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Two words come to mind when talking about Judas Priest’s landmark record British Steel; Hell yeah! Those two little words pretty much sum up the feeling I get every time I listen to the 1980 classic, without a doubt one of the best metal albums ever made. So the May 11th release of the 30th anniversary edition (holy crap, it’s been 30 years!) of the album is certainly an exciting moment.
The retail version of this edition contains two discs. If you bought the 2001 remaster of British Steel with the two extra bonus tracks, “Red, White & Blue” and a live version of “Grinder” you might be a little disappointed to learn it’s the same album as part of this package with no new tracks added on. However, if you’re still one of those people that pull out the original LP, it’s certainly worth the cash to hear how powerful the remaster sounds. Always my favorite track from the record, “Grinder” is simply kick-ass on this edition and “Rapid Fire” is almost the perfect metal song.
The second disc is a DVD of their August 17, 2009 concert at the Seminole Hard Rock Arena in Hollywood, Florida. On this tour they opened their show by playing British Steel in its entirety followed by a handful of other tracks to close out the show.
I have to admit that Judas Priest was about to fall off my radar after 2005’s mediocre Angel of Retribution and 2008’s abysmal Nostradamus, but this has got my juices flowing again. There’s just some magnificent energy at the concert, mostly from the band, who show that despite being in their 50’s they can still rock your ass off. Rob Halford’s voice is just made for performing. The raw grit of his live performance is what always drew me in to the band and while it’s not the same as in 1980 – the guy can belt out a tune with the best of them still. A killer version of “Rapid Fire” opens up the set and K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton’s guitar work on British Steel’s ender “Steeler” is even better than the album version.
The remainder of the concert contains songs from ’76 right up through “Prophecy” off Notradamus. Without a doubt, the highlight is the nine-and-a-half minute scorcher “Victim of Changes” from 1976’s Sad Wings of Destiny which is capped off with a Halford scream from the depths of hell. The only real flaw is the audience participation. They really get into it at the end, but they seem to be a little less than crazy during some of the non-singles off British Steel and on the audience participation songs “Living After Midnight” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” you really can’t understand them at all, to the point in “Midnight” where you just sort of hear a random jumble of voices and a drum beat. But those minor things don’t take away what turned out to be a great show featuring one of the all time great metal albums in full. There’s also an interview with the band talking about the making of the album at the close of the DVD.
There’s also a three disc set that you can buy at the band’s website which includes an audio disc of the concert. Due to time constraints on the audio disc, “Prophecy” is cut out and while it doesn’t take away from the awesomeness of the show, it does make it incomplete. If you know your shit, you’ve probably ripped the audio off the DVD anyway, but for those of you that are technologically impaired (like me) or just want to do things the right way, the audio companion to the DVD is a nice touch and since I didn’t like Nostradamus anyway, I’m okay with them cutting it out. If nothing else, it’s certainly worth buying the retail version to get to see the show. As Rob Halford said at the end of the concert, “Judas fuckin’ Priest, keepin’ the metal alive!” Amen and horns up.