Judas Priest's current lineup, from a promotional poster of their Epitaph Tour
|Genres||Heavy metal, speed metal, hard rock|
| Rob Halford|
| K.K. Downing|
Tim "Ripper" Owens
The line-up of Rob Halford on vocals, K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton on guitar and Ian Hill on bass formed their core throughout most of the '70s, '80s, 1990 and most of the 2000s. The band has gone through many drummers, however Scott Travis has remained since 1989.
K.K. Downing, Ian Hill and John Ellis had known each other since childhood and became good friends in their early teens because of similar musical interests. Together they formed Freight, a trio band, in 1969. In early 1970, a band named Judas Priest had just disbanded, and their lead singer, Al Atkins, approached the trio and wanted to join. They accepted and he suggested they change the band's name to Judas Priest (named after the Bob Dylan song "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest). They played their first gig on March 16, 1971. They began making rigorous tours and made a demo in 1970. The point of this demo was to attract attention from record companies, and thoigh it failed at doing so, it improved their future gigs. At this point, the band members quit their jobs in order to maintain Judas Priest in hope of success, however Ellis did not, and left the band in late 1971. Alan Moore would be the temporary replacement, who toured and left in early 1972, leaving space for Chris "Congo" Campbell. They made another demo, which was also unsuccessful in attracting record companies. Financial troubles plagued the band, and Al Atkins left in May 1973 to take care of his young daughter, and Campbell followed.
Hill had been dating a girl at the time, named Sue Halford, and she suggested her brother, Rob Halford, to join the band. He joined along with John Hinch, the drummer from his previous band, Hiroshima. The four made a demo in the same year and this caught the attention of Gull Records, a small British label. In 1974, the executive of Gull wanted a fifth band member, as to alter the standard rock quartet. The final decision, supported by K.K. Downing, was to get another guitarist, this being Glenn Tipton.
In the '70s, they took some influence from blues and jazz, and combined it with hard rock. This is most evident in Rocka Rolla (1974) and Sad Wings of Destiny (1976). Sad Wings' "Victim of Changes" would become one of their classics. Although this style was still present in their next album, Sin After Sin (1977), which, for its time, was very heavy music, they had begun to abandon these blues influences and were directed towards a more heavy sound. A clear example would be the opener "Sinner" and the final track "Dissident Aggressor". By this time, they had already begun to receive critical acclaim.
In 1978, with their new drummer Les Binks, they released Stained Class, a very dark, death-oriented and heavy album which was some of their most creative work. "Beyond the Realms of Death" would become an instant classic of the band. Later that year, the released Hell Bent for Leather (or Killing Machine as known in the UK), which was a more sex-oriented album and was the start of Judas Priest's commercial era. Shorter and faster songs began to dominate most of their albums' setlists.
They had fired Les Binks to get a less technical drummer, this being Dave Holland, former Trapeze drummer with whom they supported in the early '70s. Their next album, British Steel (1980), was a hyper-commercialised setlist, all meant to be radio-friendly, short and catchy, and it marked the beginning of their mainstream success which would persist throughout most of the '80s. This was one of their most iconic albums, and is also attributed with giving Priest their nickname of "Metal Gods", with the song of the same name. Songs like "Breaking the Law", "Grinder" and "Living After Midnight" are some of Priest's most popular songs.
Their next album, Point of Entry (1981), had a more raw sound, and had the tough goal of keeping up with its predecessor, and did not succeed. However, in 1982, they released Screaming for Vengeance, which marked their commercial peak. "The Hellion/Electric Eye", "Riding on the Wind" and "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" would become other Priest classics.
With their following album, Defenders of the Faith (1984), they kept their signature formula and began to include synthesizers, but their next albums Turbo (1986) and Ram IT Down (1988), depite selling very well, were evidence that they were having trouble keeping up with the times while still keeping in mind their commercial formula. This marked the end of their commercial era, and they began to return to their more creative ways.
In 1989, Dave Holland left the band, which made space for a more technical drummer, Scott Travis. 1990's Painkiller was a very ambitious album. It was combined with high-pitched vocals, heavy and fast guitar riffs and double bass speed drumming, giving it the reputation as one of the heaviest metal albums of all time. After the supporting tour Rob Halford left the band, to explore different musical territory.
The band had disbanded for most of the early '90s, but reunited in 1995, albeit without Rob Halford. They had begun the search for a new vocalist. In the end, they chose Time "Ripper" Owens who had previously played in a tribute band. Together they released two studio albums, Jugulator and Demolition. Ripper Owens was not disliked, though he was bashed by critics, who most called for the return of Halford.
In 2003, Halford expressed his want to return to Judas Priest. Ripper Owens ahd agreed to leave, and he and Halford left on a friendly note. The band once again lead by Halford began to make a new studio album, 2005's Angel of Retribution, which returned to the band's signature style which had made them so popular in the early '80s. "Lochness" would be Priest's longest song ever, while tracks like "Judas Rising" and "Hell Rider" were reminiscent of Screaming for Vengeance's style.
In 2008, they released Nostradamus, which was an experimental album revolving around the life an theories of the 15th century French philosopher. It was not very popular and critics were not very favorable, though the supporting tour received great reviews.
In 2010, they released a live album A Touch of Evil, which the performance of Dissident Aggressor earned them the Grammy Award for best metal performance.
Departure of K.K. Downing and Epitaph TourEdit
In April 2011, Judas Priest announced the departure of longtime band guitarist and songwriter K.K. Downing. This meant that Ian Hill is the only remaining founding member of the band. At the same time, they announced his replacement, 31 year-old Richie Faulkner. On May 25, 2011, Priest played live during the finale of American Idol season 10, marking their first ever live performance without Downing in over 40 years of band history.
Beginning on summer 2011, the band has been playing on their farewell tour, called the Epitaph World Tour, which would be their final big world tour. Despite this, they also announced it wasn't the end of the band, and that they were working on some new material.