Judas Priest

Members: Rob Halford, K.K. Downing, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill, Scott Travis

Active: 1968-present


Judas Priest are a heavy metal band formed in 1968 in The Northwest Midlands, near Birmingham, England. Originallly formed by, K.K. Downing and Ian Hill, later joined by Al Atkins, who subsequently brought the name Judas Priest from his original band. Priest's classic line-up consists of vocalist Rob Halford, guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton, and bassist Ian Hill. They have been cited as an influence on many Heavy metal musicians and bands. Their popularity and status as one of the definitive Heavy metal bands has earned them the nickname "Metal Gods".


Judas Priest were one of the first bands to modernize the twin-lead-guitar sound, with the duo of K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton. They combined this sound with Rob Halford's high-pitched, melancholic and angry screaming lead vocals to create their own unique style of heavy-rock. They are cited often for their influence on heavy metal and the root sound of the guitar work in speed metal and thrash metal.

Another noted feature of the band is the dual "rhythm guitar", which plays an essential role in hard rock genres and especially in heavy metal.

Although Wishbone Ash, Scorpions and others had used similar "dual guitars" prior to Judas Priest, the band used their dual rhythm style consistantly as an integral part of their music. Since Judas Priest started incorporating this new style of rhythm guitar on their first release, Rocka Rolla, it has become a standard feature of heavy metal.

Many people, including influential musicians and members of prominent hard rock and heavy metal bands, believe that among the foundations for what would define "pure" heavy metal were three early Judas Priest albums: Sad Wings of Destiny (1976), Sin After Sin (1977), and Stained Class (1978).

The band often played faster than most rock groups of the time and brought a more "metallic" sound to the guitars. The songs varied from simple and straightforward tunes (e.g., "The Ripper", "Starbreaker") to fairly structured material, changing from fast and loud to slower tempo and softer tunes in one song (e.g., "Victim Of Changes", "Run Of The Mill", "Beyond The Realms Of Death"). Some songs, such as 1978's "Exciter", were groundbreaking for their sheer ferocity and speed; others, like "Dissident Aggressor", "Sinner" and "Tyrant", were heavy for their day, and even today are considered classic metal tracks.

Their 1978 album Killing Machine (retitled Hell Bent for Leather and released in 1979 in the USA) saw a slight change of direction towards shorter, poppier, more American-influenced songs. The following release, British Steel , took an even sharper turn in the same direction and was perhaps the first heavy metal album to record radio-friendly songs with pop hooks, in a concise format.

The band's next effort, Point of Entry (1981), is harder to define ? the sound was very "raw" (i.e. minimal sound manipulation) and the songs were somewhat moody, and paced at a slower than usual tempo. As guitarist Glenn Tipton later admitted, Point of Entry had the tough task of living up to the standards set by its predecessor, and failed to do so. Subsequent albums Screaming for Vengeance (1982) ? which contained the popular radio hit "You've Got Another Thing Coming" ? and Defenders of the Faith (1984) once again set high standards in intensity and production, and continued to influence the sonic shape of heavy metal. Turbo (1986) found the group introducing a "synth-guitar" sound to their metal template.

Ram It Down (1988), which was originally to be part of a two album set with the Turbo album[citation needed], garnered little commercial attention. The style was heavier than the material found on Turbo but still contained the synth elements of the previous release.

For Painkiller (1990) Judas Priest returned to a more straightforward heavy metal style. The album was well received by fans.

The Best of Judas Priest: Living After Midnight (1997) is a greatest hits album including hits such as "Electric Eye", "Turbo Lover", "Living After Midnight", "The Green Manalishi" and many other hits. It contains the hits from 1979 through 1990.

Judas Priest also released two albums with Tim 'Ripper' Owens following Rob Halford's departure. 'Jugulator (1997)' was given mixed reviews, although it contains the epic 'Cathedral Spires' which became one of Ripper's more popular songs. 'Demolition' (2001) was generally considered another disappointment, although it was another back to basics album, holding some memorable tracks.

Judas Priest's latest release, Angel of Retribution (2005) which was Rob Halford's first Judas Priest album since 1990, contributed to the current revival of classic heavy metal. It contains songs in the band's classic style, such as "Judas Rising" and "Hellrider", as well as mid-tempo songs with clear and prominent drums and less prominent guitars ("Worth Fighting For", "Wheels Of Fire"), a ballad, and an over 12 minute epic ? something the band had not done since its concerts in the early 1970s.

Priest is currently writing a "Nostradamus Concept Album" to be released sometime in late 2006 or early 2007.


K.K. (Kenneth Keith) Downing and Ian Hill knew each other almost since birth, as they lived nearby, attended the same nursery and school in Wolverhampton, UK. Their friendship drew closer in their early teens as they shared similar musical interests (Jimi Hendrix, Cream, the Yardbirds) and both started to learn to play an instrument.

In 1968 a fairly well known local ensemble named Judas Priest (after Bob Dylan's song "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" from the John Wesley Harding album) broke up and the band's singer, Alan Atkins, approached Downing and Hill who accepted him as their singer and adopted his former band's name.

With Downing in control, the band moved swiftly from their original bluesy tunes towards heavy rock and then what later would be defined as heavy metal. This trio, with various drummers, continued extensive touring of Birmingham and the surrounding areas, sometimes supporting Budgie, Thin Lizzy and Trapeze, until 1974. Financial difficulties and problems with their management, Tony Iommi's company, IMA, lead to Alan Atkins' and drummer Alan Moore's departures.

At the time, Ian Hill was dating a girl from nearby town Walsall who suggested her brother, Robert Halford, as singer. Halford (who previously worked as a stage manager at a local cinema) was admitted to the band, and brought with him drummer John Hinch from his previous band, Hiroshima. This line-up toured heavily in the UK, often supporting Budgie, and even headlining some shows in Norway and Germany.

Before the band entered the studio to record their first album, the record company suggested another musician should join them. Reluctant to add an organ or trumpet player, Downing settled on another guitarist called Glenn Tipton, from the Stafford-based band Flying Hat. According to Judas Priest band members, there were some technical problems during recording, but the record company refused to address them, and their debut album Rocka Rolla suffered "horrible" sound quality. Management problems also prevailed; according to the band, producer Rodger Bain, (who was an established professional, having produced numerous albums for famous groups such as Black Sabbath) had too big a say in the production of the album.[citation needed] He left out stage classics "Tyrant", "Genocide", and "The Ripper", and cut another, "Caviar And Meths", from a 10-minute song to a 2-minute instrumental.

With their next album, the band gained some more experience and confidence, fully participating in the production, as well as choosing the producers. The result was Sad Wings of Destiny (1976). This album featured mostly old material, including the aforementioned stage favorites and an epic "Victim Of Changes" - a song combining "Whiskey Woman", a stage classic since the era of the first Judas Priest (Al Atkins' band) and "Red Light Lady" brought by Halford from his previous group, Hiroshima.

Three subsequent albums, Sin After Sin (1977), Stained Class, and Killing Machine (aka Hell Bent For Leather) (both 1978) further explored the possibilities of the heavy metal genre, employing such talented drummers as session player extraordinaire Simon Phillips and Les (James Leslie) Binks. Killing Machine marked a new turn in the creative direction Judas Priest was taking: the songs were shorter and had commercial appeal, yet were performed with a lot of metal punch. This emphasis on simple, albeit relentless and powerful beats that needed to be performed live with equal power led to Les Binks, a jazzy type of drummer, leaving, and Dave Holland (ex-Trapeze) becoming their new drummer.

British Steel was a breakthrough album with its industrial and heavy tone. It showcased the Holland's steady timekeeping and power.

With this line-up, Judas Priest recorded twelve studio and two concert albums to different degrees of critical and financial success. Overall, the band has sold in excess of 35 million albums globally.


In 1990, the band was involved in a civil action that alleged they were responsible for the suicide attempts in 1985 of two Reno, Nevada, USA boys, James Vance and Ray Belknap. (Belknap died instantly by shooting himself in the face with a sawed-off shotgun; Vance also shot himself but survived, severely disfiguring his face in the attempt. He died approximately three years later due to the effect of his painkillers.) The boys' parents and their legal team alleged that a subliminal message of "do it" had been included in the song "Better By You, Better Than Me" (from the Stained Class album), and that the command triggered the suicide attempt. The suit was eventually dismissed on its merits, as the band had pointed out that if you were to play any song backwards and tell someone there was a message, it'll sound as though there actually is. The ambiguity of the alleged message was also taken into question. Rob Halford pointed out that "do it" had no direct message, commenting "Well...do what? Mow the lawn? Have a drink?"

In a television interview, Judas Priest members commented that if they wanted to insert subliminal commands in their music, killing their fans would be counterproductive, and they would prefer to insert the command "Buy more of our records". The trial was covered in the 1991 documentary Dream Deceivers: The Story Behind James Vance Vs. Judas Priest.

Comedian Bill Hicks used a similar notion in one of his stand-up routines, asking "What musician wants his audience dead?" He further performed an apocryphal sketch in a British accent mimicking Judas Priest being "fucking sick of [their immense wealth, power, and fame]" and coming up with the subliminal message as a solution to their problems.

Comedian Denis Leary also commented on the trial on his album No Cure for Cancer, saying that heavy metal bands should put more subliminal messages in their records: "Kill the band, kill your parents, then kill yourself".


After the end of their highly acclaimed and successful Painkiller tour in 1991, Halford left Judas Priest due to several years of internal tensions in the band. Rumors started to circulate as early as September of 1991, although Halford collaborated with the band in the release of a compilation album entitled Metal Works: '73-'93 to commemorate their 20th anniversary. He also appeared in a video by the same title, documenting their history. His departure from the band was officially announced later that year.

Tim "Ripper" Owens, who had previously sung in a Judas Priest tribute band British Steel, was hired in 1996 as Judas Priest's new singer. This line up released two albums, Jugulator and Demolition.

Owens' story of turning from fan to frontman was the inspiration for the film Rock Star, although Owens did not actually participate in the production of the movie. Because the film's content bore only a tangential resemblance to Owens's actual history with the band, Judas Priest later moved to disassociate themselves from the film. The film (starring Mark Wahlberg) was a critical and commercial flop.


After almost twelve years apart, Judas Priest and original lead vocalist Rob Halford announced their reunion in July 2003. They immediately embarked on a live concert tour in 2004, and co-headlined the 2004 Ozzfest, being named as the "premier act" by almost all U.S. media coverage of the event. Both tours were extremely successful. A new studio album, Angel of Retribution, was released on 1 March 2005 (U.S.) on Sony Music/Epic Records to critical and commercial success. A global tour in support of the album is currently underway. Judas Priest and "Ripper" Owens parted amicably. Owens joined as lead singer of American heavy metal band Iced Earth to record the album The Glorious Burden, which was released in 2004 by SPV Records.


1974 - Rocka Rolla Gull
1976 - Sad Wings of Destiny Gull
1977 - Sin After Sin
1978 - Stained Class
1979 - Hell Bent for Leather US
1980 - British Steel
1981 - Point of Entry
1982 - Screaming for Vengeance
1984 - Defenders of the Faith
1986 - Turbo
1988 - Ram It Down
1990 - Painkiller
1997 - Jugulator
2001 - Demolition
2005 - Angel of Retribution
2008 - Nostradamus
2014 - Redeemer of Souls
2016 - Battle Cry
2018 - Firepower


1979 - Unleashed in the East
1987 - Priest...Live!
1998 - 98 Live Meltdown
2003 - Live in London
2009 - A Touch Of Evil - Live


1978- The Best of Judas Priest
1981 - Hero, Hero
1989 - The Collection
1993 - Genocide
1993 - Metal Works '73-'93
1998 - The Best of Judas Priest: Living After Midnight (not endorsed by the band)
2004 - Metalogy
2006 - The Essential Judas Priest (Best Of 1976-1990,


1987 - Judas Priest Live
2003 - Live in London
2003 - Electric Eye (Music Videos, TV performances, and entire live concert)
2005 - Rising In the East (Live DVD)
2006 - Live Vengeance '82 (Live DVD)

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