the follow-up was the moment when Sabbath’s heavy metal blueprint was given an effusive upgrade. Increasingly bereft of blues and exhibiting a precision and power that would define a genre for years, Priest’s sound was evolving and Victim Of Changes was a breathtaking statement of intent.
From Rob’s opening wail – ‘Whiskey woman, don’t you know that you are driving me insaaaaaane?’ – to the cudgelling might of the central riff and the surging drama of its instrumental mid-section, Victim Of Changes was an effective and righteous template for thousands of metal epics to come.
Ian Hill says: “Victim Of Changes was a song we were doing with [original singer] Al Atkins. It was called Whiskey Woman originally, but we pulled it out of the archive
and adapted it.
"It was a very different song with Al, and then Rob put his lyrics to it, we changed some of the musical parts, but that song in particular even now sums up the band’s philosophy. There’s a little bit of everything in that song, which is something the band has been known for over the years – a bit of versatility.”
Priest followed up Screaming… with an album that’s every bit as great. You could pick pretty much anything from Defenders Of The Faith, but Jawbreaker provides strong hints of the murderous metal that the band would conjure on Painkiller a few years later.
16. Freewheel Burning
Chris Miles, Fan: “The perfect driving song! The riffs are huge, the drums relentless and Rob’s vocals fly out of the speakers – it’s pedal-to-the-metal stuff from start to finish and gets my blood pumping. Foot down, horns up!”
15. Turbo Lover
Ivar Bjørnson, Enslaved: “Like some of their other super-hits, Turbo Lover balances the line between cheesy and full-on, pure toughness, landing on the right – read: tough – side every time. That is in itself an artform mastered by few.
"And this particular song takes it to new levels, challenging any true Heavy Metal fan with some additional keyboards and spicy dance moves from Rob in the accompanying video. Well, I like spice and I like Rob, so it all works for me.”
14. A Touch Of Evil
A moment of infernal inspiration on an album that no sane metalhead can live without, A Touch Of Evil was Rob’s opportunity to don a metaphorical cloak and emerge from the shadows in full Metal Phantom mode. If you don’t get the chills when he shrieks ‘You’re possessing me!’, you are probably dead. Soz.
13. Ram It Down
Kicking off Judas Priest’s 1988 album that shared its name, Ram It Down went off like a rocket launcher and made it blindingly obvious that the guys were not mellowing out any time soon. Unfortunately, the rest of the album was a bit half-baked and no one needed the metal legends’ version of Johnny B. Goode. Ram It Down, however, kicks arse.
12. The Hellion/Electric Eye
Louise Brock, Art Editor: “This one rocks hard from the get-go and is, in my opinion, a quintessential Judas Priest song. Some of the lyrics are quite creepy – ‘Always in focus, you can’t feel my stare. / I zoom into you, You don’t know I’m there.’ Brrr… It’s based around surveillance satellites watching our every move, which is still a relevant concern today.”
Chris Broderick, Act Of Defiance: “I love this track for its daring to be different. It starts in a very classic rock vibe and brings in very progressive elements that you wouldn’t usually expect from a metal band.
"Overall, it takes you on a journey that has lots of twists and turns, using key and time changes while giving you great solo interludes, vocal lines and songwriting!”
10. Breaking The Law
Daniel Tompkins, Tesseract: “I left the police to join Tesseract and have a career in music, so naturally I’ve been the butt of a joke for years. The guys used to sing this to me all the time on tour. As for the song, it’s a classic!
"I’d love to build a career as long and successful as Judas Priest’s. I’m also in complete admiration for Rob as an older gent in his late 60s; he’s still absolutely smashing the vocals, which for me is very inspirational.”
We say: One of metal’s greatest strengths is its versatility, and Judas Priest have done more than most to inject that quality into the genre’s bloodstream. Although rightly praised for their more grandiloquent epics, the legendary Brits are also undisputed masters of the three-minute anthem, and Breaking The Law is one of the greatest of all-time.
Instantly memorable, it became a big hit for Priest in 1980, helped by punk provocateur Julien Temple’s low-budget video, which featured quite a lot of footage of the A40 and proof that Rob Halford can bend steel with his bare hands.
The song’s gritty tale of down-trodden folk turning to crime to survive is married to an irresistible, fists-in-the-air refrain that continues to resonate with generations of metal fans. It has also been covered by a ludicrous number of bands, ranging from Motörhead and Doro to bluegrass crew Hayseed Dixie and psychobilly legends The Meteors.
Ian Hill says: “It’s a bit of an iconic song, that one. Radio picked up on it, and the fans certainly picked up on it. The lyrics encapsulated that whole time, there were recessions and whatnot, we just sort of summed up where the country was at, and many people picked it up and took it to heart. It’s one of those songs you can’t drop! When you put a setlist together you think, ‘Ohh, we’ve got to put that one in’, but as soon as you see the fans’ reactions it makes it all worthwhile. They go nuts when we play the first few chords of that!”
9. The Ripper
A sinister vignette from the foggy streets of London, The Ripper (‘or, if you like, Jack The Knife!’) was the short, sharp flipside to Victim Of Changes’ epic sprawl. Aside from showcasing Rob’s screams, it also gave Priest’s next frontman, Tim Owens, his nickname. Funny how things turn out.
Alice Pattillo, Online Editor: “Seventies Priest trumps all other eras of Priest for me. They produced some of their most innovative tracks during this decade, despite never reaching the height of mainstream success they would in the 80s.
"Stained Class saw them push their sound to the limit with sheer ferocity. Groundbreaking opening track Exciter is an early example of speed metal, a genre that would later influence thrash, and some say it’s indicative of the start of the NWOBHM.”
7. The Sentinel
Chris Jericho, Fozzy: “Still my all-time favourite Priest tune, it always increases my heart rate when I see it added back into the live set – which it currently is! It’s the perfect example of the twin guitar genius of Tipton and Downing, matched by the Metal God’s stellar vocal delivery.
"Rob sings the shit out of this song, plus adds the distinct pronunciation of the title word when he screams, ‘The SAYN-TIN-ELL...!’ Love this jam! Ten Hellions out of 10!”
6. Hell Patrol
Merlin Alderslade, Editor: “One of the heaviest tracks from Priest’s most metal album – and my favourite Priest album ever – this is a juddering, skull-shaking monster. It also features one of Rob Halford’s most proudly gung ho vocal performances, that final ‘HELLLL PATROLLLLLLL!’ searing itself into your brain like
a flaming spear thrown by Leonidas.”
5. Dissident Aggressor
Ben Ward, Orange Goblin: “Being asked to choose a favourite Judas Priest song is a nigh-impossible task. It changes from day to day depending on mood. Priest are the quintessential heavy metal band with the strongest catalogue in the history of the genre, but forced to pick one defining song, I had to go with Dissident Aggressor.
"It’s heavy metal in a nutshell! That opening scream, that chugging riff into that drum fill and then it all kicks off! Enigmatic lyrics about the Berlin Wall and an aggressive demand encouraging the listener to STAB!! And PUNCH!! Everything you want from
a metal band, gloriously wrapped up in just over three minutes. Perfection. And Slayer did a kick-ass cover, too!”
4. You've Got Another Thing Coming
Biff Byford, Saxon: “It’s a good song. It’s from a 1980s period, and I like that period of Priest. Saxon covered that song [in 1997 on A Tribute To Judas Priest: Legends Of Metal Vol. I] and it’s always been a favourite of mine. It’s great live as well.”
3. Living After Midnight
Cristina Scabbia, Lacuna Coil: “This song will always be a classic. It kept me company throughout my adolescence and it still resonates now. It reminds me of my young self and that glorious period in life when my biggest preoccupation was to pick a cool place to have a beer and a good time with my friends late at night, and it just puts me in a great mood.
"No wonder I chose this song for one of my contestants in the TV show The Voice Of Italy, when I was one of the coaches in 2018 – it was my way to scream through national TV that metal was and is still alive and kickin’!”
2. Screaming For Vengeance
Dom Lawson, Writer: “Guaranteed to make me drive like a prick, Screaming For Vengeance is heavy metal in its purest form: five minutes of raging sonic thunder, with a peerless vocal from Rob Halford and, perhaps more importantly, a rare outing for the word ‘manacled’. It’s 37 years old and it’ll still take your fucking face off.”