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Judas Priest British Steel Review

Album. Released 1980.  

BBC Review

...a flat out commercial album...

Sid Smith 2007

With most of their rough edges shorn away (along with Rob Halford’s locks), Judas Priest donned their now trademark leather gear and studs to embark on world-wide campaign to conquer the world. Unleashed In The East was a live souvenir that primed an expectant market when it reached the UK’s top ten. Tom Allom, who had produced the live album, and who had cut his teeth engineering Black Sabbath’s first three records, was brought back to help Priest take things to the next level.

Written and recorded in just a few weeks, together they came up a flat-out commercial album that nipped, tucked and tweaked the formula in order to make it palatable for the expanding audience. The degree to which the album took off probably came as a shock to everyone concerned. “Breakin’ The Law” and “Living After Midnight” epitomised the new breed of radio friendly metal, breaking the band at home and significantly in the American market; their cross-over status confirmed after the former was adopted by MTV’s Beavis and Butthead and the latter achieved the ultimate global accolade of becoming a punch line for a character from The Simpsons.

Though “Steeler”, an effective torrent of sharp-edge rock, is an undoubted highpoint, and “Grinder” and “Metal Gods” maintain the de rigueur horror / sci-fi elements expected of the genre, there’s a sense that the writing has become more broad-brush than ever before. Evidence for this can be found on the lowest common denominator approach on the “us against the world” camaraderie of “United.”

This designed-for-the-terraces singalong is Priest’s attempt at Queen’s “We Are The Champions” but without the Mercurial wit. Worse still, the remastered version of the album contains the risible flag-waving, “Red, White & Blue” that flaps uncomfortably between a knowing, tongue-in-cheek pastiche and inadvertent self-parody. Though the album is hailed as a classic, and established the band as a dominant force, it’s also where some of their original mettle was blunted and diluted.

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