Judas Priest is heavy metal personified.
The most important innovator in the genre’s progression after Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, Judas Priest’s influence looms immensely on not only heavy metal’s music, but its visual presentation as well. Historically, the Birmingham band fits neatly in the genre’s second wave alongside Scorpions, UFO, Rainbow, and KISS, a crucial bridge between the music’s older progenitors and what would become the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal in the late 1970s.
More than any of the band’s peers, however, Judas Priest brought an unparalleled level of grandiosity to the music. Starting off as a fairly run-of-the-mill heavy blues rock outfit, named after the Bob Dylan song “The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest,” under the leadership of singer/songwriter Al Atkins, the band started to veer more toward the burgeoning heavy metal sound of the early 1970s when guitarist K.K. Downing took control of Judas Priest, after Atkins was replaced by a kid from nearby Walsall named Rob Halford, whose sister happened to be dating bassist Ian Hill. On the advice of the band’s record label, Gull, a second lead guitarist named Glenn Tipton was brought in to help flesh out the band’s sound, as well as to specifically build on the twin guitar style pioneered by British rockers Wishbone Ash, and after a rather bumpy start on the 1974 debut album Rocka Rolla, the band gelled in stunning fashion on the 1976 follow-up Sad Wings Of Destiny, which rewrote heavy metal’s rulebook, utilizing brash dexterity from the guitars, rampaging speed on the drums, and most notably, a singer with astronomical vocal range. Metal instantly became more extreme, more theatrical, more ostentatious, more powerful than ever before.