Kamis, 06 November 2008

Judas Priest

K.K. (Kenneth) Downing and Ian Hill knew each other almost since birth, as they lived nearby, attended the same nursery and school. Their friendship drew closer in their early teens as they shared similar musical interests (Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Yardbirds) and both started to learn playing an instrument.
In 1970 a fairly well known local ensemble named Judas Priest (after Bob Dylan's song The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest) broke up and the band's singer, Alan Atkins, approached Downing and Hill who accepted him as their singer and adopted his former band's name.

With Downing in control, the band moved swiftly from their original bluesy tunes towards what later would be defined as heavy metal. This trio, with various drummers, continued extensive touring of Birmingham and the surrounding areas, sometimes supporting Budgie, Thin Lizzy and Trapeze, until 1974. Financical difficulties and problems with their management, Tony Iommi's company, IMA, lead to Alan Atkins' and drummer Alan Moore's departures.

At the time, Ian Hill was dating a girl who suggested her brother, Robert Halford as singer. Halford was admitted in the band, and brought with him drummer John Hinch from his previous band Hiroshima. This line-up toured heavily in the UK, often supporting Budgie, and even headlining some shows in Norway and Germany.

Before the band entered the studio to record their first album, the record company suggested another musician should join them. Reluctant to add an organ or trumpet player, Downing settled on another guitarist - Flying Hat Band's Glenn Tipton. According to the band, there were some technical problems during recording, but the record company refused to address them, and their debut album Rocka Rolla suffered of "horrible" sound quality. Management problems also prevailed; according to the band, producer Rodger Bain, (who was an established professional, having produced numerous albums for famous groups such as Black Sabbath) had too big a say in the production of the album: he left out stage classics "Tyrant", "Genocide", "The Ripper" and "Caviar And Meths" - the latter being cut from a 10 minute song to a 2 minute instrumental.

With their next album the band had gained some more experience and confidence, fully participating in the production, as well as choosing the producers. The result was Sad Wings of Destiny (1976), considered a cornerstone of heavy metal. This album featured mostly old material, including the aforementioned stage favorites and an epic "Victim Of Changes" - a song combining "Whiskey Woman", a stage classic since the era of the first Judas Priest (Al Atkins' band) and "Red Light Lady" brought by Halford from his previous group Hiroshima. All these songs are now considered to epitomize the very essence of heavy metal.

Three subsequent albums, Sin After Sin (1977), Stained Class and Killing Machine (aka Hell Bent For Leather) (both 1978) further explored the possibilities of heavy metal genre, employing such talented drummers as session player extraordinaire Simon Phillips and Les (James Leslie) Binks. Killing Machine marked a new turn in the creative direction Judas Priest were taking: the songs were shorter and had commercial appeal, yet were performed with a lot of metal punch. This emphasis on simple, albeit relentless and powerful beats that needed to be performed live with equal power led to Les Binks, a jazzy type of drummer, leaving, and Dave Holland (ex-Trapeze) becoming their new drummer.

British Steel was a breakthrough album, with its revolutionary dark, heavy yet hook-laden approach. It showcased the newcomer's excellent timekeeping and power.

With this line-up, Judas Priest recorded twelve studio and two concert albums to different degrees of critical and financial success. Overall, the band has sold in excess of 35 million albums globally.

Judas Priest - Hard times

After the end of their highly acclaimed and successful Painkiller tour in 1991, Halford left Judas Priest due to several years of internal tensions in the band. Rumors started to circulate as early as September of 1991, although Halford collaborated with the band in the release of a compilation album entitled Metal Works: '73-'93 to commemorate their 20th anniversary. He also appeared in a video by the same title, documenting their history. His departure from the band was officially announced later that year.

Tim "Ripper" Owens, who had previously sung in a Judas Priest tribute band British Steel, was hired as Judas Priest's singer. Owens' story of turning from fan to frontman was the inspiration for the film Rock Star, although Owens did not actually participate in the production of the movie. Because the film's content bore only a tangential resemblance to Owens's actual history with the band, Judas Priest later moved to disassociate themselves with the film; perhaps not entirely coincidentally, the film (starring Mark Wahlberg) was a critical and commercial flop.

This line up released two albums, Jugulator and Demolition.

Judas Priest - Reunion

After almost twelve years apart, Judas Priest and original lead vocalist Rob Halford announced their reunion in July 2003. They immediately embarked on a live concert tour in 2004, and co-headlined the 2004 Ozzfest, being named as the "premier act" by almost all U.S. media coverage of the event. Both tours were extremely successful. A new studio album, Angel of Retribution, was released on 1 March 2005 (U.S.) on Sony Music/Epic Records to critical and commercial success. A global tour in support of the album is currently underway. Judas Priest and 'Ripper' Owens parted amicably, and Owens is now the singer of American heavy metal band Iced Earth.

Judas Priest - Subliminal message trial

In 1990, the band was involved in a civil action that alleged they were responsible for the suicide attempts in 1985 of two Nevada boys, James Vance and Ray Belknap. (Belknap died instantly by shooting himself in the face with a sawed off shotgun; Vance also shot himself but survived, severely disfiguring his face in the attempt. He died approximately three years later due to the effect of his painkillers.) The boys' parents and their legal team alleged that a subliminal message of "do it" had been included in the song "Better by You Better Than Me" (from the Stained Class album), and that the command triggered the suicide attempt. The suit was eventually dismissed on its merits, as the band had pointed out that if you were to play any song backwards and tell someone there was a message, it'll sound as though there actually is. The ambiguity of the alleged message was also taken into question. To quote Rob Halford, "Well...do what?"

In a television interview, Judas Priest members commented that if they wanted to insert subliminal commands in their music, killing their fans would be counterproductive, and they would prefer to insert the command "Buy more of our records".

Comedian Bill Hicks used a similar notion in one of his stand-up routines, asking "What musician wants his audience dead?" He further performed an apocryphal sketch in a British accent mimicking Judas Priest being "fucking sick of [their immense wealth, power, and fame]" and coming up with the subliminal message as a solution to their problems.
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