Written by General Jabbo
In music, "genre defining" is a phrase limited to the very best albums. It’s a goal every artist strives for, but only a select few actually achieve. Judas Priest is one of those fortunate artists, and they first reached that plateau with 1980’s British Steel. Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, the album has been rereleased in both two- and three-disc versions. This review covers the two-disc version.
Recorded at Tittenhurst Park, the former home of John Lennon, British Steel mixes hard-charging radio anthems such as “Living After Midnight” and “Breaking the Law” with blistering metal such as the album’s opener “Rapid Fire” and its closer “Steeler.” When Rob Halford sings, “pounding the world like a battering ram,” he isn’t kidding. The album grabs the listener by the throat from the opening buzz saw guitar licks and never lets go. This is the album that turned Priest into headliners after years of opening act status.
The album also features in-concert favorites such as “Metal Gods” and “Grinder,” the former of which has become Halford’s nickname. In addition, the band stretches out on the anthemic “United” and mixes a reggae-like intro with the powerful “The Rage,” a track that features some of Halford’s best vocals. The album remains a collection one could present to skeptics to defend metal’s validity.
To celebrate the album’s anniversary, Judas Priest hit the road in 2009 playing British Steel in its entirety. The included DVD features a full concert recorded live at the Seminole Hard Rock Arena in Hollywood, Fla.
Opening with “Rapid Fire, the band plays through all of British Steel before returning to deliver an additional hour of Priest classics. Highlights from the album portion include “Metal Gods,” the seldom-played “You Don’t Have to be Old to be Wise,” and “The Rage.” Revisiting these songs seems to have revitalized Halford in particular, who hits notes that didn’t seem possible for him anymore. The second part of the set includes killer versions of “The Ripper” (with Halford hitting the big notes), “Prophecy” from the band’s concept album Nostradamus and a lightning-fast “Freewheel Burning” complete with motorcycle intro.
The DVD is well filmed, without too much rapid-style editing found in many of today’s rock DVDs. Too many of these discs seem to have five shots per second and never linger on any of them long enough to figure out what is going on. Thankfully, that is not the case here.