Top 10 Judas Priest Albums

Judas Priest Albums

Photo: Stefan Bollmann / Attribution

Although it may have been Black Sabbath who invented the Heavy Metal sound, it was their fellow Birmingham natives Judas Priest who truly defined it. Not only did they define the sound via the use of KK Downing and Glen Tipton’s twin guitar sound along with Rob Halford’s high pitched vocals, but they also defined the look with their leather and studs’ attire. Throughout their fifty-year career they have been known as the band who have always been unashamedly Metal. Like their peers Iron Maiden, they have been an influence on countless bands across the metal spectrum.

They first formed in West Bromwich in 1969. They released their first album Rocka Rolla in 1974 and were originally a more bluesy sounding band. However, this all changed on their second album Sad Wings of Destiny where they adopted the sound that they are known for.

Judas Priest have produced a lengthy discography over their long career, with most of their classic releases coming out in the 70’s and 80’s. When Halford left after 1990’s Painkiller, they became far less active, releasing two rather badly received albums with his replacement Tim “Ripper” Owens. Halford re-joined in 2003 and has been back ever since. Here’s our picks for the 10 best Judas Priest albums.

# 10 – Turbo

Kicking off this Top 10 Judas Priest Albums list is an entry in the Priest catalog released in 1986 which is considered by some to be controversial. The reason for this was because it saw them incorporating heavy use of synths which made the record sound a lot cleaner than much of their other material. The album still does divide opinion among fans, with some feeling that it is Priest going far too mainstream. With that said, there are some great songs on it such as “Turbo Lover” and “Parental Guidance” which was about the then-prevalent censorship group the Parents Music Resource Center. The commercial direction certainly paid off in terms of chart success with it reaching number 17 in the Billboard Charts, making it their highest charting album until 2005’s Angel of Retribution. Speaking off which…

# 9 – Angel of Retribution

Up next on this Judas Priest albums list is the band’s fifteenth studio album from 2005. It was the record that saw the return of Halford and thus there was much anticipation for it. It was a commercial success upon its release, reaching number 13 on the US Billboard Charts. In general, it was a resurgence album for the band, as they had suffered from a decline in popularity throughout most of the 90’s following the vocalist’s departure. The timing was right, as 2005 was a year which saw metal embracing its traditional roots following the end of the nu metal era. Standout tracks include “Judas Rising” and “Demonizer.”

#  8 – Sin after Sin

With the next entry we go way back to 1977. It was produced by Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover and was the only album to feature Simon Phillips on drums. The album, their third, was more commercially successful than their previous two, reaching number 23 on the charts. However, the music press at this time was not particularly kind to the band, with the punk movement rising to prominence. Standout Tracks: “Diamonds and Rust,” and “Dissident Aggressor.”

# 7 – Defenders of the Faith

This album from 1984’s recording sessions were reportedly debauched, and the result was a particularly ferocious record. This album is one from which the title has become a slogan for the band in relation to their commitment to the Metal cause. This album is similar in sound to its predecessor Screaming For Vengeance although it did contain some more technical elements. It was commercially successful, reaching number 18 on the Billboard. Tracks on it include “Love Bites,” “Free Wheel Burning” and “Some Heads are Gonna Roll.”

# 6 – Painkiller

The last album of Halford’s first tenure with Judas Priest from 1990 is one of the band’s heaviest and most metallic. It was also the first to feature drummer Scott Travis whose use of blast beats gave Priest more of an edge to their sound. The album’s release was halted due to the infamous trial that the band went through, which will be talked about later in this list. Despite this, upon its release the album was successful critically and commercially, being certified Gold in 1991. However, soon after its release Halford decided to leave the band to pursue other musical outlets.

# 5 – Screaming for Vengeance

The band’s eighth album entitled Screaming For Vengeance is next on the list, released in 1982. This album was their true breakthrough in terms of commercial success, selling five million copies and being certified platinum. It includes “You Got Another Thing Coming” which is now one of Priest’s best-known songs. This album has many highlights with the three hit singles contained here being among them. Aside from the previously mentioned single, it also has “Hellion/Electric Eye” and “Take These Chains.” It is a return to the heavier sound after the more melodic approach taken by the previous album Point of Entry.

# 4 – Sad Wings of Destiny

The band’s second album from 1976 was released when the likes of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple were starting to become burnt-out, making it an important album which injected some much-needed energy into the Heavy Metal genre. It many ways, it can be considered the true Priest debut, as it was the first to have the classic sound, with their debut Rocka Rolla having more of a traditional rock sound. Standout tracks on it include “Victim of Changes,” “The Ripper” and “Deceiver.”

# 3 – Stained Class

Stained Class is the fourth album released in 1978. The album features the track “Better by You, Better Than Me” which was the subject of an infamous trial in 1990 when the parents of two young men, one who committed suicide and another who attempted to do so, tried to sue the band for alleged subliminal messages in the song which is actually of a cover of a song by Spooky Tooth. The parents claimed that the song contained a subliminal message telling the boys to take their own lives when the song was played backwards. It is the only album where all the members were involved in the song writing. It was also the first album to introduce the iconic logo as well as the first to chart on the Billboard 200. Highlights include “Exciter,” “Invader” and “Beyond the Realms of Death.”

# 2 – Killing Machine

At the number two spot on this top 10 Judas Priest albums list is the band’s fifth album also released in 1978. This album saw the band going in a slightly more commercial direction and it was during this time that the band started to adopt their leather and studs’ image which was inspired by Halford’s interest in gay leather culture. With this album, the band were clearly reaching for stadium rock success with an example of this being “Take on the World.” Other standout tracks include “Evening Star” and the title track.

# 1 – British Steel

By the time this album came out in 1980,  Judas Priest, despite being around for several years before it, were able to fit in very easily with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, which was an opportunity for them to have further commercial success. It is with this album that the band truly honed their studio sound. It is the album that took Judas Priest’s career to a new level, with its highest chart position being at number 4 in the UK Album Charts. It is a much-celebrated album, so much so they played it in its entirety upon its 30th anniversary. Classic cuts on it include “Living After Midnight,” “Rapid Fire” and of course “Breaking the Law.”

The Complete Judas Priest Albums Discography (Studio)

Rocka Rolla

Released in 1974

Sad Wings of Destiny

Released in 1976

Sin After Sin

Released in 1977

Stained Class

Released in 1978

Killing Machine (UK) / Hell Bent for Leather (US)

Released in 1978

British Steel

Released in 1980

Point of Entry

Released in 1981

Screaming for Vengeance

Released in 1982

Defenders of the Faith

Released in 1984

Turbo

Released in 1986

Ram It Down

Released in 1988

Painkiller

Released in 1990

Jugulator

Released in 1997

Demolition

Released in 2001

Angel of Retribution

Released in 2005

Nostradamus

Released in 2008

Redeemer of Souls

Released in 2014

Firepower

Released in 2018

Judas Priest Albums Discography (Live)

Unleashed in the East

Released in 1979

Priest…Live!

Released in 1987

’98 Live Meltdown

Released in 1998

Live in London

Released in 2003

A Touch of Evil: Live

Released in 2009

Battle Cry

Released in 2016

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