British Steel is arguably Judas Priest's most well known album. It is the album that made them a mainstream success. In addition, when they released this album they had just recently changed their image from dark and gothic to showy and bright. They would come on stage through heaps of smoke and Rob Halford, the lead singer, would be riding a Harley Davidson as lights and lasers and what not would be flashing everywhere. Lots of youths could relate with these guys (especially with this album) because of their rebel attitude and metal anthemes such as Breaking the Law, United, and Living After Midnight. This connection with the youth and with thier fans is what I believe braught them so much success. Yet, now looking back on the album without its critical acclaim and historical importance for heavy metal, I realised that it is rather weak.
The album kicks off with the Priest classic Breaking the Law. The melody is catchy, the rythm section is steady, and Rob's vocals are not as high pitched as usual. This is how almost every song on the album is. Very different from their Pre Hell Bent for Leather albums. The riffs in most of these songs are now considered "Classic Priest riffs", for example the main riff in Metal Gods, and United. But they are really watered down and insipid compared to their older riffs. They are simple, like the older riffs, but they lack that mean sharp metal edge that songs like Sinner had. Moreover, the guitar solos are also watered down. They are shorter and simpler in terms of technicallity. For example, the guitar solo at the end of Steeler is merely a little bit of tapping followed by some assortment of notes that are being played and then bended with the tremolo bar. In other words, the solos on this album are more for show and are just there for the sake of bieng there and not in the purpose of making the song more interesting.
Rob Halford, as most of you may know, has an insane vocal range similar to Bruce Dickenson's. Yet, on this album, he tends not to use his signature scream. Instead he uses a lower register, with a sort of strain that makes his voice seem very metal but just not high pitched. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but still its known that he is capable of displaying much more vocal talent than he does here.
The drumming on British Steel isn't very good. It seems that it is also just there just because drumming in general is needed for this kind fo music. The drumming in every song is very simple. Not even a cool fill or an interesting beat anywhere.
On a good note, surprisingly, Ian Hill's bass work, although minimalisticaly simple is quite audible in most songs giving them a nice depth that most other Judas Priest songs lack. His bass shines the most in the track The Rage. He even gets a bass intro!!!
The main problem with the album though is that there are too many expendable songs. They get repetitive and uninteresting very fast. Eventually, one gets tired of hearing the same power chord arrangement over and over with the same cheesy lyrics. The best example of this is the song Grinder. It is basically made up of two simple as ever riffs and has some of the worst lyrics I've ever heard. "Grinder... Looking for meat. Grinder... Wants you to eat". Also, United sounds like some American patriot song. "United, United, United we stand, United we stand one and all". If you listen to this album all the way through, you will never want to hear a power chord again becasue thats all it is made up of.
All in all, the breakthrough album for one of the biggest metal acts is by far not their best effort. The musicianship is watered down and the songs are repetitive. The lyrics are horrible, as well. Yet, the last three tracks are quite good in many ways and within the six previous tracks there are some decent moments. The album itself is not atrocious but merely uninspired. It lacks interesting moments that were dropped just to seem bright and shiny and image oriented. I recommend the album for fans of maintream metal from the early 1980s and i guess anyone who likes Judas Priest. After all, this is their breakthrough album.
Bottom line: 2.5/5 An almost decent album dragged down by repetitiveness and boring songs.