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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Music > Rock > Heavy Metal > Albums > Classic Albums: Judas Priest - British Steel (Eagle DVD)

Classic Albums: Judas Priest – British Steel


Picture: B+     Sound: B     Extras: B+     Program: B



There’s no denying the popularity of Judas Priest’s in-your-face, bombastic metal sound.  For over 20 years, they’ve been melting the faces of metalheads on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to their rise after the 1980 British Steel album.  Hits like “Living After Midnight” and “Breaking the Law” have become staples of what-is-now classic rock radio stations as well as the CD players of leather-clad metal fans.  But popularity doesn’t necessarily translate into quality, and such is the case with Priest.


Another entry into the Classic Albums series, Judas Priest – British Steel chronicles the making of the seminal metal album, complete with stories from Rob Halford and crew about the formation of the band from the ashes of England’s blue collar steel towns and how this album came together (did you know it was recorded in John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s old home?).  The stories told don’t particularly accentuate the album in any way—you’re either a fan or you’re not—but they do help crystallize one’s opinion of the band.


Priest has always had a prog rock style to their metal, incorporating sci-fi elements such as robots to their songs and stage show.  Some metal fans might find this endearing, but this reviewer thinks that robots as “Metal Gods” — one of the tracks off British Steel ­— is a musical image best left to the world of Yes or Led Zeppelin.


There is also no denying the impact British Steel had on the metal landscape, particularly in Britain.  Up to that point, metal wasn’t a commercially viable thing.  Judas Priest came along, though, and blew up the charts with three hits: “Breaking the Law,” “United” and “Living After Midnight.”  Priest also introduced the concept of dual guitars to the metal/hard rock landscape that was, surprisingly, innovative.


But innovation and catchy riffs aside, if you’re not a fan of Priest already this DVD will not convert you to one.  This is a straight making-of that doesn’t really put the album into context of the band’s previous albums, nor does it put other events, like Halford jumping ship, into the context of the band’s future.  Everything is just there for consumption.  Priest fans will be able to take a lot away from this DVD, where casual metal fans who don’t know Judas Priest from Judas Iscariot won’t have a damn clue what’s happening.


With that said, though, the DVD is an admirable presentation.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with Pro Logic surrounds soundtrack is crisp and clear, bringing out the full texture of the heavy, track-layered cuts from British Steel.  Similarly, the anamorphically enhanced 16 X9/1.78 X 1 video quality is excellent.  The program itself is nearly without flaw, while the videos for Priest’s three hits and live footage is, at worst, slightly beat up and, at best, clear as day.  And like with the Classic Albums presentation of The Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols (reviewed elsewhere on this site,) there is a collection of extended interviews and video footage presented as extras.  Like with the program itself, Priest fans will get the most out of these bonuses, but they are interesting nonetheless as they round out the making-of presentation.


Judas Priest – British Steel is essential viewing for all Priest fans, as are all of the Classic Albums DVDs required viewing for fans of each band and album.  But casual fans are best advised to keep their distance.  If you’re curious about Judas Priest, plunk down some American steel—or nickel, copper and whatever quarters and those Sacagawea dollars are made out of—to get a Priest greatest hits package or, better yet, their first few albums up to and including British Steel.



-   Dante A. Ciampaglia


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