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…
After the stellar performance of the prior album ‘Redeemer of Souls’ thanks in large part of the addition of Richie Faulkner, the band started work on the next album in 2016. However, it took a long time to finally get to the studios in March of 2017 and the band would go until June to finish the recording. The album then sat for months on months and finally get released on March 9, 2018 where it went on to sell around 49,000 copies in the first week putting it at #5 and their highest chart position. Yeah, 49,000 is a far cry from their heydays, but 49,000 in 2018 for any band is a decent week of sales…oh how things have changed.
But sometimes things to don’t change as the band brought back former producer Tom Allom in to the mix to co-produce the album with Andy Sneap. It had been since 1988’s ‘Ram It Down” as the last time they worked with Allom, so 30 years. That is a long gap. Andy would have such an impact with the band, he would actually go on tour with the band as guitarist. The reason for that was due to some sad news from the camp. The great Glenn Tipton was retiring from touring due to his battle with Parkinson’s Disease. The illness was getting to be too much to play some of the more challenging parts in songs. That doesn’t mean he didn’t pop up on stage every now and again when he felt good enough to play because he did. Glenn is still a member of the band and will still help creatively and in recording. Touring is just too much and too unpredictable on how he’ll feel.
One of the really cool things about this album is the cover art. I remember seeing this and thinking, Damn! That is a cool cover. The next thing I know, there was a filter or something because people started replacing their cover picture on Facebook with their name in Judas Priest Firepower font. It was cool. I didn’t do it though as I was probably too lazy as it seemed like to much work and I didn’t want to be a follower, as I am a leader…no, who am I kidding, it was the laziness part!!
The band took a long, long, long break after 2008’s ‘Nostradamus’ which was not received all that well, despite the fact I really enjoyed that one. In 2011, there were rumblings of new album the band had been working on and they said they were going to take their time with it and let me tell you, they did just that. The album didn’t come out until July 8th, 2014 more than 3 years later. And a lot happened in those three years.
The biggest thing that happened was the departure of one of its founding members and the jelly to the jam of the guitar duo. K.K. Downing departed the band in 2011 and it sounded like it was over creative differences with the band. This was a major blow to the band, though probably not as big as losing your lead singer…sorry, easier to replace a guitarist than a singer (except if your Eddie Van Halen maybe). The band found a replacement in the wonderful guitar playing of Richie Faulkner and from what I can tell has been very well received by the fans. Richie immediately has made an impact as he was heavily involved in the song writing for this album.
It takes time to get a new member acclimated to things, so the band spent the next 3 years completing the album and having Richie get familiar with the other members of Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill and Scott Travis. Upon its release, the album saw them hit their highest peak on the charts in the U.S., going to #6 on giving them first Top 10 album. Now, it only sold a little over 100,000 copies but this is 2014 and streaming was taking over as well as digital sales so actual album sales are not what they used to be. Still a respectable showing, but it is a respectable album. Let us find out.
After the sour reaction to the previous album, ‘Jugulator’, Priest tried to determine what went wrong. It was a myriad of things, but most importantly was due to the departure of the much loved Rob Halford and then completely changing your sound and abandoning everything that Judas Priest was known for in its sound. It is pretty simple actually. They tried to rectify one of those things as Rob was still not in the band. The lead singer for his second album with the band was Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens. The end result was the album ‘Demolition’ which was released on July 16, 2001 and did even worse then the previous album. It only charted at #165 on the US Billboard charts.
However, the album is way better than the reception it received. The band still consisted of K.K. Downing, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill and Scott Travis along with Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens and this time around they went back to a more Priest sound which was a little less heavy and a lot more melodic. They did modernize the sound by adding some nu-metal / industrial elements while still maintaining a lot of what Priest fans loved. This was a much more accessible album and one I find to be way better than the previous one. Dare I say, I really like this album, but it still doesn’t completely feel like a Priest album. It is a step in the right direction.
The opening track “Machine Man” sadly doesn’t really stray too far from the previous album. It is pretty brutal and heavy. It is one of the songs on the album that actually garnered Priest with their first Parental Advisory Sticker on an album due to the language. The guitar playing on this is pretty lethal and the combo of Tipton and Downing again shows how great this band is with those two. And not to be outdone, Travis’ drumming is totally maddening and still can’t figure out how he can drum that fast…it is crazy nuts. But I don’t completely hate it despite it’s resemblance to the prior album. Tim’s singing is better and more melodic at times and at least it had a decent chorus.
After the ‘Painkiller’ Tour in 1991, Rob Halford had decided to leave the band. However, due to contract obligations he didn’t really leave until late 1992 as Halford did help with the 20th Anniversary celebration of the band with the greatest hits package ‘Metal Works – ’73-’93’. After that was overs, so was Halford. Now, according to Rob’s book ‘Confess’, his departure was merely a miscommunication. He said he was leaving to do just go do a solo project, but not technically leaving the band. The band took it as he was leaving the band, plain and simple. It took them 11 years to work that out because Rob was too scared to make contact and clear things up and Rob takes fully responsibility for that part.
In the meantime, the band moved on without Rob. They searched high and low and found their new lead singer in the strangest of places. The found Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens in a Judas Priest Tribute band called British Steel. When they heard him, they knew he was the one. That story inspired a movie in 2001 called ‘Rock Star’ with Mark Wahlberg that told of a story of metal band finding their new lead singer from a Tribute Band…hmmm…is this the bands 2nd time inspiring movies. Didn’t their legendary drummer turnover inspire part of ‘This is Spinal Tap’??? Crazy stuff.
The line-up was set, original members K.K. Downing, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill along with drummer Scott Travis and new guy, Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens. Tim was not the only new thing about the band for this album, the band changed their sound and changed it big time. They didn’t go to a softer side, they went even heavier…much heavier. The band tuned down their guitars which completely change the tone of the album as that classic Priest guitar sound was gone. The album was pretty much a thrash metal album as there was not much melody and really no catchy choruses. This is the heaviest I think they’ve ever been. They were starting to lean towards heavier even with ‘Painkiller’, but this takes it to another level entirely. And you know what, with a new singer, it wasn’t a bad idea to try and change it up…might’ve been better if it wasn’t a Priest album because as a Priest album, I’m not sure this works. As another band name, might be just fine. We will see.
We are now to the final album in the box set, The Complete Albums Collection. Why is it the final album in the set, because it is the last album to feature original guitarist, K.K. Downing. This box set contained ALL albums that featured the 4 main members, Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill and K.K. Downing. We know it wasn’t because of a single drummer as they close to a 1,000 drummers in their career…and yes, that is an exaggeration. This live album is also the band’s fifth live album, but only 3rd in this series. We won’t be doing the other two any time soon, so sorry about that fact.
This live album was the first one since Rob Halford rejoined the band and it is also noted for an old producer friend of the band sees his return. Tom Allom is back as co-producer with the band and I can’t say that was actually a good thing after you hear my complaints about this album. They did a good job about not repeating any tracks on any other Halford led Live album up to this point. There are a lot of repeats on the Tim “Ripper” Owen albums, but those don’t count for this conversation. Why don’t we jump straight in to this release.
The album took songs from the band’s tours in 2005 and 2008 and not from one show which is okay. The problem was they didn’t mix the album to sound like a full live show. Nope! Each song fades out and then the next song comes in totally ruining the live album effect. If you are going to make a live album, at least give it the feel that it is one consistent show even if it is not. It totally takes me out of the game when you fade the songs in and out.
For the band’s sixteenth studio album, they went somewhere they had never gone before and really pushed the boundaries of what they could do. “Nostradamus” was going to be a concept album about the man himself, Nostradamus. The idea was brought to the band by their manager, Bill Curbishley, way back in 2005. Eventually the band came around and work started on the album in 2006 and went through 2007. The album finally saw the light of day on June 16, 2008 and saw the band get their highest charting album to date at #11 (now realize that was only sales of 42,000 and in 2008 that had become a lot as album sales were way down).
The band would shed their speed and thrash metal sound and stick strictly to a more symphonic metal sound so if you were expecting anything from before you were in a shock. This was going to be so different than anything else they had done. The album turned in to a 2 CD set with 23 tracks and over a 103 minutes worth of music. You were taken on a journey through the life of Nostradamus and would get songs about his notorious prophecies and about the man himself. You can tell by the titles of the songs on the first disc they are about some dark prophecies that talk about war and the basically the end of the world. The album is full of orchestrated moments and even choirs and if you are looking for the classic Halford scream, you will only get that on the very rare occasion. Rob sings more in an operatic singing style and fits the music perfectly. This is the band stretching their limits and really reaching for the stars.
The band is still Rob Halford, K.K. Downing, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill and Scott Travis on drums. Don Airey is still on keyboards and then you have Pete Whitfield who handles all the string instrumentation. The band was hitting on all cylinders and have given an album that has to be listened to as an album and from front to back in the order intended to get the full effect and follow along. And due to the length of the album there is no way we are going to go through song by song in any great detail so forgive me. I will stick with the highlights and there are many.
After the 1990 album, ‘Painkiller’, Rob Halford left Judas Priest and the band continued on for 11 years with the singer Tim “Ripper” Owens. Rob went on and did his own thing whether it was the band Fight, Two or band Halford. Judas Priest did two albums with Ripper during this time, but the fans were screaming for Halford and Priest to reunite. Rob had wanted that for a long time, but was too afraid to reach out (at least that is what he says in his book). However, eventually it happened. Rob Halford was to rejoin Priest and in 2003, it finally happened.
Judas Priest toured a little and then went in to the studio to record their new album ‘Angel of Retribution’. They recorded from October to December of 2004 and the album was finally released on February 23, 2005 and to quite acclaim. It went to #13 on the Billboard 200 Charts and Priest were back. Rob brought over Roy Z as the producer who also mixed and engineered the album as well. Roy Z was the guitar player in Rob’s band Halford and he produced several of those albums as well.
I read somewhere that the album artwork was a continuation of the angel from ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’. This time the angel has transformed in to steel as she is rising out of the ashes and becoming the angel of retribution. Who knows if that is true, but cool to think that it is a reference to that album.
After 11 years apart, what would the new Priest sound like was the question of the day. Judas Priest would come out and deliver a massively heavy album and usher their sound in to the 21st Century! Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing, Ian Hill and Scott Travis are ready to rock.
After ‘Ram It Down’, Priest needed to find themselves as they were going down the wrong path musically. In January 1990, the band got back to the studio to begin work and a comeback album that would show they were still the metal titans they were. This time it would be without their drummer Dave Holland who left in 1989. Drummer Scott Travis, from Racer X, was brought in and his double kick drumming style was going to help bring the heavy back to their sound. Also out was producer Tom Allom and in came Chris Tsangarides who also helped Priest find a new sound. We still have Rob Halford, Ian Hill, Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing.
The album was finished by March 1990, but didn’t see a release until September 1990. The reason for the delay was that Judas Priest was being sued for subliminal messages in their music stemming from a civil suit brought on by the families of two teens that say the band had subliminal messages in the song “Better By You, Better Than Me” telling the teens to kill themselves. One teen was successful in his attempt and the other teen survived. The lawsuit ended up being thrown out on August 24th as the judge ruled in favor of the band that there was no messaging. As a result, the band released the album on September 3, 1990 and the heavy was brought back to Priest. The album went Gold in the US selling over 500,000 copies and charting at #26 on the Billboard Charts.
Following the Painkiller tour, Rob Halford left the band as he was ready to try a solo career plus he was tired of dealing with the ever growing tensions in the band. His final date with the band was May 1992. According to Halford’s book ‘Confess’, Rob sent a letter to the band discussing his intentions to pursue outside music and he wanted to take a break to do that, but the band he says took that as he was quitting the band. Not liking confrontation, It took Rob 10 years to finally talk with the band and discuss this matter with them and finally clear the air. We will get to that for the next review. For now, it is music time.
As you know, the Turbo album was supposed to be a double album, but the powers-that-be decided the band should only release a single disc album. That meant a lot of songs were scrapped. Well, at least four of those songs wound up on the band’s follow-up, ‘Ram It Down’. The rest of those songs wound up as Bonus tracks on the re-issues and a couple I don’t think have ever seen the light of day. Maybe someday we will hear them.
‘Ram It Down’ was recorded from December 1987 to March of 1988. It would finally be released on May 17, 1988 and would end up being the last album with drummer Dave Holland. There are a few people I know that were quite happy with that move as they always felt Dave’s drumming was a little on the lackluster side. The album would ship gold but only wound up going to #31 on the US Billboard Charts. The album was pretty heavy compared to Turbo, but the songs were no where near as strong and I believe most were disappointed with the end result. In fact, when we did the Nigel Tufnel Top 10 Judas Priest albums on The LeBrain Train several weeks back, none of the three guest even chose this album as one of their Top 10 if that clues you in on anything.
The album kicks off with the classic Halford scream and really slams it home with heavy thrash sounding drums and frantically flying fingers on guitar. The title track, “Ram It Down”, is doing just that. Slamming the fist down to show the world they weren’t a synthesizer band anymore. When compared to the rest of the album, this is one of the better tracks as it still has a little bite and a great dual guitar solo from Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing and man their fingers had to be smoking after the speed of those solos.