It's always sad when a band with the potential to write and produce something astronomical wastes their talent mucking away in the realms of mediocrity and genericness. Especially when the band comes across as classy and hard working. Merely months following their amazingly good fourth album, Stained Class, Judas Priest descended down to this level of insipidness with their fifth release, Hell Bent for Leather. Yet somehow, the record was pretty successful helping break the band into the mainstream. In 1980, Priest would once again make another jump in popularity, releasing British Steel, one of the most overrated metal albums of all time bar none (well, maybe save for Master of Puppets). Hailed as a classic album, British Steel is one of the band's more popular releases, containing hits such as Breaking the Law and Living After Midnight.
Admittedly, the album starts off quite well with Breaking the Law. Much like previous cuts like The Ripper and Hell Bent for Leather (one of the album's few good tracks), the song is rather short and simple in structure. One of metal's most well known anthems; it is really the only track which successfully portrays the rebellious attitudes successfully. Its familiar riff and chorus is the by far album's finest moment, as it manages to maintain the energy and power that it builds up. The other song that impresses here is the third track, Metal Gods. Though fairly average when compared to Judas Priest's top works, its infectious main riff and short solo manage to retain interest, as do the memorable vocal lines of Rob Halford. But you know what? That's it, really. After Breaking the Law and Metal Gods, British Steel has nothing really going for it. Yes, the choruses are catchy. But catchiness, as the band's sixth album so eloquently shows us, does not necessarily make a good record. The remaining seven songs (and bonus tracks if you have the remaster) plod along at a staggeringly slow pace. There just isn't any feeling or excitement in the music, it's simply mind numbingly boring. Not so much on the level as say Images and Words or Lateralus, but it is still tedious nonetheless.
Musically, the band does not really do all that well…at all. Everything from the vocals down to the drumming is significantly weaker than it had been in the past (see Stained Class) or would be in the future (see Painkiller). Rob Halford is one of metal's greatest vocalists when he's on his game – key phrase: when he's on his game. Rob's deliveries on songs like Metal Gods, Breaking the Law, and The Rage are fairly well done. The rest is pretty fairly bad, and recorded at lower octaves. Not exactly impressive, especially for a man as talented as Rob Halford. Mr. Halford is perhaps at his most annoying during the choruses of songs like United and Living After Midnight where his performances are, despite being pretty catchy, painful and cringe worthy to listen to. The guitars have also been really restrained on British Steel. Priest's trade mark dueling guitars are scarce, and when they cam be found they are so watered down and uninteresting that they just aren't worth listening to. After being treated to such efforts such as can be found in Electric Eye, Painkiller, or The Sentinel, this repressing of talent is not really acceptable at all, and actually grows to be quite annoying as the album continues. This band can definitely do better in these respects, and the sub-par performances not really fun to listen to at all.
Among the many albums declared as classics by fans and critics everywhere, there would be a few of which I can only help but wonder what has driven these people to proclaim them as such remarkable albums. Among these albums is Judas Priest's mainstream hit, British Steel, an uninspiring, 36 minute long collection of annoying anthems and filler material. Definitely in the lower echelon of Judas Priest albums, it fails to build on most of the momentum it creates, save for Breaking the Law and Metal Gods, and for the most part toils in repetitiveness and mediocrity. Do yourself a favour and do not look into this album. Seriously now.
Breaking the Law