Priest and Beyond: Hell Bent for Leather

So cast your mind back to around 1975/76.  There had been plenty of bands that were heavy in terms of their image or their sounds.  Most of them, however, shied away from the term “heavy metal”.

Judas Priest

They were a hard rock band, heavy blues, or another such term.  Priest came out of Birmingham and resolutely embraced that name.  They had the sound, the look and the themes that defined metal.  Their debut, Rocka Rolla, may have copied some of the hard rock templates of the likes of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep and Wishbone Ash, but from the stunning Sad Wings of Destiny on-wards, there was no mistake.  This was pure metal.

Thus set a run of form that encompassed some of the all-time classic metal albums of all time.  At times, they may have faltered by following the current trends, but even then they were able to bring out classic singles.  The painkiller album proved that they were listening to the new bands around at the time, but also that they had more than enough to hold their own with them.  A fact proven by the fact that Death covered the title track.  Unfortunately, a split with iconic front-man Rob Halford, soon followed and the band found it difficult to get back to the glory days with his replacement, Tim “Ripper” Owens.

After, a few solo releases, and releases as part of Two and Fight, the inevitable happened, and Halford back with them.  The band recently announced their farewell after more than 35 years but the music they made together will always remain.


Here are a few of the bands that they were around at the time, and also bands that took their inspiration from Priest.

Iron Maiden


Pretty much everyone knows the behemoth that Maiden became and indeed what they are today.  That is undisputed.  They had to start off somewhere though, and in the bars and clubs around London, the fledgling band developed their sound and style.

After the release of their debut self-titled album and then killers, their then lead singer Paul D’Aianno, claimed that they would blow Judas priest off stage when they played support to them on a UK tour.  That did not happen, although the new band did give them a good run for their money.  D’Aianno did not last too long before being replaced by Bruce Dickenson, who was in place to see the band release Number of the Beast, undergo massive tours, have enormous sales and generally become the band that everyone knows today.  For many though, the band was at its best with those first two albums.  Here are a few recommendations from them:

Running Free, Prowler, Iron Maiden, Wrathchild, Murders in the Rue Morgue, Killers



If Maiden became the best well-known of the NWOBHM era, then Saxon can boast to being the first of that era to release an album.  True, it still had an odd mix of the hard rock and prog sounds that members had used in previous bands, but the promise was still there.  The next release left no-one in mind to what they were though.

Wheels of Steel with tales of motorcycles, airplane pilots, war and street gangs, laid the Barnsley’s bands beliefs clear and simple.  Releasing another album in that same year (1980), in Strong Arm of the Law, they struck whilst the going was good.  A national tour with Priest followed on Priest’s British Steel tour.  Very metal!  The next few releases cemented their reputation although they slightly lost their way with differing styles in the 80’s and 90’s, allied to a split in personnel, did not help them.  The past ten years or so have been good though, with some releases up with their very best.  Recommendations:

Strong Arm of the Law, Stand up and be Counted, 747 (Strangers in the Night), Heavy Metal Thunder, Dallas 1 PM, Crusader, Power and the Glory

Diamond Head

Diamond Head

They were always considered to be the band that had the brightest prospects of making it.  Their debut album was described as having more riffs in one song than Black Sabbath had in 4 albums.  High Praise indeed.

As they did not have a record deal at the time, their debut known as lightning to the nations, was actually sold to fans who ordered it directly off the band.  As tape trading was the accepted currency of the day, this sealed them as a band of the people.  Sadly, luck was not really on their side.  Whilst maiden secured the wily Rod Smallwood, Diamond head had to rely on one of the member’s mothers.  Follow-ups in Borrowed Time and Canterbury failed to get the breakthrough that they needed and the band split.  Continuous playing by bands like Metallica and Megadeth of their songs brought them back into the public eye but a re-union of the band with both of those went badly wrong.

Sacking Sean Harris and continuing with their classic sound have seen them get the plaudits that they deserve.  Recommendations:

Am I evil?, Helpless, Its Electric, To Heaven from Hell, Borrowed Time, Knight of the Swords


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