Picking just five is almost an impossible task. In fact, making any JP ranking is difficult in extreme if we considerate all the variety and quality among their discography.
5. Painkiller The album was the first to feature Scott Travis on drums and his skills are shown since the introduction of the first track. The line-up was at its prime and the sound is bold and consistent. The release also added many more hits to the band repertoire like the self-titled track, Hell Patrol, Leather Rebel, A Touch of Evil, or Night Crawler. Thereafter, the recording helped to set the Heavy Metal standards in the 90s and decades to come. 4. Turbo The most controversial album of their whole discography. It was created under the heavy influence of the 80s culture and its sound is quite characteristic: closer to hard rock and easy-listening for any audience -not just Heavy Metal fans. Upbeat tempos and guitar synthesizers were the main strategies to get to people ears and hearts. It achieved some success and helped to settle the aesthetics roots of the movement. However, the band was a bit disappointed at the time as they were hoping a much stronger response with this radio-station-friendly recording. 3. British Steel The album features a simpler sound than the previous ones. Straight-forward hard-driven riffs and catchy melodies helped this album became the most famous ever released by the band. Some of the songs like Breaking the Law, Living After Midnight and Metal Gods have been played in Priest setlists since then.
2. Defenders of the Faith Considered by some specialists as one of the best Heavy-metal albums of all time, it features amazing hits like Freewheel Burning, The Sentinel and the extremely polemic Eat me Alive, songs that pumped the recording until the 12th position on the UK billboard, the second-best position on Priest career. 1. Sad wings of destiny This album has shown the first consolidated sound of the band and some of the most important songs from their catalogue come from there, such as Victim of Changes or The Ripper. Even when the album had a very warm reception, the sales were weak and pushed the band to become more ambitious on further releases regarding promotion terms.
16-09-2011 Brazilian people are so nice and enthusiastic about metal, it’s always a joy to be back over there with the band again. JP will share the stage with Whitesnake, amazing band and very good friends Sao Paulo was the first. A city so massive that when you fly in it seems to go forever. More than 20k at Anhembi Arena and they know how to make themselves heard. Rio was the next stop and the band has great memories here: the first time playing at this wonderful country was for Rock in Rio. Belo Horizonte followed. The audience reaction could not have been better and for the last show there, in Brazilia, the band was a bit emotional. We had a little bike incident on stage. It seems like the brakes were broken. Fortunately, Rob survived with no injuries, and so Glenn’s pedalboard.
22-09-2011 The concert in Racing stadium was one of the best of the tour. So much people were there! Argentinian fans are so supporting and loud: they sing they hearts out with the band all the way through. The band used the free time to eat some steak and watch some inspiring tango shows. No bike incidents this time, but we tried with another one: a yellow Harley!
24-09-2011 Santiago arena was the next stadium, and the same as everywhere in South America, the audience loved to get involved. That’s what a JP show is all about! Glenn enjoyed some great wine and fishing trout in the meantime.
27-09-2011 The band only played in Colombia once and it was great to be back. Fans were supporting and lovely. They don’t get as many bands pass through as they should, so they really appreciate when a band of the magnitude of JP makes a stop there.
30-09-2011 It was the first time playing in Venezuela and Costa Rica. So many fans at the airport to meet the band! JP signed autographs and took photos with almost all of them. They have waited so long for the band to come to their country! In Costa Rica we found out there were people from everywhere in Central America. Fans from Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador. Some of them had camped out for days to get tickets. A great experience that made Glenn realize how many other countries they have still not visited yet.
11/10/2011 More than 20K fans crashed Mexico City show. One of the best audiences ever. Glenn stated “When a crowd gets behind you like that, it energizes the band to new heights and we had such a great time on stage. I know this is our last world tour but when you come off stage with such a great atmosphere you wonder if you can ever give it up. It’s in our blood!!” Mexico was impacted by Priest visit but Priest was also impacted by Mexico. Supporting fans, amazing pyramids and great food made that trip very special.
12-10-2011 The band was supposed to get a week off after the Mexico show, but they had the chance to do the Jimmy Fallon show and they’ve used it! Playing for a TV show is totally different than playing live in a stadium but the sound was great.
After several weeks receiving replies from different specialists around the World, the perfect playlist ’10 Best Tracks by Judas Priest’ is ready. It wasn’t an easy task and of course, many favourite songs were left aside as 10 is a very small number if we consider 18 JP LPs.
10) DISSIDENT AGRESSOR An old-style British heavy metal anthem. The almost bluesy and bold background gives scope for Rob’s vocal exploration screaming in high pitch and dissonant-noisy solos. 9) LOCHNESS With 13 minutes and a half is the longest JP song. Featuring a slow and emotive introduction with a very expressive solo the song then develops very heavy and slow riffs. Perhaps one of Halford’s best performances reaching peaks of amazing intensity. A catchy medieval melody works as an anthem-chorus that crowns the song in between the dramatic duelling solos. 8) LIVING AFTER MIDNIGHT From British Steel, an album with a sound closer to hard rock and very cheesy melodies. Moderate tempo but up-mood, and a great success at the time. 7) HELL PATROL Another heroic anthem with all the features we may expect in a great JP song: screams, great riffs, double solos and a tight rhythm section that keeps you rockin’ all the way through. 6) TURBO LOVER A cheesy upbeat song in the best spirit of the 80s. The use of guitar synthesizers was a novelty at the time and an amazing Tipton solo appears with a sudden tempo change. The festivous rhythm and character was a key influence in later heavy metal development -for instance, Megadeth first works. 5) BREAKING THE LAW One of JP most famous songs, even when is one of the few with no guitar solos. The music video of the song was very famous at the time featuring the band subtracting a British Steel Gold album from the safe of the bank in a violent heavy-metal assault. Present on every JP show since then! 4) A TOUCH OF EVIL A very emotive song with synthesizers, acoustic guitar interludes, and Robs amazing high pitch vocals. The song also features an amazing solo by Glenn. 3) ELECTRIC EYE Amazing riffs and energy and featuring one of the best choruses by JP, this song was a great hit at the time and pumped the album Screaming for Vengeance to become one of the most successful in sales for the band. 2) PAINKILLER Such a great song from the heavy drum fill introduction. The band performs an amazing rhythm section that works as a canvas for Halford’s manic vocals. And this was achieved in a moment of the history without Pro Tools! The song also features probably the best solos of the band. 1) VICTIM OF CHANGES This song is one of the most important in heavy metal history. It includes amazing work both in vocals and guitars, peak in JPs repertoire.
10 BEST DUOS WITH KK Fortunately, Glenn was sided by a great friend almost all this time: KK Downing. This duo is, without any doubt, one of the strongest pair of guitars of all time.
In their own words:
“I think we’re fortunate that the guitar solos just blend together in a way that enhances the character of Priest. It’s nothing we really have to work at, it’s just one of those freak things. His style and my style just work well together in the band (…) all of it just makes up the Judas Priest sound, and we’ve never tried to stray from it because we realize the value of it. It’s great.” – Glenn Tipton, KNAC.com, September 10, 2002
“How much we drew from each other, I don’t really know, but we put something together that we thought was a pretty good blend. Glenn was predominantly more blues-oriented, where I was sort of progressive and a bit wild.” – K.K. Downing, Revolver, September 2003 (1)
“You are often faced with situations where both of you might want to take a lead break and both of us have had to make concessions. It can lead to arguments if you let it. It’s difficult because we’ve obviously got far more to say in us than we can actually put on an album. One of our strongest points has always been the two styles of lead. We never deviated much from our records in concert, not because we didn’t want to, but we know – especially if there are very characteristic lead elements – that’s what the kids want to hear. They don’t want to see you self-indulgently jamming away. We might enjoy that more, but the kids wouldn’t. They want to hear what’s on the record.” – Glenn Tipton, Kerrang!, July 15-28, 1982
Here we recall some of their best collaborations on Judas Priest albums through more than 40 years.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOjgjO8miuw An intense and epic climax not just for the song but also for the whole album. After an organ intervention that provides all the vampiric background, a very long and extenuating battle between guitars starts with tempo changes, breaks, bends, speed, tapping, and whatever you can imagine in order to make the magic happens, including, of course, a duo solo by thirds towards the end. 9) NECROMANCER
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WUScD-yPlc There was very little space for a solo in this short song, so both Gleen and KK used as much as they could the small number of bars to play as crazy as much as possible with surprising results and elaborated transitions among them 8) PAIN AND PLEASURE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTF3GMiAw_M The guitars start playing riffs together in one of the verses on the middle of the songs, and after some organ interruption first KK and then Glenn fights for the main role with a lot of fireworks, but the true show of lights in the sky is about to happen with a duo of high pitched triplets. Not being this enough, the upcoming section is an amazing double guitar-driven riff part. Probably the most exciting 3 minutes ever for the tandem of Judas Priest twin guitars. 6) EAT ME ALIVE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eN4ub3Z_DKQ The guitars of both heroes sound more distinctive than ever in this great song, with a very aggressive background that gives scope to fulfil the most extreme ideas for soloing. 5) METAL MELTDOWN
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YzH3VBUoBw Virtuoso random shred at the beginning of the song shared by KK and Glenn. The first part of the song is a power-metal piece designed to explore the guitar possibilities until the maximum limits. After some extreme guitar battling and some old-style slow-heavy-metal breaks, the song comes back to its insane energy. 4) THE SENTINEL
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raAvLQMUoZA Out in the highway in a speed impossible to control the notes fly by your side like sparks until you reach a tunnel -an intense drive through a double-walled guitar path that seems never to stop going faster and faster each beat. 1) DEAL WITH THE DEVIL
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2YDLd1Eo3Q Probably the best guitar-duo-solo ever by any guitar duo on the World. An extreme and ferocious debate between distinctive and passionate guitars, with a mandatory section singing and climbing together to bloom in the epic and catchy chorus!
We are all familiar with Judas Priest greatest hits, but what about those songs that we never really listened to? In eighteen studio albums there is a lot of material and only a selected and committed group of fans know all the songs produced by the band through more than 50 years of career! So here we have a selection of songs that, perhaps, some fans are not familiar with. Some songs that deserve to be mentioned due to unusual circumstances and show us a large amount of exploration present on all JP works. We prioritise on this list songs not that well-known or pieces that are hardly ever mentioned in any other JP top chart. These are the Priest Hidden Gems:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1JykXi3YEg This song works as an introduction for the next track on the album: Exiled. But if we listen to it in an isolated manner, we find an inspiring ambient song with a beautiful piano and a very nice keyboard sound design. But if you show the song to one a bandmate and claim ‘This is a Judas Priest song!’ your credibility will drop.
4) BLOOD RED SKIES
The song starts very softly with one of Rob’s highest-pitched performances. After some silence, an outrageous industrial background takes the lead. Screams, heroic guitar lines, dramatic solos, passionate vocals, tempo changes and epic synthesizers rotate in the foreground. Almost 8 minutes of satisfying heavy metal journey! It was played briefly by the band in 2011 and 2012 gigs(1) but remained as an unknown track among most fans all these time.
3) FIRE BURNS BELOW
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeTO9MmVch8 The drum samples, the new age synths, the heavy keyboards programming, the clean guitar sounds, everything here sounds so modern, but it was recorded in 1988! An unusual song, that did not fit the style of Ram it Down and was released as a bonus track of the re-editions of Stained Class. It features amazing solos by Glenn and a great duo with KK.
2) WINTER/DEEP FREEZE/WINTER RETREAT/CHEATER
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60RoSxPT0Kw The first album was never as big as later ones. At the moment sold only a couple hundred copies. The songs were performed regularly during the band early years but in the periods of commercial success, not a single one of them was played on live performances. When you listen to these four tracks for the first time you can hardly say when one finishes and the next one starts (a fact even more magical on vinyl or cassettes recordings). Winter is almost all guitar noises but then a slow heavy metal section appears in a violent manner. A bold drum solo leads into Deep Freeze, a song with heavy riffs and a short vocal part. Winter Retreat works as a connector track with even more noises, entering into a psychedelic experimentation atmosphere that culminates into a clean and smooth section with soft vocals. Cheater kicks in immediately and endorses one of the few Halford’s harmonica performances. The sound was hardly influenced by the 70s heavy bands like Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath.
1) NEW BEGINNINGS
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzlJkAmLYzo Acoustic guitars and new-age synthesizers make you wonder if the playlist just jumped magically to Pink Floyd, but then Rob’s voice kicks in and you realise Judas Priest search exceeds all boundaries. The guitars sound so expressive -even the simplest line on the song is played as it was the last one! and just a few bars solo may turn into an epic duelling battle between two passionate guitar-wizards struggling to emerge. Piano by Don Aurey adds even more colour with an embellished performance featuring some Michal Kamen’s style brushes. So far, it happens enough to be considered one of Priest’s most unusual songs, but, there is something on the background that sounds like… a didjeridoo? Ladies & Gentlemen, we have a winner: NEW BEGINNINGS is the weirdest (and thereafter one of the bests) song ever by JP.
The use of modal interchange in Judas Priest music (for musicians only!)
The chord of the fourth has these two uses in heavy metal music; either the higher or the lower tone is perceived as a chord root, which brings a very interesting harmonic ambiguity.
When the higher tone is perceived as the chord root, it usually works as an inverted fifth (the case of the known “power chord”). In that case, the harmonic series of the higher tone is an overriding element in perception. This is the case of the guitar riff in Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”
Another example of the use of the perfect fourth in the song “Devil’s Child” of Judas Priest (part of the album “Screaming for Vengeance”, 1982) has an E-Dorian I5 -IV4–3-I.
If you are interested about modal interchange or modal mixture, I have an article that expands this topic:
Another mode that was used by Judas Priest was the Aeolian mode that was taken by heavy metal through the American folk revival of the 1960s. In this example we have the progression used by the singer and composer, Joan Baez:
an Aeolian I-VI-IV-VII-I progression that is very common in this mode. The song is called “Diamonds and Rust” (Diamonds & Rust 1975) and was arranged by the band.
You can have another examples of how to use these kind of modes here (for musicians only, as it is fairly technical):