Judas Priest was founded in Birmingham, UK in 1969 by Alan Atkins, John Perry, Bruno Stapenhill and John Partidge. Priest was considered one of the most influential bands in the heavy metal genre and was able to celebrate great commercial success with hits like Breaking The Law or Living After Midnight.
The early years of Judas Priest
The band’s early years weren’t easy. Judas Priest was originally a blues band. Less than a year after its founding, the band suffered its first serious blow of fate: guitarist John Perry died in a serious car accident in the year it was founded. Ernie Chataway joined the band in 1969 to replace him. However, this composition did not last long and fell apart again in 1970. Bassist Bruno Stapenhill, drummer John Partidge, and newly added guitarist Ernie Chataway all quit in 1970.
Guitarist Kenneth „KK“ Downing was initially turned down at the audition. However, after the band broke up, the remaining frontman Alan Atkins joined the group „Freight“, which also included rejected guitarist „KK“ Downing and also bassist Ian Hill, who is still active with Judas Priest . Since Downing originally wanted to play in Atkins‘ band, the band changed its name to Judas Priest. The name comes from the song „The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest“ from Bob Dylan’s album „John Wesley Harding“. The current band now consisted of frontman Alan Atkins, guitarist Kenneth „KK“ Downing, bassist Ian Hill and drummer John Ellis.
Judas Priest toured the UK without a record deal until 1973, with two drum changes in 1971. In the meantime, Alan Moore played with Priest, who was then also replaced in 1971 by Chris Campbell. Atkins then left the band in 1973. That same year, frontman Rob Halford joined, brought into the band by his sister Sue Halford, who was also Ian Hill’s girlfriend. In 1974 guitarist Glenn Tipton joined, who is still active for Judas Priest today. The composition of bassist Ian Hill, guitarists „KK“ Downing and Glenn Tipton, and frontman Rob Halford has significantly shaped the image of the band to this day. Only on the drums there were frequent personnel changes in the 70s.
The first album „Rocka Rolla“ was released in 1974 with Glenn Tipton, Downing, Rob Halford, Ian Hill and John Hinch on drums. At the time, Judas Priest’s music consisted mostly of rock and blues. In 1976 the second album „Sad Wings of Destiny“ was released. This album then partly went in the direction of heavy metal . Shortly after the release, the band landed their first major record deal with CBS/Columbia.
The step towards Heavy Metal
After the release of the second album, the step went further and further in the style of heavy metal. Just one year after their second disc, Priest released their third album, Sin After Sin, which was all heavy metal. In 1977, Judas Priest toured America as the opening act for Led Zeppelin. Following the tour, the next albums “Stained Class” and “Killing Machine” were released. In 1978 Halford & Co. went on a world tour and were particularly well received in Asia – more precisely in Japan. In 1979 the first live album “Unleashed In The East” was released from the gigs recorded in Japan. Just one year after their world tour, Priest then toured as the support act for AC/DC, including through Germany.
The highlights of the career
In 1980 Judas Priest released the album British Steel through the Epic label. The band at the time still consisted of Halford, Tipton, Downing and Hill. Only the drummer was new again: Dave Holland. With this album, the Brits contributed a significant part to the style of the „New Wave Of British Heavy Metal“. This album included hits like „Living After Midnight“, „United“ and „Breaking The Law“. In the same year, Priest also recorded his first music videos and even received a gold record for the album.
In the period that followed, Priest worked a lot on new material: in 1981 the album “ Point Of Entry “ was released, in 1982 “ Screaming For Vengeance „, which then provided the absolute highlight. The album went double platinum in America and platinum in Europe and Japan.
In 1983, Judas Priest then appeared together with other well-known figures: at the “Rockpop in Concert – The Heavy Metal” festival in Dortmund’s Westfalenhalle, they shared the stage with Ozzy Osbourne , Def Leppard, Iron Maiden , the Scorpions and other well-known figures.
In 1986 the band broke new ground by releasing the album Turbo. On this album, the band used guitar synthesizers for the first time to set strong tonal accents. In 1987 the British released their second live album “Priest… Live!” on the market.
The next big change came with the 1990 album Painkiller, on which drummer Scott Travis made significant changes with his double bass.
The Separation and Reunion of Judas Priest
After the Painkiller tour ended in 1991, frontman Rob Halford announced his departure from the band. He formed the band Fight with Scott Travis, with Travis also remaining active with Priest.
After Halford’s departure, the band went quiet for a long time. It wasn’t until 1997 that an attempt was made to get something going again with the new frontman Tim Owens. The albums “Jugulator”, “Demolition” and the live album “Live Meltdown 98” were released and were quite successful commercially, but were not well received by the old die-hard Priest fans. To ensure a successful reunion with frontman Rob Halford, Owens left the band in 2003 and went to Iced Earth, where he was active until 2007. Owens is currently the frontman of the band Dio Disciples, which formed in 2011 after the death of Ronnie James Dio (2010).
In 2004 the reunited band played at Ozzfest. In February 2005 the new studio album “Angel Of Retribution” was released. A live DVD followed in 2006 („Rising In The East“), which, like their first live album, was recorded in Japan.
The next album „Nostradamus“, which deals with the life of Nostradamus, was released as a double CD on June 16th, 2008 in Europe. In America a day later, on June 17th. There was also a related world tour, where Priest dug up their old treasures that hadn’t been played live in over 20 years. During their gigs in America they shared the stage with Heaven And Hell and Motörhead. In early 2009, more concerts followed in Germany, where they received support from Megadeth and Testament, among others.
In 2010 Judas Priest received her first Grammy Award For Best Metal Performance for the song „Dissident Aggressor“.
At the end of 2010 it was announced that Priest wanted to tackle their last major world tour „Epitaph World Tour“ in 2011. In the same year they also performed at the notorious „Wacken Open Air“.
In April 2011 – just before the „Epitaph World Tour“ a press release was issued stating that guitarist „KK“ Downing would be leaving the band with immediate effect. The reason given by the guitarist on his homepage was not his health, as he had assumed, but rather the differences between him, the tour management and the band. Downing was replaced by Britain’s Richie Faulkner.
A box set was released on August 25, 2011, containing a total of 52 songs and photos.
A good 3 years later, on July 11, 2014, the album “Redeemer of Souls” was released in Germany. The tour of the same name in 2014 also took Priest to Germany for five concerts, as well as to the Rockavaria Festival in Munich, the Rock im Revier Festival in Gelsenkirchen and the Wacken Open Air. The gig from Wacken was released on March 25, 2016 as a CD under the Named “Battle Cry” and released on Blu-Ray and DVD on April 1st.
The next album “Firepower” followed on March 9th, 2018. Even before the album was released, it was announced on February 12 that guitarist Glenn Tipton, who has now been with Priest for 44 years, would not be taking part in the planned 2018 tour due to his 10-year-old Parkinson’s disease. He was replaced by Andy Sneap, who produced the album Firepower.