Judas Priest
Rocka Rolla



by Matthijs van der Lee USER (219 Reviews)
June 15th, 2009 | 28 replies | 9,285 views

Release Date: 1974 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Judas Priest's debut is surprisingly different than their later ourputs, but in a refreshing way. The music itself does not excel enough for this to be considered anything else than a good record, and a fine start.

6 of 6 thought this review was well written

With releases as 1980’s British Steel and 1990’s Painkiller, Judas Priest have, over the years, become one of the most famous heavy metal bands off all time, as well as being pioneers of the genre, just after Black Sabbath. In the more than 4 decades they have been around, their style has ranged from a classic metal to hard rock approach, and even borrowed from the speed and thrash scenes at some time. Judas Priest has had high highs and low lows, but their debut album Rocka Rolla from 1974 is often forgotten in the vast amount of material they have put out since their formation, and features a young band still experimenting with its sound. The core line-up of lead guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton, vocalist Rob Halford and bassist Ian Hill was already present at this time, with Tipton having joined shortly before the release of this album. Halford also had not been with the band from the start, and so Al Atkins, the previous vocalist, shares some songwriting credits, both on this album and follow-up Sad Wings of Destiny. Partly due to him, Priest’s first 2 albums were more ‘rock and roll’-influenced than the ones that would follow, especially lyrically. Musically, the band leaned heavily towards blues-rock at the time, but it was a approach they were soon to abandon. Also, the band themselves were not included in the production process, and many live favourites were left out, such as Tyrant, Genocide and The Ripper. These would later appear on Sad Wings of Destiny

Rocka Rolla’s Judas Priest was:
- Robert Halford ~ Vocals, Harmonica
- K.K. Downing ~ Lead Guitar
- Glenn Tipton ~ Lead Guitar, Synthesizer, Backing Vocals
- Ian Hill ~ Bass Guitar
- John Hinch ~ Drums

Often, the (main) riffs are bluesy, and can remind of the way Led Zeppelin mixed blues into their music before. Examples are the riffs in One for the Road and the title track. They tend to be simple, but yet effective. What does plague the album slightly is that the main riff used for the song is often overused, leading to repetitiveness. Another downside is that the famous Downing & Tipton twin lead guitar is still underdeveloped and barely shows its full potential. This is a minor setback though, as it suits the style of the album not to make use of a full twin lead assault.

The bridge that Priest already partly makes from blues to metal is interesting, and is similar to what Black Sabbath did with their debut. The way it is done is different though, as Sabbath went for a heavy and doomy sound, while Priest adds more adrenaline to the guitar, as well as vocals, instead of slowing things down. Some screaming is already present from Halford, as well as the theatrical vocals that would become typical of 80’s metal. Run of the Mill, an epic of 8 minutes, showcases this best and is the highlight of the album.

The rhythm section though, is lacking. Ian Hill’s bass is not audible enough, although he has shown to be a solid bassist in later times. This could have been caused by the recording of the album, which was done entirely ‘live’, meaning one recording of the entire band playing was made instead of recording all parts separately and mixing them together. The drums are basically non-existing, but have never been a core part of Judas Priest anyway, but could have been spiced up just a little .

Individual songs that are also stand out are Dying to Meet You, another (semi-)epic that does not live up to Run of the Mill, as it is less well delivered. It has, for a change, got great bass work though. One for the Road is a great opener and sets the rock ‘n roll atmosphere. Never Satisfied is interesting for it shows that transition from blues to metal guitar work very recognizably. The weakest part of the album is the song in 4 parts: Winter/Deep Freeze/Winter Retreat/Cheater. The first 2 parts are too much like filler tracks, and the first part of Winter Retreat is just background noises. Cheater is great though, featuring Halford at his best on the album, who sings greatly and also does additional harmonica work. All in all it just doesn’t add up together, and brings the album down. The rest of the tracks are all satisfying enough.

With their debut album Rocka Rolla, Judas Priest took an entirely different direction then they would later pursue. Containing many blues-rockish riffs and simple rock lyrics, it really doesn’t sound like Judas Priest anyhow. What is does show is hints of their later work, and at careful listen it seems to have been a logical starting point for what would grow out to be one of the world’s most famous metallers. Not outstanding anyhow, but interesting nonetheless.

+ Simple riffs that work well
+ Not as lyrically cheesy as Priest’s later albums
+ Shows the transition from blues to metal clearly

- May not be metal enough for Priest fans
- Main riffs are sometimes overused
- Sub par rhythm section
- Some filler


Run of the Mill
Dying to Meet You
One for the Road
Never Satisfied

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user ratings (381)
other reviews of this album
TheNorthernFox (3)
A very bumpy ride, Rocka Rolla demonstrates a Judas Priest that had not yet found its place sonicall...

Jaffe (4)

Comments:Add a Comment 
June 15th 2009


Album Rating: 3.0

I've been off for 2 weeks, and here's a new review. Comments very welcome as always.

June 15th 2009


Pretty good review, I'll pos.
This album is different to the stuff they put out later when they found their real sound, but this isn't half bad at all, and I'd take this over Demolition or Nostradamus any day

June 15th 2009


Album Rating: 2.5

It's pretty hard to sit through the whole thing, but yeah it's better than than pile of crap they called 'Jugulator' however I really, really enjoy nostradamus. one of my favourite bands.

June 16th 2009


Good stuff, very informative.

June 18th 2009


Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks guys.

however I really, really enjoy nostradamus.

Nostradamus had potential, but with Priest getting their hands on it, you know it becomes cheesy. Some standouts, nice try with symphonics, but overall a bloated concept album that is just too boring to keep listening to.

June 18th 2009


However, the cover art for this is at least a 4

June 18th 2009


Album Rating: 3.0

I uploaded the remaster cover art. Old one is boring. This is more metul, although, like I explained, this album isn't truly heavy metal yet.

June 18th 2009


I really love it. Too bad I'm not interested in the music.........

Thinking about it, the metal scene really Does have some amazing
artwork going for it.

June 18th 2009


Album Rating: 3.0

I agree, the metal scene often excels at artwork. The Sad Wings artwork is much better than this one though, if not their best.

June 18th 2009


Album Rating: 2.5

"but overall a bloated concept album that is just too boring to keep listening to"

yeah but I'm a fanboy and seeing Prophecy live blew my mind!
Agreed with the artwork, some of the old metal bands had some brilliant artwork.

August 9th 2010


Album Rating: 3.5

Sound wise it's from from or should i say way before the hell bent for leather/british steel era.Overall this was 1974 and it sounds as good and comfortable of anything that was out at that time.

March 22nd 2011


Album Rating: 5.0

So good, sounds like Led Zeppelin.

Staff Reviewer
August 27th 2011


This is a lot like Budgie. A.K.A. awesome.

August 27th 2011


Album Rating: 3.0

Their best work comes later but still a classic. Their pre metal era.
My fav track here is probably Never Satisfied

Digging: Fallujah - The Flesh Prevails

Staff Reviewer
August 27th 2011


That album cover is just so hilarious.

August 27th 2011


Album Rating: 3.0

They have 2 official covers (don't know why)
Rocka Rolla is also a hilarious title

August 27th 2011


Album Rating: 3.0

It's alright.

September 23rd 2011


Album Rating: 5.0

Well, if you're not in a big hurry to get to McDonalds for your happy meal, listen up to "Run of the Mill"...

Observe the build-up and climax.

Starts out mellow and slow, and builds and builds and builds, then explodes!

There is nothing "Run of the Mill" about this tune, ask your deeper self.

This is one of those tunes that hints at the thought that time is actually running backwards!

Run of the Mill is "absolute perfection", and nothing less!

How did they encompass such mastery into one single track?

Carry in to "Hero Hero" as next the track to savor.

-Flawless, excellent, enjoyable, fulfilling.

It's up to you to determine if this part of your soul actually lives in hell, or not. Which part of you listens and appreciates? Certainly not the hamburger eater!!

Like some vampire, living for blood, my thirst is quenched every time I play this recording.

Hey, so what's the point? Listen to this recording.

It's their first record, and its perfect, as your mind confirms, as you nod in agreement.
No question.
No argument.

Listen to Ian Hill's Bass climb toward the apex of the longest song on the album..

He's jamming!

The Drummer steps into time and timelessness and the song builds.

The keyboard.

Howlford sings in all his glory.
Nobody could top this. Who could?

It's better than any voice we've ever heard, including the one in our minds.

These were kids with some sort of ability to express something really big.

Get out of McDonalds, let the songs from Rocka Rolla carry you into that memorable timeless headspace, the place you've always been, forever.

Yada doodle dee

Contributing Reviewer
September 23rd 2011


Roggenrolla is a really stupid pokemon name

Digging: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Pikapika Fantajin

November 20th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

Run of the Mill is such a great track.


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