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SMITH: Why metal gods Judas Priest are among most influential metal bands ever

Metal band Judas Priest recently released their 19th studio album, expanding their release dates over 50 years. – Photo by @judaspriest /

During Judas Priest's long tenure, they have proven to be not only one of the greatest metal bands ever but also one of the most important and influential bands in the genre as a whole.

Judas Priest released their most recent album, "Invincible Shield," on March 8, officially marking 50 years of its album releases — the longest period of album releases by any metal band ever. Despite Judas Priest being a long-tenured metal band with many classics under their belt, they are still putting out quality material such as "Invincible Shield," which was widely regarded by critics.

Judas Priest's 50-year influence ultimately helped mold the genre of metal into what it is today through their groundbreaking style of music and their band image.

While Black Sabbath is widely regarded as setting the template for metal music with its heavily distorted guitars and exploration of dark subject matter, Judas Priest took the foundation Black Sabbath set and created a more modern metal sound.

What was particularly innovative about Judas Priest was the dual guitar sound of guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing. Judas Priest influenced many notable metal bands, such as Megadeth, Metallica, Iron Maiden and Slayer, to use this technique.

Kerry King, the lead guitarist of the famous thrash metal band Slayer, emphasized how important Judas Priest's dual guitar sound was to the formation of Slayer.

"As a young guitar player, I could tell there were two guitars on the recording, and the creativity and early uniqueness of two guitars totally inspired what Slayer became," he said.

Furthermore, Judas Priest was hugely influential in terms of giving metal more speed and intensity in its sound. The band is widely regarded as releasing the first song that incorporates speed metal with their song "Exciter" off of their album, "Stained Class."

The song's ruthless intensity, with its frenzied guitar work and high-tempo drumming, would be fundamental in influencing what would become a more intense, heavier, and faster-paced version of metal: thrash metal.

Besides the large influence of the musicianship of Judas Priest on metal, their lead vocalist, Rob Halford, brought a unique vocal style to the genre. Halford was known for using his vast and capable vocal range to belt out shrill screams while being able to also pull off lower-pitched growls.

Halford's operatic vocals influenced many vocalists, such as Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, and helped influence other metal genres, such as power metal, which leans heavily into the operatic elements of metal.

While Judas Priest was essential to crafting metal's sound, they also heavily defined its image. They became well known for their leather-clad appearance.

Halford incorporated leather outfits into Judas Priest's image after wearing leather for the promotion of their 1978 album, "Hell Bent for Leather." The rest of the band soon incorporated leather into their wardrobe, giving Judas Priest their signature look.

The signature leather appearance of Judas Priest was influenced by the LGBTQ+ leather scene, which originated in the 1940s. Halford himself, at the time, was a closeted gay man, which fits in with the leather aesthetic. This popularized leather-clad image was adopted by other prominent metal bands, such as Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Saxon.

Judas Priest absolutely deserves recognition for all they have done to cultivate metal music over the decades. While it is indisputable that Black Sabbath spawned the metal genre, Judas Priest was crucial in forging the link between Black Sabbath's early 1970s metal and the raging fiery thrash metal of bands such as Metallica and Slayer.

It is an absolute travesty that it took so long to induct Judas Priest into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame despite having a long and impactful career as a band. They only recently got inducted in 2022.

The metal gods, Judas Priest, will forever be immortalized as one of the most impactful metal bands to ever strum a guitar or ride out on stage on a Harley Davidson.

David Smith is a junior in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in Journalism and Media Studies and minoring in Psychology. Smith's column, "David's Diary" runs on alternate Thursdays.

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