Album review: Judas Priest – 50 Heavy Metal Years Of Music

Metal legends Judas Priest fill an unexpected interlude with the most exhaustive of box set collections, 50 Heavy Metal Years Of Music.

Album review: Judas Priest – 50 Heavy Metal Years Of Music
Steve Beebee

This is the perfect time for Judas Priest, part of the very structure on which heavy metal sits, to take time out and reflect on their past. There are two reasons. Firstly, 2021 marked the 50th anniversary of their very first gig (discounting an even earlier version of the band). Secondly, guitarist Richie Faulkner is now on a long road to recovery following 10 hours of emergency heart surgery. He suffered a ruptured aorta onstage; not the same thing as a heart attack – but something much worse. Richie did not merely survive this death sentence; the dude actually carried on playing.

So, time to celebrate. This exorbitant box set features all 18 studio albums plus official live releases. It also includes signed photos, reproduced tour programmes and posters, and a frankly head-scrambling 13 discs of previously unreleased live material. There’s no suggestion that any of Rob Halford’s cop hats are thrown in, but keep rummaging; you never know. There is a (blunt) British Steel razor blade, for example. For those who don’t have £345 to spend on classic metal or the rest of the year free to listen to it, there’s a 16-song ‘diet’ version available, and that includes seven of the unheard live tracks.

If there’s one big takeaway from revisiting slices of Priest’s amazing back catalogue, it is that their most recent album, 2018’s Firepower, is every bit as essential to the collection as their most revered material. That’s an almost unprecedented achievement for a veteran rock act, and it also brings us right back to Richie Faulkner whose influence is writ large upon Firepower’s nuclear riffage. In 2015, Rob described his bandmate as having “to some extent saved Judas Priest”, and you should believe it. When ‘the Falcon’ returns you should also greet him as the metal god that he is.

Verdict: 5/5

For fans of: Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Sabaton

50 Heavy Metal Years Of Music is out now via Sony.

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