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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    French, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese
  Extras
  • Additional footage
  • 3 Music video - Grinder (Live), Living After Midnight, Breaking the Law
  • Discography - Judas Priest album listing
Judas Priest: British Steel - Classic Albums
Warner Vision/Warner Vision . R4 . COLOR . 110 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Spearheading the “new wave of heavy metal,” Judas Priest still remain as an integral part of the British hard rock establishment, incorporating the influences of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and mutating them into a blistering fusion of high-octane and high-decibel sonic pyrotechnics. Furnished in leather, spandex, studded armbands and steel-capped boots, the band, with its then-unique attraction of a twin-pronged lead guitar assault delivering screaming riffs, popularised heavy metal and were directly responsible for the genre’s prominence in the early 1980’s.

In addition, Judas Priest also laid down the foundations for heavy metal’s bastard sons, the speed and death metal genres; in doing so, the British group provided the inspiration for “extreme” bands such as Queensryche, Napalm Death, and, most notably, Metallica. The genesis of the “metal explosion” (as the emergence of heavy metal into the mainstream charts has become known) is often linked to the release of Judas Priest’s eighth studio album, the 1980 ear-shattering classic, British Steel, regarded as perhaps one of the most important recordings within the metal canon.

Formed in Birmingham, England, in 1970, the group’s founding members consisted of guitarist K.K. Downing and bassist Ian Hill, who recruited drummer John Ellis and vocalist Alan Atkins to create the band’s first incarnation. Judas Priest acquired their name from Atkins’ previous group; despite moderate success and recognition through their maiden tour of the United Kingdom in 1971, Ellis departed from Judas Priest and was followed eighteen months later by Atkins. In 1973, Rob Halford became the band’s vocalist and, through his intense lyrical writings, revitalised it.

Before the recording of their debut album, Rocka Rolla, Judas Priest added guitarist Glenn Tipton and drummer John Hinch. Released in 1974 to little attention, the album was sentenced to commercial oblivion. Although the group gave an exceptional performance at the Reading Festival in 1975, Hinch quit Judas Priest to be promptly replaced by Alan Moore, who was in turn superseded by Les Binks; his frenetic drumming was featured on Stained Class (1978) and 1979’s Hell Bent for Leather (known as Killing Machine in the U.K.).

Both of these studio releases contained a harder, faster, and more aggressive musical approach, and became the precursor for their most celebrated work British Steel, which solidified Judas Priest’s position at the vanguard of modern heavy metal. Debuting in the British mainstream charts at number three, British Steel spawned the monster hits "Breaking the Law" and "Living after Midnight,"and the album soon gave the group their second platinum release in the United States.

Continuing with their introspection on influential studio recordings, this volume in the Classic Albums series focuses on the origins, recording, release, and impact surrounding Judas Priest’s seminal masterpiece, British Steel. Comprised of interviews with the group’s core members, Halford, Tipton, Downing, and Hill, and archival live performance footage and photographs, Judas Priest: British Steel is divided into two components. The first is the main feature, a documentary running for approximately 50 minutes, while the second consists of bonus material, which includes promo clips and extended interviews.

  Video
  Audio
  Extras
Contract

Presented in a screen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and anamorphic, Judas Priest: British Steel is treated to a polished transfer. Because this DVD also features archival material which is, of course, of an inferior standard when compared to its studio interviews, it must be noted that the greater portion of this review’s focus is on the conversation with the band. However, given their age and the limitations of the original source material, the promo clips and live footage are of acceptable quality, and are perhaps the best they have ever been.

Black levels are solid, providing a great sense of depth, and details are very sharp, allowing for wonderful definition. There are no major issues relating to aliasing or moiré; indeed, it would seem as though there is none present. There are no apparent MPEG artefacts, nor any evident film-to-video artefacts associated with the interview content itself; the promo clips tend to exhibit film artefacts and have a washed-out colour palette, but this is to be expected. Flesh-tones are accurate, and there is no evidence of colour-bleeding or oversaturation.

There is only audio selection available, that of the English Dolby Digital 2.0. Unlike with most two-channel presentations, this reviewer viewed Judas Priest: British Steel without the use of the Dolby Pro-Logic decoder, as the music seemed somewhat shrill and lacked impact when it was deployed through the rear surrounds. Having said that, the audio presentation on this DVD is excellent; dialogue is always clear and easy to understand, while the musical portion itself provides clean vocals and instrumentation with a nice amount of re-directed bass. Of course, the subwoofer remains inactive.

The extras consist of a chronological discography, a trio of promotional videos - "Grinder" (from the 1991 Rock ‘N’ Rio concert), "Living After Midnight", and the rebellious anthem, "Breaking the Law" - and additional band interviews with Judas Priest drummer Scott Travis. Also included are anecdotes relating to the naming of British Steel and its provocative cover artwork. Approximately 60 minutes in length, this section delivers an illuminating insight into British Steel’s opening track, the venomous "Rapid Fire," often acknowledged as the forerunner to the speed and thrash metal movement.

British Steel was the archetypal heavy metal album, fusing together powerful, scorching lyrics, an anarchical metallic sound that was the equivalent of a hydrogen bomb, and devastating guitar solos. However, this pinnacle, which Judas Priest has not since surpassed, proved to be instrumental in the group’s commercial decline, accumulating in the woefully sub-standard 1986 release, Turbo. The band’s recent recordings have failed to make an impact outside its hard-core fan base, yet Judas Priest continue to remain as one of the music industry’s most popular concert acts.


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  •   And I quote...
    "A fascinating insight into a classic album which became the springboard for both the speed and death metal genres... Highly recommended for fans of Judas Priest or thrash metal... "
    - Shaun Bennett
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Panasonic SC-HT80
    • TV:
          Panasonic TX-43P15 109cm Rear Projection
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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