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Judas Priest - "British Steel - 30th Anniversary Edition" (CD)

Judas Priest - "British Steel - 30th Anniversary Edition" CD cover image

"British Steel - 30th Anniversary Edition" track listing:

Remastered CD
1. Rapid Fire
2. Metal Gods
3. Breaking The Law
4. Grinder
5. United
6. You Don't Have To Be Old To Be Wise
7. Living After Midnight
8. The Rage
9. Steeler
10. Red White & Blue
11. Grinder (live)

30th Anniversary DVD
1. Rapid Fire
2. Metal Gods
3. Breaking The Law
4. Grinder
5. United
6. You Don't Have To Be Old To Be Wise
7. Living After Midnight
8. The Rage
9. Steeler
10. The Ripper
11. Prophecy
12. Hell Patrol
13. Victim Of Changes
14. Freewheel Burning
15. Diamonds & Rust
16. You've Got Another Thing Coming

Bonus: The Making of "British Steel" interview

Reviewed by on June 6, 2010

"'Rapid Fire,' with its machine gun guitar intro that inspired thrashers everywhere comes blasting out of your speakers with a new force and clarity."

In heavy metal history, it's almost impossible to overestimate the importance of the year 1980. A survey of the definitive albums released that year reads like a who's who of classic metal. It was the year that Ronnie James Dio redefined Black Sabbath with "Heaven & Hell." It was the year AC/DC rose from the ashes of Bon Scott's demise with the mighty shriek of Brian Johnson on "Back In Black." It was the year Motorhead's speed-fueled punk-metal hybrid reached maximum potency on "Ace Of Spades."

But, perhaps most importantly, it was the year Judas Priest forged their purest sound into "British Steel." Cut to 30 years — and a deluxe reissue — later, and none of the sound, fury and musical magic have diminished in the slightest. In fact, due to an excellent remaster, they're more potent than ever.

"Rapid Fire," with its machine gun guitar intro that inspired thrashers everywhere comes blasting out of your speakers with a new force and clarity. Guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton's work arguably benefits the most from the remaster, with each ax-slinger's parts having a definitive bite to them. And, of course, it doesn't hurt that they're backing arguably the greatest voice in metal, Rob Halford.

The band recorded the album at Tittenhurst Park, the same home and studio that gave us John Lennon's "Imagine." And, when it came time to record "Metal Gods," they used whatever was available to create the sound effects that accompany the mid-tempo march. Hence, a pool cue slamming down on a table created a whiplash and the clanking of cutlery provided the thundering footsteps of the armored android advance. The sound on this remaster is so pure, you can practically hear each knife and fork scraping against each other.

Part of the joy of an expert remaster like this one is realizing that you only think you know what one of your favorite songs truly sounds like. Such is the case with "Breaking The Law," which features little guitar moments that somehow got lost in the original mix. Ditto for "Grinder," in which the solo comes screaming at you like a force of nature. And, if "United" doesn't make you want to tear up and wave a cigarette lighter in the air, you've got no soul. Of the not-quite-as-famous songs on the album, "You Don't Have To Be Old To Be Wise" rates as a favorite, with its youth-empowering chorus.

And then it's on to the single greatest Judas Priest track of all time, "Living After Midnight." Like "Breaking The Law," the remaster improves on a classic, revealing layers of guitar work previously lower in the mix. It's one of the greatest sing-along choruses in all of rock.

Priest gets all mellow for the space of a few seconds on the reggae-influenced intro to "The Rage," showing that they're capable of more than just face-melting solos and crushing riffs. After that is the speedy "Steeler," which closes out the original album.

The two bonus tracks on the first disc, "Red, White & Blue" and a live version of "Grinder" add next to nothing to the classic album, but they don't really take anything away from the experience.

Then, it's on to the DVD, in which Priest performs the entire "British Steel" album before an appreciative audience at the Seminole Hard Rock Arena in Hollywood, Florida. I've never really been a fan of the "play the whole album in sequence" approach, and this performance sometimes shows why an album's sequence is, by necessity, different from that of a live show.

Sure, "Rapid Fire" is a great opener, but "Breaking The Law" seems awfully sudden as the third song in the set. The natural encore, "Living After Midnight," is the seventh song in the set, with "The Rage" and "Steeler" seeming anticlimactic in a live setting. Of course, you've got stuff like "The Ripper," "Freewheel Burning" and "You've Got Another Thing Coming" on the tail end to make up for that, so it's not all that horrible a problem.

For a band with four decades under its belt, Priest is still in amazingly fine form, with Halford still hitting notes beyond most mere mortals. Drummer Scott Travis helps give new life to the "British Steel" tunes, playing with a harder-hitting approach than Dave Holland did on the album versions.

The making-of interview on the DVD treads the same ground as the VH-1 "Classic Albums" special did a few years ago, only with a little less depth. Still, those who're interested in heavy metal history will delight in learning the inspirations behind the songs, as well as how they were created.

One of the definitive albums in metal, "British Steel" ought to be in every headbanger's collection. The new 30th anniversary offers enough new material that even Priest fans who already own it on vinyl, cassette, 8-track and CD will find something new to enjoy.

Highs: "Living After Midnight," "Breaking The Law" and just about everything else from the original "British Steel" disc.

Lows: The live show, though expertly performed, seems a little awkwardly sequenced.

Bottom line: One of the defining — and best — albums in metal gets a deluxe makeover that makes it even better.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)