An early chapter in the mammoth catalogue of the Judas Priest story, British Steel presents for the first time some of the most well known and favoured tracks by this classic band. DJs in rock venues the world over know how important it is to play Living After Midnight shortly after the clock tells the story, at least every now and then. But we don't get to that track straight away, one of the things about listening to early work is that we get all the stuff we don't know in between what we're listening for. A dualistic album experience happens sometimes, when we buy it for that song we already like.
The cover shows a razor blade, engraved with the Judas Priest logo and British Steel underneath, a symbol of electric current underlines the words Judas Priest - steel, being a conductive composite, it makes a lot of sense. Metal music does that, its name is apt, that electrifying sensation of heavy metal makes us move and it allows us to forget the feelings of the moment. The faster and angrier it gets, the less catchy it gets, and Judas Priest sit nice and comfortably on the pleasant side of this type of music.
Rapid Fire sounds a lot of fun to play on the guitar, the twin guitar sound performed by KK Downing and Glen Tipton is a key element of this rock n' roll, heavy metal sound. Perhaps now they have made some music, toured it around the world, their ability to create is just that little bit better, and they're letting us know. The drumming is also extremely powerful, and it makes the song happen as the rhythm pulls the riffs into their place even when the franticness of the sound makes it hard to distinguish where we're supposed to be on the tab sheet.
Metal Gods sounds to me like what happens when we make art, something occurs once it is out there. We as artists cannot be held responsible for the interpretations others make of it, but we also see it, we find reflections of it, and people who openly talk about it can say things we never expected or even intended to hear. Letting go of it doesn't mean it doesn't make you think next time, and this song is something perhaps they wrote as a little reminder.
We follow with a real classic, Breaking The Law. It is one of the most asked for tracks, one of the most easy to sing, play, and understand. We've all been angry and it is just about that feeling that makes us want to go and do something illegal. A call out to the inner anarchist in us that revels in the idea of it. For me, it's not a happy song, nor is it something I can actually identify with, but the lyrics make it easy to be in those shoes. It is a great piece of art, and perhaps lets us feel like we would for just a moment, so we can connect with our conscience. Who knows? That's what I get from it.
We next get a short and angry number called Grinder, and perhaps this is what we get if we do actually break the law and rob a bank like what the music video to Breaking The Law suggests. They do it with their instruments though, so the metaphor perhaps is the money they made by selling millions of records.. Maybe being rich brings its new set of problems, a complete change in attitude to life would probably be required, everything we may have been brought up to hate suddenly looks totally different now, i.e. investments, shares, accountants, lawyers etc.
Again, another famous name track with United, it's been played in football stadiums around the country, where ever the word United happens to be in the name. I can tell you there are many of them. It's a real sensation when the chorus kicks in, even if we don't really go for the sports scene. Many metal fans love football though, the two themes mix quite well it seems. The whole group element, cheering for the people who make you happy (hopefully), but where as a band don't have opposition as such, there are other bands who want to be number one at the same time as you. It's OK if you don't mind what number you are, but after my analysis of the first few tracks, I'd make a guess that they did mind. Band rivalry is something that is talked about a lot in the media, but I think most of it is for show.
One more to go until Living after Midnight, and it's You Don't Have To Be Old To Be Wise, which is just a simple truth of life, it is experience that makes us wise and we get that by living life to the most we can. Once again it draws on matters of the conscience, and it shows that they don't have any regrets about what they have achieved, and they are on their own journey.
The Rage, a song about anger, and about trying to take our mind off of it by any means other than the right one which is to face our pain and let it go. Facing pain and stopping the lies to ourselves is something that everyone does but I guess if they have got a career in Judas Priest, it's another level. Working hard for passion and art has its drawbacks as well as its benefits.
The original album comes to a swift close with Steeler, a hard rock smash through of riffage and power chords, bashed together with some frankly fantastic drumming. It reminds us of those people who will take advantage of us and pretend to be our friends. Few and far between, but they do exist. Once we have the money ,we become a target I would suppose. We need to be wise if we are rich. Being wise is enough, for me. I hope to get there someday.
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