It's a question that has plagued mankind for ages: What is the best Judas Priest album?
The band has made a handful of great ones, so there is no easy answer. In fact, we would have written this article sooner, but we were busy wrestling ourselves for control of the computer keyboard.
See, one part of our brain would have you believe that the band's 1982 album Screaming For Vengeance is their best because, well, it was their best-selling effort and made the band huge in the United States after "You've Got Another Thing Comin" became a monster radio hit and the band's only charting single in the States.
But the other part of our brain surmises that British Steel and Point of Entry shouldn't be discounted simply because they were more melodic in nature.
Sadly, as great as Point of Entry was, very few people heard the album. British Steel, on the other hand, had "Living After Midnight" and "Breaking The Law", a.k.a. the "My Sharona" and "Good Girls Don't" of '80s British metal.
Song-for-song, there are few albums, metal or otherwise, that are better than British Steel, with nary a clunker to be found. Astonishingly, tracks like "You Don't Have To Be Old To Be Wise" and "United" are total pop ear worms that any artist could make work for them outside of the metal genre.
On the other hand, what Screaming For Vengeance may lack in melody it more than makes up for in bombast. It's obvious the band was keen on creating an album that would translate well to the concert stage. As a result, the album has the ebb and flow of a great rock concert. Even so, a song like "Fever" sounds more like Tommy Shaw fronting Styx than a leather-clad Rob Halford fronting a pummeling heavy metal machine.
Mind you, Point of Entry is my own personal favorite Priest record, regardless of the sales numbers. In a perfect world, "Heading Out To The Highway", "Hot Rockin'", "Don't Go", "Solar Angels", "Desert Plains" and "All The Way" would be just as well-known as "You've Got Another Thing Comin'".
Thing is, Point of Entry, much like its album cover, is something you either get immediately and love to death or it's just "Eh" because you don't recognize anything from the radio or MTV. If you pay attention, you'll see every band has that one album in their catalog that is awesome, but somehoiw managed to escape the attention of the mainstream.
For Cheap Trick, it's Next Position Please, for Bowie, it's Low, for Black Sabbath, it's Technical Ecstasy, and so on.
As for British Steel, we feel the same way about it that we do about AC/DC's Highway To Hell; both flawless albums full of great songwriting and played with a jarring intensity that should have made both bands household names in America. While each album certainly set the stage for their respective band's U.S. breakthrough, they are often overlooked in deference to lesser albums that sold more copies.
Thing is, we've always preferred Highway To Hell to Back In Black because it's the best of both worlds, still full of the rough edges of their early days, but with the new sonic gut-punch of Robert John "Mutt" Lange's balls-to-the-wall production.
Best Judas Priest album: British Steel.