Judas Priest - British Steel

Judas Priest – British Steel


It is Birmingham metal band Judas Priest that landed the big fish in 1980 with ‘British Steel’, which would anchor the metal movement from this year onward.

Written by: gdmonline

ARTIST Judas Priest
ALBUM: British Steel
YEAR: 1980
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List

LINEUP: Rob Halford – vocals * K.K Downing – guitars * Glenn Tipton – guitars * Ian Hill – bass * Dave Holland – drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Breakin’ The Law * 02 Rapid Fire * 03 Metal Gods * 04 Grinder * 05 United * 06 Living After Midnight * 07 You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise * 08 The Rage * 09 Steeler



1980 was a boon year for heavy metal, commencing the 80’s decade with an incredible array of albums that are still popular to this day. AC/DC arrived with ‘Back In Black’, Rush caused a stir with ‘Permanent Waves’, Black Sabbath recruited Ronnie James Dio for the massive ‘Heaven And Hell’ LP. Motorhead dealt the HM world a trump card with ‘Ace Of Spades’, plus Ozzy Osbourne touted his new solo venture with the Blizzard Of Ozz, unveiling a new guitar god Randy Rhoads in the process.

However, it is Birmingham metal band Judas Priest that landed the big fish in 1980 with ‘British Steel’, which would anchor the metal movement from this year onward, to what it is now. ‘British Steel’ was a benchmark album in many ways. It would see the band cross-over from their Sabbath inspired 70’s material to a new dawning of HM anthems.

The dress code had changed too, the leather, studs and chains setting a precedent for an entire generation of metal bands. Former Trapeze drummer Dave Holland would join following the retirement of the uber talented Les Binks. Holland, though not a technically great drummer, did well enough to survive right through the wonder years of the 80’s. ‘British Steel’ as it would turn out, produced a handful of anthems that made its way into the charts.

The Songs

Kicking off is the metal classic ‘Breakin’ The Law’, which is to ‘British Steel’ what ‘Hell Bent For Leather’ was for the ‘Killing Machine’ LP. A fast and furious track with speed to burn. Judas Priest go back into the trenches for ‘Rapid Fire’, with Halford reciting his lyrics as if from Merlin’s book of secrets.

The band then provide three anthems of differing styles and quality. First up is ‘Metal Gods’ with a drony/robotic sounding chorus, it’s followed by ‘Grinder’ which really does go all out to put some gristle through the mincer! Judas Priest’s most commercial track up to this point was ‘Living After Midnight’. It even made radio down in NZ at the time!

‘United’ is the sing-a-long anthem that any British football team could take to heart. It’s a pity Priest couldn’t do one called ‘City’ (as in Birmingham), ‘Villa’ (as in Aston), or ‘Albion’ (as in West Bromwich.. K.K Downing’s hometown). Somehow, I think that a song called ‘Albion’ just doesn’t sound quite right.

The twin guitars of Downing and Tipton combine for the stirring ‘You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise’, while the brakes are applied for the slow burning ‘The Rage’. The album closes for the fast paced ‘Steeler’ a track which would give the Bruce Dickinson fronted Iron Maiden some inspiration for their brace of excellent albums during the mid 80’s. Certainly ‘Steeler’ is one of my favourites on this album!

In Summary

The album was issued on CD several times, the 2001 reissue included several live recordings plus someone was silly enough to organise a change in the track order.

Coming up during their 2009 summer tour of the USA, Judas Priest will celebrate the 30th Anniversary of ‘British Steel’ by playing the entire album setlist. If the album meant something to fans and media back in the day, then it obviously has significant meaning to the band to be able to celebrate an important milestone in their history.

Though Judas Priest would cement their place in metal history with the dual pairing of ‘Screaming For Vengeance’ and ‘Defenders Of The Faith’ over the next four years (particularly in the USA), it is ‘British Steel’ that provided their coming of age. When it comes to studying the dark arts of Heavy Metal 101, this album will be one of the first read case studies!


Breaking The Law

Judas Priest - Breaking The Law (Official Music Video)

Living After Midnight
Judas Priest - Living After Midnight (Official Video)

Metal Gods
Judas Priest - Metal Gods (Official Audio)

Entire Album (Select Tracks)
Playlist: Judas Priest - British Steel (1980) (Full Album)
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