What can I say about Judas Priest that has not already been said? Probably very little. As influential and important as Judas Priest has been, I have paid precious little real attention to them. Of course, I was familiar with many of their biggest hits, such as “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight,” but there are so many other songs, obviously that I was completely unfamiliar with. I only actually ever owned one Judas Priest album, and of course, I think it is their best, that album being Painkiller.
I was then introduced to Judas Priest live last fall. I had the opportunity to see them last November when they were touring with the reunited Anthrax. That concert was absolutely amazing, and went a long way toward truly opening my eyes to the genius that is Judas Priest. It has been slow going over the past decade getting me into some of those bands that, for one reason or another, or even no reason at all, I never listened to. The other main band that I “discovered” during this period was Iron Maiden, which has become one of my favorites. But I digress, let us move on to the set, shall we?
The Essential Judas Priest is a two CD set that spans the bands three decades of metal mastery, and contains 34 tracks. My main complaint with the set is that the tracks are not in chronological order. That is something I like in my best of collections, I like listening to the progression in a band’s sound as I listen through their best cuts; unfortunately, that doesn’t happen here.
The set is framed by a pair of songs from Priest’s latest release, Angel of Retribution. It opens with “Judas Rising” and closes with “Revolution.” In between those two is a complete survey of the metal landscape, as has been crafted by these men since the 1970s. There are some absolutely fantastic tracks here.
Included are the sing along anthems such as “Breaking the Law,” “Living After Midnight,” “United,” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming.” You also get some of their more epic songs like “Diamonds and Rust,” “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Pronged Crown),” and “Victim of Changes.” Of course, there are 4 songs from my already mentioned favorite album, “A Touch of Evil,” “Painkiller,” “Night Crawler,” and “Hell Patrol.”
Every song on this set is a winner, you can load up both disks and be set for the next two hours, never hearing a bad song. Listening to Rob Halford’s voice soar, what an absolutely amazing voice he possesses is mindblowing — one of the best metal voices to ever be recorded. The interplay of KK Downing and Glen Tipton prove them to be one of the best guitar duos. They take you on a soaring journey, alternately heavy and delicate, forceful and heavy, sorrowful and morose, simply amazing. The rhythm section of Ian Hill and Scott Travis is simply thunderous. Taken together, they truly are one of the greatest metal bands ever. It makes me feel bad for unintentionally ignoring them for the most part over the years.
It is never my intention to leave bands like this off of my listening list; there is only so much I can listen to. However, when some of these bands do gain my attention, they often open my eyes to a new world of music that I didn’t know existed. This set has opened my eyes to the reason why Priest is held in such high regard. Take this in conjunction with the concert I mentioned earlier, and I think Judas Priest has a new fan.