There has always been a regal touch to Judas Priest that has set them apart from every other heavy metal band in history, and it has persisted through their various stages; in their origins in the bell-bottom progressive rock of the 70s, through their crystallization of heavy metal as a distinctive style, evident even in their most commercial ventures and then beyond, Judas Priest have carried a certain ineffable quality to their song writing that can only be called aristocratic. Funnily enough, it is the commercial stuff which in my opinion exemplifies this the best; it is good time, blue-collar music to be sure but it is so much more than just that too. Blatantly based in hard rock manouevres though all of these songs are, they straddle that fine line that undoubtedly and inevitably bleeds over into definitive heavy metal.
Lickcraft, or the art of writing catchy guitar phrases, is specific to rock music. One doesn’t really ever think of extreme metal bands in terms of “oh that’s a killer lick right there!“. No doubt extreme metal guitar players have their idiosyncrasies when the time comes to deliver a solo, but superficial adornments like cool guitar licks and fancy drum rolls aren’t what attract us to extreme metal.
But with traditional heavy metal of the sort Judas Priest specialized in – streamlined, melodic, hooksy, and rousing – lickcraft in the hands of gifted musicians achieves great prominence, and gently elevates the everyday into the realm of the exalted. Songs, by their not-so-subtle agenda, serve the express purpose of stirring something vital and alive inside this cage of bones. Over time, one learns to listen to this inner voice and to stop caring about what is expected of you by convention; intuition is the first impression you receive from your surroundings, and it is wise to heed its calling, found in the unlikeliest of places though it may be. We are all dichotomies – at the very least – of conflicting natures; society expects you to present one facet while kindling out the other, but little do they understand that there is no one without the other. What you see is what you get in every sense of the phrase, and this is how it should be.
In that spirit, then, the following songs should be heard with heart – if you possess one that still beats – before mind. To me they represent a memory of long, long nights running into bright mornings, with friends eating and fighting and drinking and smoking and cursing and laughing together. Equally importantly, these songs are my very own reservoir of eternal youth and regalvanization; I have tapped into their magic countless times through the years, on loop verging on an insanity even, and they have never failed to bring me out on the other side with hope and power and innocence in tact.