3. Judas Priest, 'British Steel' (1980)
In the Seventies, British metal – the down-tuned growl of "Iron Man," the slow grind of "Smoke on the Water" – was about strength and heaviness, the sonic equivalent of I-beams. But as the cover of British Steel shows, Judas Priest was about to change that metaphor into something that cut like a razor. "When we first entered, our albums were very involved, our songs were very pre-arranged, a bit self-indulgent with the lead breaks," guitarist Glenn Tipton told Musician. "But we shortened the length of the songs, we increased the excitement and the tempo in the songs, and we did something that everybody thought you couldn't do, that was never acceptable as heavy metal: We introduced melody to it." Despite the distorted roar of the guitars and the hectoring aggression of Rob Halford's voice, the writing on British Steel was as lean and tuneful as any pop effort, from the power-chord refrain of "Living After Midnight" to the football-club sing-along that caps "United." But the album's most astonishing moment had to be "Metal Gods," a swaggering evocation of rampaging robots driven by a drum and bass groove which can only be described as funky. For metal, slow and heavy would no longer win the race. J.D.C.