It’s December and the year is now coming to a close. With new releases drastically slowing down, it’s the perfect time of year to take a step back and jam some of metal’s most classic and influential bands. For the rest of this month, the Ride into Glory team will be looking at some of our favorite songs from metal’s finest artists.
When it comes to bands of this caliber, it’s hard to pick a favorite album let alone a song! It’s not easy to single out one song as “better than everything else they did”, so most of us decided to approach this discussion from a completely sentimental perspective. Asking ourselves: “what is that one song of the band that I have the strongest emotional connection?”, it was suddenly easier than comparing songs as if there can be an objective quality ranking. These bands are titans of heavy metal for a reason and you can expect to read about our personal connections and anecdotes related to them in this series.
This week’s article is Judas Priest. We’d love to hear what your favorite tracks from this band are as well and why in the comments below!
The Hellion -> Electric Eye (Marco)
I’m admittedly cheating a bit by lumping together “The Hellion” and “Electric Eye”, but in my mind these tracks are inseparable. Judas Priest have so many unbelievable moments in their long, storied discography and this opening sequence of Screaming for Vengeance is simply my favorite. “The Hellion” leads perfectly into “Electric Eye” and the catchy, lead driven songwriting is a fantastic representation of Judas Priest’s heavier, more metallic sound they had in the 80s.
Beyond the Realms of Death (Rhandgar)
There are endless possibilities here, spanning over decades. Judas Priest, throughout their admittedly rather inconsistent career, managed to write some of the best heavy metal songs of each decade, at least before 2000s. If you tell me “The Sentinel” is one of the best 80s tracks, or “A Touch of Evil” one of the best of 90s for that matter, I wouldn’t argue with you. The balls to the wall heavy metal peaks they’ve reached in the early 80s, and once again with Painkiller later on, are some of their works. However, there’s something else about Priest that always got my love and interest: their emotional side in the 70s. They always had their own characteristic approach to this more tender side; be it ending the first half of Sad Wings of Destiny with eight minutes of “Dreamer/Deceiver”, covering a Joan Baez song in a weirdly riffy manner, or my pick for now: “Beyond the Realms of Death”. Especially the second half of this song is exactly what I think when I think about “Judas Priest’s emotional side”: not a full-on pop ballad, not a cheesy precursor to glam trends. You just drift away with the guitar work as he also leaves the world behind, hiding in his mind in a safe, comfort zone. In my own comfort zone, 70s Priest most definitely have a dedicated corner.
Tyrant (DeathoftheSun, Xeco)
Deathofthesun: Moreso than the other bands featured in this series, narrowing things down to one Judas Priest song seems much harder. If we did this a week later, it might have been “The Sentinel.” A week earlier, maybe “Grinder.” Can we split half a pick to Glenn Tipton’s solo from “Beyond the Realms of Death” and give the other half to “Dissident Aggressor?” No? Okay fine. Narrowing it down to favorite era (the run from Sad Wings of Destiny through Unleashed in the East) and then favorite album within that era, “Tyrant” gets the nod. If “Victim of Changes” had different lyrics though…
Xeco: This is it. THIS IS IT. When someone asks me what heavy metal is, my mind always goes to Sad Wings of Destiny. Picking a single song from this album seems like a futile exercise, but I often go with “Tyrant”. The intro riff, the solos, and Halford’s voice on this one are just definitive. They are like a foundation of what I like in metal. And who can dislike that pitch shift/vocal bend in the repetitive chorus? I’ve got nothing clever or insightful to add. I just love this album and I could’ve picked any song from here, but for some reason “Tyrant” usually jumps up first.
Judas Priest, for me, was always a band synonymous with explosive energy. There is much more to them than this, but this is what they did better than most. “Exciter” is exactly that energy. It is fast, has amazing riffs and already pulls the listener on a neck breaking ride where Rob Halford radiates his specific charisma on every note. But then, it intensifies even more in a first high point. The second time the song reaches a high point, the lead guitars have melodies that would not be out of place on a European power metal track. As if it all was not enough, Rob finishes it all with his highest note possible reminding, once again, what exactly makes him a living legend. My favorite Judas Priest songs are the ones that are exciting, and the aptly named “Exciter” does it for me the best.
Victim of Changes [Unleashed in the East live] (Blondie)
It’s easy to forget about it because Maiden perfect the form in their own way, but Priest were the first to the harmony well in metal and they could do some powerful shit with it, even deep into their 80s cartoon metal era. This song though, is the best of the lot – the opening harmony here is rendered into liquid fire and renders (the excellent) originally as pale and stodgy by comparison. The energy and passion of this version of the song is almost virtually unrivaled, churning and charging through incredible riff after riff while Rob’s singing his ass in another pathos-laden performance. That it was originally built out of two songs stitched together is almost imperceptible – it’s such an incredibly well arranged song (the proto-Mercyful Fate in that regard) that flows together masterfully. When it charges back out for its climax and Rob screams “VICTIM OF CHANGEEEEEEEEES” over the solo, it never fails to get goosebumps from me. I felt that way the first time I heard the original version off Sad Wings years ago and if anything, it’s only stronger live.
Exciter [Unleashed in the East live] (Brandon Corsair)
Studio albums often provide the best version of a classic song that bounced around demos and live albums and BBC session before making it to a real producer. Sometimes- just sometimes- it’s the opposite, and a strong live version takes an already-killer song and takes it to that next level that makes it legendary. “Exciter” was already one of the best Judas Priest songs but it’s just so goddamn tight and passionate on Unleashed in the East when Halford screams “Fall to your knees and repent if you please” that I just can’t give the nod to anything else.
The Sentinel (Boone)
Some songs just check every box for you and for me personally, this is one of them. Hard rock tinged heavy metal: check. Fun and just a touch cheesy lyrics with a massive chorus: Check. BIG falsetto vocals: Check! “The Sentinel” is an example of meat and potatoes heavy metal being executed so well as to be extraordinary in and of itself. Between KK and Glenn having developed their signature sound over the last decade and Halford being at his peak, this song (and furthermore entire album) to me defines the quintessential pure 80s heavy metal album and is the standard against which all contemporary albums are measured. All fear The Sentinel!
I have no doubt most of my co-authors will largely choose 70s Priest tracks as their picks, but Painkiller has been my firm pick since I was in my late teens. Coming more from an extreme metal background, this album was the perfect way to slowly induct me into the ways of classic heavy metal. This album represented a rejuvenation of Priest after slumping for a number of years, effectively playing a much faster and aggressive version of their previous works by taking influence from the very genre they helped create (speed metal). Everything on this track feels so visceral and primeval; Halford having never sounded as vicious and new boy Scott Travis beating the drum kit to a living pulp. KK and Glen pump us through a wide array of riffs culminating in a powerful solo that never seems to end. It’s one of those tracks that enthralls you from beginning to end, giving you a never-ending flow of adrenaline. Few bands can pull off a comeback like this, but Judas Priest is no mere band – they are metal gods.
One Shot at Glory (Nkane92)
The Painkiller album for me was when two points of interests finally met and created something beautiful – Judas Priest and thrash/speed metal influence. Scott Travis’ playing stood out to me as a drummer, as they turned a complete 180 on what drumming Priest had in the 1980s. With the album’s closer “One Shot at Glory,” Judas Priest have come close to the power metal territory with its anthemic feel, melody, and galloping riffs. The structure is simple, but Judas Priest have filled it to the brim with musicality and spirit, specifically a war spirit. Halford hits those signature highs but also sings with melody that is both reminiscent of the 70s era Priest but also late 80s power metal. Downing and Tipton’s solos and leads absolutely shred like some of the axeslingers of the era, and is rivaled with Travis’ technical drumming. The solo section does go on for a couple minutes as the duo trade off every few stanzas. I have always wished that Priest tried for more of this particular sound but am perfectly content with just “One Shot at Glory.”