...the one that really put the distance between Priest and their NWOBHM opposition.
Sid Smith 2007
In the late seventies, when the likes Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath deserted the UK for lucrative stateside touring, or tipped over into the abyss of rehab hell, legions of heavy metal fans got their fix from the DIY arrival of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. By ditching the blues influences that had previously dominated heavy rock, and co-opting the high-speed energy of punk which had recently emerged, Judas Priest was one of the key bands that led the NWOBHM charge. They’d been around for a while lurking at the edges of the rock scene in Birmingham. Formed back in 1968 (their name borrowed from Dylan track “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest”) their debut album was released in 1974.
Having the distinction of supporting the last ever Led Zeppelin gig in the UK, though popular enough of the ground, their previous albums were guilty of the usual indulgences linked to heavy metal. That all changed with this one as Killing Machine (as it was originally titled in the UK) became Hell Bent For Leather in order to placate the US market). What singer Rob Halford did was to take the HM penchant for leather to its logical conclusion, arriving on stage via a Harley Davidson, bedecked in studs and S&M gear, cracking bullwhips and pouting for England.
Tracks such as “Evil Fantasies” explored the sado-masochistic experience though any worries about of transgressing the ultra-macho imagery traditionally associated with metal, were subsumed by the more normal subject matter of contract murders (“Killing Machine”) and world domination (“Delivering The Goods”), as well as a thudding if slightly unexpected cover version of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Green Manalishi”, reinventing it as a HM classic.
There was also an emphasis on shorter tighter material, the band using the twin-guitar attack of Glen Tipton and KK Downing to great effect in a series of hit-and-run solos that made them sound like Wishbone Ash on speed. Curiously, the album sold less than its predecessors but this was the one that really put the distance between Priest and their NWOBHM opposition