A Devil’s Dozen – Judas Priest – Volume 1

When it comes to bands that should need no introduction to metal fans, Judas Priest is near the top of the list. In terms of shaping the sound — and indeed, the image — of what we now know as heavy metal, Priest is rivaled only by Black Sabbath.

So vast and diverse is Priest’s catalog, a standard Devil’s Dozen cannot begin to encompass its greatness. So, breaking format the second time out, we will present to you — in two installments — a double Devil’s Dozen of Judas Priest: twenty-six of the band’s finest tracks as voted by the Last Rites staff.

Your first thirteen:


[Unleashed in the East, 1979]

Sad Wings of Destiny is my favorite Judas Priest album, but THE definitive “Victim of Changes” is the one that appears on Unleashed in the East. I will simply accept no argument on the matter. Live, the band pushes the tempo just enough to make the hard-digging verse riff border on proto-thrash. Live, Tipton and Downing urge one another on to stratospheric heights and cavernous depths of thorough dialogue. Live, Halford’s final recitation of “VIC-TIIIM OF CHAAAAAAAAAAAAN-YAY-NNNGES” is the sort of thing that a major world religion might choose as its founding document. Heavy metal spectacle rarely gets this spectacular.  [Danhammer Obstkrieg]



[Screaming For Vengeance, 1982]

Coupled with one of the mightiest album intros in the history of music, “Electric Eye” marked Judas Priest’s return into grinding steel after a short detour through the world of mainstream rock. While the song is probably most known for its naïve yet oh-so-fitting, Orwellian prophecy and Halford’s gritty, nasal wails that must have made Ozzy Osbourne and Brian Johnson tremble with envy, the real ne plus ultra here is the paradigmatic manifest of twin-guitar supremacy, courtesy of the classic Downing/Tipton duo. Especially Tipton’s solo towards the end of the four-minute rocker, which is not only a display of what you can really play, if your fretting hand is more than just a horizontal arrangement of five small dicks, but also the perfect dictionary definition of “music for the heart and soul”. Hailed by many as the best Priest song from the 80s and deservedly so.  [Juho Mikkonen]



[Sin After Sin, 1977]

As far as heavy metal covers of Joan Baez go, “Diamonds & Rust” has got to be at least top twenty material, right? Here, Priest locks in to a loping version of the heavy metal gallop that Steve Harris would eventually damn near patent with Iron Maiden, but they play it more lightly, leaving the focus on Halford’s nicely restrained delivery of Baez’s cleverly emotive words. (Best line: “Now you’re telling me you’re not nostalgic? Then gimme another word for it, you who were so good with words.”) 70s Priest: good enough to cover a mopey folkster, good enough to be covered by Slayer. What have you done lately? [Danhammer Obstkrieg]



[Stained Class, 1978]

I really love Judas Priest album openers, and besides their other perfect song (“Painkiller”), there just isn’t another that comes close to the self-contained master stroke of “Exciter”. The endless incendiary lyrical references to fire, the trend-setting harmonized lead guitars, the multiple false endings — all packaged with cleaner-than-ever production and clearer-than-ever vocal command — combined to form not only a high standard for the album, but a blueprint for our metal ages. Though they would especially influence every band labeled ‘NWOBHM’ or ‘thrash’ or ‘speed metal’ in the next several years, rarely would anyone — even Judas Priest — again hit this high water mark from their finest album, Stained Class [Matt Longo]



[Defenders Of The Faith, 1984]

The lone guitar part that starts “The Sentinel” initially feels like a standalone intro, but when it is repeated during the bridge, it’s clear that Priest were going a tad prog with this one. While there is certainly a slightly more complex structure than the band typically attempted, this is still way more about its riffs and vocals than how they’re arranged. From that intro and the verse riffs (which are also brilliantly implemented as hooks) to the dueling solos and the unforgettable chorus, this one is loaded. And hooboy that chorus… if Halford was to ever go on a journey of destruction and revenge, that could play over and over during a video montage of the best kills.  [Zach Duvall]



[Painkiller, 1990]

On Painkiller, Judas Priest threw aside its hard rock antics of yesteryears, resulting in what is inarguably the heaviest and most intense record of the band’s career, and “All Guns Blazing” is its most appropriate sample track. Stocked with frenzied quasi-thrash riffs that churn against the newcomer Scott Travis’ pummeling drumming and inhumanely high notes which Meister Halford hits with his majestic full voice one after another, “All Guns Blazing” presents a textbook example of an unrelenting speed metal masterpiece with no build-up or dramatic arc. However, there is a culmination here, the peak of the wave, in the form of the craziest whammy-bar abusing snippet of lead guitar Tipton has ever managed to whip up, elevating this already high-soaring opus to heights beyond compare. They say true heavy metal was dead during the 1990s. If this song is any indication, we can take comfort in the thought that it was still firing on all cylinders while being plunged into darkness. Mandatory listening.  [Juho Mikkonen]



[Sin After Sin, 1977]

In the Seventies, Priest followed its muse in so many different directions that the band seemed, at times, to be inventing heavy metal by accident rather than design. Certain tracks, however, hit so hard as to leave no doubt that Priest knew exactly what it was doing. “Dissident Aggressor” is one of those. The moment when the mercilessly cutting main riff kicks in and Halford lets loose his piercing scream is one which practically defines heavy metal. It is, I think, a true testament to the heaviness of this track that I listened to Slayer’s version of it for years with no idea that it was a cover. [Jeremy Morse]



[British Steel, 1980]

Instantly memorable hook? Check. Fist-pumping, sing-along chorus? Check. Yes, “Breaking The Law” had all the makings of an instant classic, but if you said that at the time, or that it would become one of the most immortal songs in the pantheon of heavy metal, you would have been taken to court and sued for contributing to a double suicide. Both of those things did happen, and yet somehow the song’s ascension seems the more improbable of the two. It isn’t Priest’s greatest track – far from it – but it is the most likely to live on long after we’re all dead.  [Dave Pirtle]



[Sin After Sin, 1977]

Though I’ve never been quite clear on which part of the song refers to which part of the title (or rather, I have an idea, based on the lyrics, but it would appear the titles are reversed), I’ve always loved this track. Though it opens with a harmonized neo-classical guitar part and bombastic layered vocal that could’ve been straight off an early Queen album, the part I imagine to be “Let Us Prey” is the bulk of the song, a rollicking rocker that rides a twisting riff beneath lyrics that appear to attack those foolish enough to criticize the band. These two combine to form an early monster that bridges the band’s more progressive days with the heavier material to come.  [Andrew Edmunds]



[Screaming For Vengeance, 1982]

The. Perfect. Metal. Single. And no there’s nothing wrong with that. “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” is not only a Judas Priest classic, but a warp to a time when classic metal actually hit the airwaves. There’s a great chance that this was the first metal song heard by many of those reading this article, whether they remember it as such or not. But the thing that makes Priest so timeless and unfuckwithable is that one of their defining radio hits still stands as a classic for the most scrutinizing of in-the-know headbangers. An undeniable cornerstone.  [Zach Duvall]



[Point Of Entry, 1981]

Point of Entry was a mixed bag of commercial-leaning hard rock experiments, but on “Heading Out to the Highway”, Priest hits upon the perfect formula. The track’s spare riffing and driving rhythm hit just hard enough to give the song a respectable edge. The anthemic chorus and soaring, layered bridge prove that, even without his falsetto scream, Rob Halford is a formidable vocalist. To top it all off, Glenn and K.K. deliver a trademark harmonized solo that is short, but all the sweeter for it. “Heading Out to the Highway” is certainly not among Priest’s heaviest work, but it is definitely among its best constructed and best performed.  [Jeremy Morse]



[Sad Wings Of Destiny, 1976]

If “Victim of Changes” had not been so…well, you know, “Dreamer Deceiver” surely would have stood as the centerpiece of Priest’s second album. But this one’s always been in the shadow of that titan, and because it’s not played live, its legend has been limited to this album and the song’s magnificent combo with “Deceiver.” Perhaps Halford’s most complete and masterful vocal performance (and that’s a bold statement), his range of delicate falsetto, deep cleans, and soaring screams not only span roughly 47 octaves, but drive the mood from somber reflection to transcendent triumph by the time it slides seamlessly into “Deceiver.” A jaw-dropping display.  [Matthew Cooper]



[Stained Class, 1978]

From the soft, emotive acoustic verses to Rob Halford’s wails and the peaks of Glenn Tipton’s immortal guitar solo, “Beyond the Realms of Death” is the ultimate Judas Priest epic. And while Tipton and Halford own this show, the wealth of dynamics shown within these nearly seven minutes are due to spectacular performances by the entire band, particularly drummer Les Binks, who moves from understated to pummeling at the drop of a hat. All of these elements combined to form a perfect song that is still helping to set the formula for great metal epics, decades after its original release. [Zach Duvall] 

Posted by Last Rites


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