We are finally to the end of the Judas Priest Complete Albums Collection Series. And we are ending it with a ranking of all the Studio albums for the band which is a total of 18 albums to go through. That is a lot. I knew of Judas Priest and I had heard a ton of songs, but I had never dived deep in the band until I did this series. I received The Complete Albums Collection Box Set for Christmas 2020 and bought the 4 studio albums that were missing from the set and decided to review them all and it has been a blast. I will say that I am a huge fan now.
Out of the 18 albums, there are only 2 they have that I felt were below average and the rest are worth hearing at least to me. That isn’t bad to have 16 albums that rank at least a 3 or higher. My choices might be different from some people and that is okay as we like different things. I really enjoyed the bluesiness of the early albums and the more 80’s style and even the real heaviness of the more current records. I will even admit I liked one of the Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens albums. No matter what I heard, I found things I liked and didn’t like. But what I do know is that the original members of Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing and Ian Hill were a powerful group and there was a magic to their music together. I like Richie Faulkner as he brought a new life to the band and I really liked Scott Travis on drums as he was a force to be reckoned with behind that kit.
Judas Priest was not a one trick pony. They weren’t just heavy metal…they had a blues influence, glam influence, straight up hard rock, speed metal and even a little death metal at times. They could do it all. Any time they had dual guitar solos or Halford hit that trademark scream, I was all in. These guys are one of the best bands to come out of the UK and I can’t believe we have had 50 years of Judas Priest. What a ride it has been. Now, let’s see how I rank the albums and away we go…
THE WORST: ‘RAM IT DOWN’ (1988):
This was a really disappointing album for me. Only a few standout tracks and the rest of it the band seemed lost and wandering aimlessly with no direction. The album is all over the place, the songwriting was half-assed at times and Rob was not at his best vocally. A really dreadful album. The overall score is 2.0 out of 5.0 Stars. I did like the title track, “Ram It Down”, and “Blood Skies”, but not really much else. And I have nothing else to add, yeah, it was that bad for me.
#17 – ‘JUGULATOR’ (1997):
This to me is not a Priest album and it is not because of Ripper. It is really because the album is so much heavier than prior albums and has lost all melody and catchy choruses. It is a tough listen, but did get a little better as I kept listening to it. Ripper isn’t bad, but I don’t like the more speaking type vocals or the guttural vocals either. I did like when he hit the high notes as those were killer. I think they went to an extreme to distance themselves from Halford’s Priest and that was to their detriment. It could also be that the times were different and music was much darker and angrier as this album felt. Either way, not my favorite Priest album, not even close. I Score it a 2.5 out of 5.0 Stars and it is not a terrible effort, but too far from where they were before and the band probably shouldn’t have been called Judas Priest. The essential songs were “Burn in Hell”, “Bullet Train” and “Jugulator”.
#16 – ‘POINT OF ENTRY’ (1981):
This is the first album in the series I had actually been a little disappointed after listening. Don’t get me wrong, it has its moments, but overall it was the first album I didn’t see growth of some kind. It was ‘British Steel’ light or 2.0…but not as good. They tried to copy the success of ‘British Steel’ to no avail. They had too many distractions and the band was in a bad place with this one and you can tell from the sound of these songs. Overall, I will only give it a 3.0 out of 5.0 Stars as I still liked more than half the tracks, the rest was just weak. The essential songs for me were “Heading Out to the Highway”, “Hot Rockin'” and “Desert Plains”.
#15 – ‘ROCKA ROLLA’ (1974):
A lot of debut albums scream important and people should take notice, but this one did not. I knew nothing about this one and don’t usually hear people talking about it. I can see why as this is not the Priest sound that made people stop and take notice. This was like everything else out at the time. However, there is a classic sound to this album and I think some really great stuff on here, but I am big fan of the blues rock sound so what do I know. I know I enjoyed this album the more time I spent with it. There were some not so great stuff on here, but some cool stuff as well. All-in-all, I enjoyed it and that is what matters. I will score it a 3.0 out of 5.0 Stars because I think it is better than average, but not spectacular. Essential tracks for me were “Rocka Rolla”, “Cheater” and “Run of the Mill”.
#14 – ‘STAINED CLASS’ (1978):
The album was a mixed bag for me. I know a lot of people think really high on this one and I can see why as there are some solid stuff here. I think the first half of the album is much stronger and “Beyond the Realms of Death is now one of my all time favorite Priest tracks, but the rest left me wanting more. Now, I don’t think this is a bad album at all, but I don’t see why it is rated some people rate it so high. I will give this one a 3.5 out of 5.0 Stars. My Essential tracks other than the previous one mentioned are “Exciter” and “Better By You, Better Than Me”.
#13 – ‘REDEEMER OF SOULS’ (2014):
I do like a lot of the songs, but as an album, it is not a favorite. It is a little long at over 60 minutes and that is without the bonus tracks. The are some misses, but there are really some great tracks as well. “Halls of Valhalla”, “Battle Cry” and “Beginning of the End” and I feel are some of their best in a while. Richie Faulkner is a welcomed addition to the band and gives them a fresh perspective. I am not going to say I don’t miss K.K. Downing because there was a little missing from the sound without his guitar. All in all, I give it a 3.5 out of 5.0 Stars as it is a solid album, but isn’t up there with their top ones. However, I will pull this one out again.
#12 – ‘DEMOLITION’ (2001):
I thought Priest pulled back from straight up Thrash and went back to a more Priest like sound. The guitars were great, Travis’ drumming was killer as awesome, Ian’s bass work kept the band going and I found Ripper a lot more accessible and he did some great work on here. The band found their groove I feel with this one that mixed the really heavy with the more melodic. The best of both worlds kind of thing. My Overall Score would be around that at maybe a 3.75 out of 5.0 Stars as I really enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I was going to after the last album with Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens. I’m glad one of them was really good. Some of my essentials on this one are “Close to You”, “Subterfuge” and “One on One”.
#11 – ‘PAINKILLER’ (1990):
if I had to describe this album in one word, that would be easy. This album is Intense! The big stand out is the double kick drum as Scott Travis makes his presence known from the get go. The album is split in to two halves for me. The first half is pure thrash/speed metal heaviness like no other Priest album you’ve ever heard before. It is quite a statement. The second half is more straight ahead rock, more melodic but just as good. It is definitely a step up from the prior album and sees the band start to delve in to a heavier sound without losing who they are and maybe even getting stronger. Too bad it was Rob’s last for over 10 years as it would’ve been cool to see where they went after this. Overall, the album is a solid 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars for me. I see myself pulling this baby out pretty frequently and blasting it so the neighbors can hear it as well. My Essential Tracks are “Painkiller”, “All Guns Blazing” and “Touch of Evil”.
#10 – ‘KILLING MACHINE’ / ‘HELL BENT FOR LEATHER’ (1978):
I really enjoyed this album a lot. As I said earlier, it feels more accessible and doesn’t feel shoved down your throat. The songs are all relatively short and Priest isn’t wasting any time. They are still delivering a solid pummeling to your ears, but the sonics are great, the guitars shredding, the drums are pounding, the bass is thumping and Rob’s vocals a screeching to the highest of highs. The band is tight, the band is solid and the band might have just delivered one of their best albums to date. This is the Priest I have been expecting, this is the Priest I am most familiar with and this is the Priest that was about to explode to superstardom. Overall, I give this release a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars. The Essential Tracks would be “Hell Bent for Leather”, “The Green Manalishi” and “Delivering the Goods”.
#9 – ‘TURBO’ (1986):
The first half of the album is really strong, but the back half falls pretty weak except for “Reckless”. I can see the turn off to people with the guitar synths added because it does change the dynamics of the band. My friend Mike said the drums were a little boring and I have to agree. They sounded the same on every song so I didn’t focus on them. I stayed with the overall song. Now, I do like this album a lot is I loved the whole 80’s glam rock scene, but It lost a little of who Priest was, but thankfully still gave us some great songs. Overall, I give the album a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars as the first half of this album is totally killer and the album ends with one of the best songs on the album which made me want to start the thing over again. That is always a good sign. The Essential Songs are “Turbo Lover”, “Locked In”, “Private Property” and “Reckless”.
#8 – ‘ANGELS OF RETRIBUTION’ (2005):
The reunion album was worth the wait for me. It shines above any of the Ripper albums (Sorry Harrison). If it stopped at “Hellrider” this album would get a 4.5-5.0 easily as I really do love all those songs. When the band went heavy, they exceed all expectations. They felt alive and the band seemed revitalized and excited to be back. They brought the Priest sound into the 21st Century while still staying true to the history as there were moments in several songs that harkened back to the old days. It is good to have Rob back and I think they delivered on all fronts…well mostly except for the two giant missteps at the end of the album. Overall, the album Score is 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars as I enjoyed this way more than I expected and I don’t have to skip any songs, I can just stop after “Hellrider”. Essential Tracks for me are “Judas Rising”, “Deal With the Devil”, “Demonizer” and “Angel”.
#7 – ‘SAD WINGS OF DESTINY’ (1976):
This album grew on me and in the end I really found myself enjoying this one a lot. It still had a couple misfires, but there is no denying the last half of this disc was utterly amazing. And I mean amazing. Quite possibly the best half of any of their albums. This album is more like what I was expecting from Judas Priest and now that they are starting to find who they really are as a band. I will score this one a solid 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars. The Essential Songs are all of the one side, “Victim of Changes”, “Ripper”, “Dreamer Deceiver” and “Deceiver”. What a four song combo!!
#6 – ‘NOSTRADAMUS’ (2008):
I thought the album was bloody brilliant. The more I listened, the more I got the story and the more enjoyable it became. I loved the symphonic feel and didn’t miss the speed metal aspects of prior albums. It was a heavy album and very dark at times. But I have been fascinated with Nostradamus since I saw an HBO show about him way back in the early 80’s. This has brought back that fascination and we are better for it. I hear about this album getting a bad rap, but they are all wrong. I think it is a focused Priest and I don’t feel they missed any mark. They nailed it on all levels…great story, great music and still Priest. Not everything worked, but more than enough did to keep my interest throughout. For that, I give the album a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars. I am glad they stretched their wings and reached for something bigger than normal. Essentials Songs are “Prophecy”, “Revelations”, “Pestilence and Plague” and “Nostradamus”.
#5 – ‘FIREPOWER’ (2018):
Priest really delivered and I think shocked the world with how good this one really was. Faulkner has been a great add to the band and I believe has revitalized the old guard quite a bit. The band delivered a modern rock album with roots still firmly planted in the past and that is a hard thing to do. Halford hasn’t sound better and man, that Scott Travis is a beast on the drums. Glenn is still playing his heart out and understanding his limits which takes a man to admit that he has some now and he is willing to let Richie shine. And don’t forget Ian and his bass is still a driving force in keeping the band moving forward. Judas Priest prove that even after almost 50 years, they can still hang with the best of them. My overall Score is a 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars as I thought this was brilliant. This was the first album I had heard in years and was part of the catalyst to making me dive in to Priest and do this series, so for that…cheers to ‘Firepower’. Essential Tracks are “Firepower”, “Evil Never Dies”, “Never the Heroes” and “Necromancer” to name a few.
#4 – ‘BRITISH STEEL’ (1980):
I wouldn’t actually delete any song, but a couple are borderline which is why it isn’t a perfect score. The album was definitely metal, but it wasn’t harsh in your face. It was more accessible and radio friendly for the time which explains why it started to catch on and help bring metal more mainstream. Since they recorded the album at Ringo Starr’s house (and formerly John Lennon’s house), maybe some of that Beatles magic rubbed off as Priest deliver one of their best albums to date. I am giving it a 4.5 out 5.0 Stars as it isn’t perfect, but it is pretty dang close. How I let this stuff slip by me back then is inexcusable. I loved it on MTV, but never bit the bullet for an actual album purchase which is a crying shame. The Essential Tracks are “Living After Midnight”, “Breaking the Law”, “Metal Gods” and “United”.
#3 – ‘SIN AFTER SIN’ (1977):
This one opened with a rocker and ended with an even more rocking track. I also enjoyed everything in between even if a couple are lesser favorite tracks. Judas Priest seem to be finding themselves now and they felt fresh and alive with this one. Overall a fantastic release and I will give it a solid 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars. While doing the series, this one became benchmark for all the rest in the series and you can see, there were only two that beat it because this one is a pure evil monster. The cover is so metal, the sound was so metal and the band was finding their groove! The Essential Tracks are “Dissident Aggressor”, “Sinner”, “Diamonds and Rust” and “Here Comes the Tears”.
#2 – ‘DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH’ (1984):
The band wanted to keep that ‘Screaming for Vengeance’ sound going and they sure as hell did. The album picks up where the other left off and kept the party going. There is really only one misstep on it and that is easily overlooked due to the strength of all the other tracks. The album seems a little heavier at times and the boys are hitting all cylinders as the race through the songs. The guitar duo of Tipton and Downing are unmatched, Hill’s bass is the driving force along with Holland’s pounding drums. Rob’s screaches and screams sound better than ever. Judas Priest was at the top of their game and are showing no signs of slowing down. This is a true beast of an album. And despite one hiccup, this is the second 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars I have now given and it shows if the songs are strong enough, then one bad one won’t hurt the album. The Essential Tracks, well, it might be easier just to say which one I didn’t like and that was “Nights Come Down”…all the others, just crank them.
#1 – ‘SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE’ (1982):
Yes, I love everything about this album. Maybe it is because it is the only album I was familiar with prior to this series or maybe it is really that good. I am going to say it is a lot of both. The band brought back the heavy, they seemed more focused, they seemed more hungry and the delivered on all fronts. The heavier Priest is, the more I enjoy them which I don’t know what that says about me, but I don’t care. Bring the heavy and Priest can deliver a masterpiece of gargantuan proportions. Overall, this is easily a 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars. A lot of people think Defender’s is better, but Defender was more a continuation of this and since this was the original, I am for this one. The album was all over MTV and for some reason, I never bought, but I am so glad I have since remedied that problem. This was the only truly perfect album in the bunch and I liked each and every song…nothing to skip or delete here. All songs are Essential…of course!!
And there you have it, the Judas Priest studio albums in order of how I rank them from the worst to the best. Let me know what you think. Where did we differ and where did we agree. What is fun about these list is how differently each album impacts people. What I like, you might not, but we like the same artist and that is all that matters really. And if as a result, you find something new, then my job is done!!!
That brings us to the end of the series sadly, but don’t fret…we are really just getting started on the Cheap Trick and Aerosmith Series so there is plenty to look forward to reading and hearing. Thanks for stopping by each week for these reviews, this one was a lot of fun to write and learn.
THE COMPLETE ALBUMS COLLECTION SERIES:
- Rocka Rolla (1974)
- Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)
- Sin After Sin (1977)
- Stained Class (1978)
- Killing Machine / Hell Bent For Leather (1978)
- Unleashed in the East (1979)
- British Steel (1980)
- Point of Entry (1981)
- Screaming for Vengeance (1982)
- Defenders of the Faith (1984)
- Turbo (1986)
- Priest…Live! (1987)
- Ram it Down (1988)
- Painkiller (1990)
- Angel of Retribution (2005)
- Nostradamus (2008)
- A Touch of Evil: Live (2009)
- Jugulator (1997) – Bonus Edition
- Demolition (2001) – Bonus Edition
- Redeemer of Souls (2014) – Bonus Edition
- Firepower (2018) – Bonus Edition