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In Praise of the Timeless Priest

January 29, 2017

Nick Ruskell examines the impact, attitude and accomplishments of metal’s finest, our Artist of the Month – Judas Priest…

Time moves on, things change, people change, movements come and go. Some things become of their time, dated. But for the truly special, age is merely a number, and what lives at their very core remains as fresh and sharp as the day it was first conceived.

This has never been truer than in the case of Birmingham metal gods Judas Priest. In 2017, there is still no band who embody the power, passion and life-affirming attitude of heavy metal than this band of leather-clad metal maniacs.

Since their 1974 ‘Rock-A-Rolla’ debut, through genuinely pioneering metal cornerstones like follow-up ‘Sad Wings Of Destiny’, 1980’s be-studded ‘British Steel’, ‘Turbo’ from 1987 with its polished anthems, the thrashing ‘Painkiller’ from 1990, or 2014’s beyond-glorious ‘Redeemer Of Souls’, Judas Priest have been an unmovable totem to metal.

Forever pushing forward in search of new ground, the core of Judas Priest has nevertheless remained consistently simple, yet indomitably powerful. Their impact on the world of metal is beyond measure – they remain one of the few artists for whom even Metallica would step aside – sharpening and strengthening the genre’s sonic power with each successive album.

Thanks in no small part to Glenn Tipton and KK Downing’s trademark sparring twin guitars on songs like ‘Electric Eye’ or ‘Rapid Fire’.

Not only did their two-pronged axe attack redefine just what it meant to write heavy riffs, but it changed the dynamic of how a rock band functioned. Far from the loose, bluesy interplay between bass and drums of bands like Black Sabbath, Cream and Led Zeppelin, four-stringer Ian Hill’s basslines had to form a far sturdier, iron-hard bond with the drum rhythms to support this new style of guitar riff.

Just listen to the backbone he helps form on early rager ‘Hell Bent For Leather’, or the way he and Scott Travis mix breakneck speed with pulsing sturdiness on the thrashing ‘Painkiller’.

And now with a relatively new iron in the fire, guitarist Richie Faulkner, replacing KK who departed in 2011, the steel doesn’t show signs of softening any time soon.

But Priest’s fingerprints go far beyond the stereos of metal fans. It was Judas Priest who brought leather, spikes and studs to the stage, not to mention Rob Halford’s motorcycles and riding crops.

And their unwavering, never say die lyrical approach has never aged. Here, you have a band whose pioneering spirit has actually made real changes in the world, musically, aesthetically and culturally.

Now, in 2017, Priest remain a gleaming, shining monument to everything that makes this music so brilliant. But they’ve also never been more relevant. Younger bands looking for power, fury and fearlessness beyond simple pit-starting heaviness continue to look to Priest for inspiration.

Bullet For My Valentine, Trivium, Machine Head and any other band who have dallied with a twin guitar attack have all spoken of the debt they owe Priest, while Converge frontman Jacob Bannon has called Rob Halford a hero and said that he listens to at least one Judas Priest song every day.

At the 2016 Alternative Press Music Awards, Japanese cute-metal trio BabyMetal  performed ‘Painkiller’ flanked by Halford himself, and even Lady Gaga has been highly vocal in her love for the band, praising Priest for inspiration, not least of all in the live setting – again, their importance cannot be understated.

But this is a two-way street of inspiration, and it is perhaps this that has kept Judas Priest at metal’s frontline for so long. They continue to appeal to new generations of metal maniacs because they themselves are metal maniacs.

Always on the lookout for new bands, to follow as well as to champion, Judas Priest visit metal news websites, searching for bands on Facebook, looking on YouTube to hear new talent spotted in Kerrang!, Metal Hammer and Terrorizer.

Bring Me The Horizon, letlive., Electric Wizard, You Me At Six, All Time Low, Behemoth, Immortal… are all bands who have had the seal of approval, while the patch-jacket worn onstage every night features as many of these new faces as it does Judas Priests’ peers.

Such a champion spirit never grows old. And nor does the power or passion of Judas Priest.

‘Turbo 30’, the remastered 30th anniversary edition of the legendary ‘Turbo’ album, is out on February 3.

Preorder Official Store | Amazon | iTunes

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