British Heavy Metal


Prototypical Heavy Metal band formed in 1970, took off with 1980's British Steel and reached their zenith with You've Got Another Thing Comin' off of 1988's Screaming for Vengeance. They gave metal its leather and studs look. See the node about ululant vocalist Rob Halford for more on this.

According to original vocalist Al Atkins, the band's name was taken from a Bob Dylan song title, The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest. The band's original lineup (see below) was never able to land a successful record deal. When Atkins left the group in 1973, to be replaced by Rob Halford, the lineup finally gelled and they began their rise to heavy metal godhood.

They were sued (but prevailed) in a $6.2 million US lawsuit over a cover song on 1978's Stained Class which two teenagers played before committing suicide. Halford singing the lyrics to Spooky Tooth's "Better by you, Better than me" a cappella in a US courtroom remains one of the band's defining moments.

Halford left Priest in the early 1990s, working on several other projects. After a long hiatus for the band, he was replaced by Tim 'Ripper' Owens, who had previously fronted a Priest cover band called Winters Bane. Ripper was a solid replacement for Halford, very able to mimic Rob's style and also possessed of his own gritty edge. Yet the band never found its stride with Ripper in front. On July 11, 2003, the band announced that they had reunited with Halford for a global live concert tour (ReUnited) in 2004. Ripper's departure was described as 'amicable' on the band's web site. The band also played OzzFest 2004 to good reviews.

2005's Angel of Retribution is billed inevitably as 'classic Priest' and sounds much like 1990's Painkiler. On the band's web site, Halford comments: "That decade that we were out of each other’s company just seems to have vanished in smoke. When we got together to begin writing the new material for ‘Angel Of Retribution’, it was really a continuation of where we would have been had we made the next record after Painkiller. All the pieces were already in place." It remains to be seen if this will win over new fans. The first single, Revolution has the band's meaty metal sound but has uninspired lyrics.

Known for

The band

Best-known members

Original members

  • Al Atkins - vocals
  • Ernie Chataway - guitar
  • Bruno Stapenhill - bass
  • John Partridge - drums


Now signed by Atlantic. The band's first two albums were released by Gull Records. The band split with Gull, and has no control over the material on those two albums. The band accuses Gull of "greedily continually exploiting and misleading the fans" through several repackaged and re-released versions of those two albums. (Titles of these Gull remakes include 'Hero, Hero' and 'Genocide'.)

Contemporaries and influences

Black Sabbath were part of the same British Metal invasion. (I had listed Iron Maiden here, too, but it's been pointed out that they were part of a later wave of BritMetal -- see NWOBHM.)

The idea for the Mark Wahlberg film 'Rock Star' (working title: Metal God) was supposedly based on the story of Tim 'Ripper' Owens, who went from lead singer of a Priest cover band to fronting the group. However, the band's desire for creative input on the film led to a rift, and they were not involved at all. They don't even have music on the soundtrack.

Al Atkin's story of the band's early days:

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.