If there was ever a heavy metal album worthy of being performed live in it’s entirety, it is Judas Priest’s British Steel. It is certainly one of my all-time favorite metal albums, and since I have such impeccable taste in music (smirk) that would also make it one of the greatest metal albums of all time.
British Steel was Judas Priest’s seventh album and they were already an international success prior to its release. Their previous album, 1979’s live masterpiece, Unleashed In The East, was their first to go platinum in the United States, but British Steel was the landmark album that catapulted Judas Priest to stadium headliner status, making heavy metal more commercially viable for the Iron Maidens, Metallicas, and Megadeths who followed.
Earlier this year, Judas Priest released the 30th Anniversary Edition of British Steel, which includes the 2001 remastered CD of this 1980 classic, along with two bonus tracks, “Red, White & Blue” and “Grinder (Live).” A bonus concert DVD is also included, which captures the Priest’s August 17, 2009 performance at the Seminole Hard Rock Arena in Hollywood, Florida. On each night of this tour, Judas Priest played the entire British Steel album in sequence, along with several of their most beloved classics. A 32-minute interview with the band, “Making of British Steel,” is also included on the DVD.
The four original Priests, Rob Halford (vocals), K.K. Downing (guitar), Glenn Tipton (guitar), and Ian Hill (bass) are all hovering around the age of 60 now, but these leather-clad granddads can still put on one of the most exciting metal concerts in the business. Their “new” drummer, the American-born Scott Travis, who has been with the band since 1989, is still just a young whippersnapper in his late forties.
The DVD begins showing the stage draped by a large curtain that makes it look like a giant steel mill with a big sign out front saying, “Welcome to the Home of British Steel.” A laser-light display signals the curtain drop just before the band tears into British Steel’s opening track, “Rapid Fire.” Holy shit, I’m back in 1980 again! 1982 was actually the first time I saw Judas Priest in concert during their incredible Screaming For Vengeance tour, where they had an up-and-coming Iron Maiden opening for them. I’ve seen hundreds of concerts since, and only a handful have rivaled that one.
“Metal Gods” really showcases the amazing guitar sound Tipton and Downing create when they fire off those epic power chords in harmony together. These guys have always had one of the most powerful twin-guitar attacks ever recorded, and they sound absolutely huge live. Speaking of huge, Scott Travis was a noticeable upgrade on the drums when they brought him on board in 1989, and he sounds absolutely monstrous in concert. Ian Hill is still rock solid on the bass, as always, and Rob Halford, although not able to hit all of the high notes with the same ferocity as he did in his prime, can still deliver the goods.
The band closes out the British Steel album with one of the better performances of the frenzied “Steeler” you are likely to witness. Backed by an incredible laser display, Tipton and Downing take turns firing off short whammy-bar-dominated lead breaks until three of the giant Judas Priest cross-like symbols descend down from the ceiling to signal the end of the British Steel performance. Oh, but it isn’t over yet.
Judas Priest finish off the rest of the show with seven more songs, going as far back as 1976’s Sad Wings Of Destiny for both the “The Ripper” and “Victim Of Changes,” while also throwing in the more recent “Prophecy,” from their latest album, Nostradamus, in between. They also delve into speed metal territory with the menacing “Hell Patrol,” from what is one of their heaviest albums, 1990’s Painkiller.
After a very shaky start, the production quality of this DVD turned out to be very good. I was really worried when the first song started, though, because the cameras frantically jumped between shots at that rate of about two per second and a lot of terrible-looking black-and-white shots were mixed in with the normal color footage. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound mix also sounded terribly weak, compressed, and with an overly dominant bass.
After thinking to myself, “Oh, well, what do you expect for free,” these problems seemed to miraculously fade away by the start of the second song. The camera angle changes settled down to an acceptable pace, and the director began showing more shots of the entire stage so that you could really soak up the band’s excellent stage show. The audio mix leveled out quite nicely as well.
You can still pick up this 30th Anniversary Edition of British Steel at Amazon.com for about $13.99, which makes it a steal for this killer bonus DVD alone.
01. Rapid Fire
02. Metal Gods
03. Breaking The Law
06. You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise
07. Living After Midnight
08. The Rage
10. The Ripper
12. Hell Patrol
13. Victim Of Changes
14. Freewheel Burning
15. Diamonds And Rust
16. You’ve Got Another Thing Coming
Performance – 8/10
Production – 8/10