Whenever lists are compiled of bands that have been snubbed for induction, Priest are always near the top of the list, and for good reason. Operating since 1969 and recording since 1974, they are one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time, a rock ‘n’ roll foundation stone and a prototype for those who came in their wake. And while they’ve wiggled from the path at times, Priest have never overtly strayed or lost their authenticity or credibility. Judas Priest bang your head in, blow your face off and leave you screaming for vengeance — and more.
“For Priest, it’s as much about getting our kind of music, heavy metal music, into the Hall of Fame ’cause there’s such a small display of that music in there at the moment,” Rob Halford told UCR after the band’s third nomination was announced in February 2021. “If we get in, it’s for the whole heavy metal community around the world. And, please, while we’re alive! I love the posthumous idea, but I want to stand there and do my ‘Oh, yeahs’ and horns up and all those other good things we have.”
So Priest should be in the Rock Hall, plain and simple. If you need to ask why, we say why not? And we might just put a certain expletive between those two words.
The Rock Hall Needs More Metal
Heavy metal and the Rock Hall have had a testy relationship since inductions began in 1986. The first genuinely metal act, Black Sabbath, didn’t get in until 2006, and only Metallica (2009) and Deep Purple (2016) have followed. AC/DC, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses, Rush, Kiss and Def Leppard have helped defend the hard-rock faith, but true, relentless, balls-to-the-proverbial-wall metal is woefully unrepresented. There are plenty of others waiting in the not-so-sad wings of destiny, but Priest are the logical and mandatory next-step entry and long overdue.
They Are Truly the Metal Gods
What does metal look like? Any picture of Priest, really. The leather, the metal studs, the scowls, the hair — it’s heavy metal spirit personified. Same for the music, a raw, muscular and molten attack that’s aggressive and yet wholly accessible, built on mostly traditional songwriting standards before the sonic armor plating is applied. Starting with K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton, Priest have established the model for a guitar tandem approach that’s yielded some of the most memorable riffs in any form of rock. And the fact that 2018’s Firepower is every bit as, well, powerful as anything else in the canon only speaks to Priest’s continuing potency.
The Singer Is the Metal God
Halford isn’t Priest’s first singer, and he left the group for more than a decade at one point. But he’s still the face and figure not only for this band but for heavy rock in general, as iconic as the likes of Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, Bruce Dickinson and the rest. There was leather in rock ‘n’ roll before Halford stepped onstage with Priest in 1973, but he took it to a new level with his metal-studded creations and then drove it home each time he rode his Harley-Davidson onstage. He’s also enough of a badass that he finished one show in Toronto with a broken nose after he crashed the bike into a drum riser. Possessing a flexible, multi-octave voice the goes from subterranean growls to banshee wails, Halford is his genre’s Pavarotti.
Resilience Becomes Them
Judas Priest have soldiered through numerous member changes, including three lead singers and a Spinal Tap-worthy nine drummers. But nothing has derailed the band — not guitarist Downing’s acrimonious departure or mainstay Tipton’s struggle with Parkinson’s Disease or even Halford’s coming out in 1998. Even cancer seemed to pass through the Metal God as if frightened to battle such a potent life force. Keith Richards and the cockroaches may just have some Priestly company when all other life vanishes from Earth.
“Sinner,” “The Ripper,” “Hell Bent for Leather,” “Breaking the Law,” “Metal Gods,” “Living After Midnight,” “Heading Out to the Highway,” “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” “Turbo Lover.” More? “Victim of Changes,” “Love Bites,” “Ram It Down,” “Judas Rising,” “Jawbreaker,” “Painkiller,” “Lightning Strike.” Still more? How about definitive, metalized covers of Joan Baez‘s “Diamonds & Rust” and Fleetwood Mac‘s “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Pronged Crown).” More? Really?! We can do this all day …