Some records will fall, some will become commercial masters, and some will be sworn by generations of other musicians. Undoubtedly, “British Steel” by Judas Priest belongs to the latter set. One of the most key recordings of hard music in general has become the theme of our cycle Famous Albums.
Birmingham, an industrial city in central England, could de facto be considered the birthplace of heavy metal. The foundations were laid here by the legendary Black Sabbath, when in 1970 they released their nameless debut. And it was on their music that another band from this city of steelworks and factories built, Judas Priest, which ten years after Sabatech launched “British Steel” and set a model for what heavy metal would look like in the 1980s.
To your definitive expression Judas they went through five decent lines and changes in visual style. “British Steel” brought a sharp sound, a double string of guitars, anthemic melodies – but also leather suits, metal studs and nails, which in turn inspired others. “It’s a clear declaration of the rock way of life,” characterizes the record in the documentary Famous Albums by guitarist Glenn Tipton. “Britih Steel” is still relevant today. Topics like frustration with “Breaking The Law”, the power of the community (“United”) or a theme as common in rock music as “Night After Midnight” still resonate – especially in such a catchy way. what the group, which had to wait for mainstream success, presented them. Although “British Steel” may seem like a straightforward and, in fact, very typical heavy metal recording over time, a number of experimental details will come to the surface when listened to carefully. “We tried everything,” lists Tipton. “At Judas Priest, we’ve always been willing to experiment, and we’ve always tried to push the boundaries of metal to make it more bearable. That’s why people may have called us metal ambassadors.” And so, instead of a whip, it sounds like a string swinging on the kitchen counter, instead of a police siren, a guitar and stomping metal monsters in “Metal Gods” have replaced cutlery drawers. Methods that nowadays, full of samples from the Internet, seem comically woody.
It is worth asking to what extent the sound and the experimental nature of the work were influenced by the place where it originated. The original studio disappointed, so the group rented a country house in Tittenhurst Park to shoot. It belonged to The Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, who bought it from John Lennon. However, it didn’t look the best at first and the band decided to literally play the whole house.
“We started preparing the studio,” describes producer Tom Allom, “But it was quite small and everything sounded flat. We soon realized that we were not able to achieve the desired sound, so we decided, knowing that it would make communication between the control room and the musicians difficult, use the space of the whole house.”
Bassist Ian Hill adds: “We had the advantage that there were dozens of rooms and you could stick wires everywhere in the socket. You could easily record the guitar in the bathroom. Each room had a different acoustics. So you had a variety of sound palettes to choose from.”
The concentrated heavy metal essence hit the time well. Punk was at the zenith, and some of the youth who refused to play synth-pop immediately clapped after “British Steel”. For Judas Priest, the golden age began, when the months spent on tour alternated with time in the studio. More great records were waiting for them, but the influence of this one the purest British steel is by far the largest.
“It’s absolutely beautiful that Judas Priest has become the godfather of modern heavy metal,” the second guitarist KK Downing does not hide his enthusiasm. And singer Rob Halford adds: “The album ‘British Steel’, given its importance, is a universal key that unlocks all the other doors. It’s wonderful that Judas Priest’s legacy remains intact. It’s still a very important band with something to say and a massive fan base. Worldwide.”
A detailed look at the shooting of “British Steel” and spicy stories from behind the scenes was brought by another part of the Famous Albums series. On Friday, October 29, it was broadcast by ČT art. For a week, the cycle continues with the story of Frank Zappa’s “Apostrophe” and “Over-Nite Sensation”.
A series of articles is created in cooperation with Czech Television.
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FAMOUS ALBUM: In the heavy metal kitchen Judas Priest cooked “British Steel”, a work that kicked off their career and became a role model