Without question, Judas Priest are one of the best heavy metal bands of all time. The lads enjoyed massive critical and commercial success throughout the mid-1970s and early 1980s and, after a couple decades in the hinterlands, remerged with a better-than-expected platter last year in “Redeemer of Souls.”
“Defenders of the Faith” was released in 1984 at the tail end of Judas Priest’s hey day. It’s a very good album — though a notch below classics like 1979’s “Hell Bent for Leather,” 1980’s “British Steel” and 1982’s “Screaming for Vengeance” — and is getting a deluxe reissue to commemorate its 30th anniversary.
With three CDs clocking in at almost 2½ hours, you can bang your head for the better part of an evening if you absorb “Defenders of the Faith” in a single sitting. Disc 1 is a remastered version of the original 10-track slab, and tracks like “Jawbreaker,” “Love Bites,” the Parent Music Resource Center-inflaming “Eat Me Alive” and “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” still sound great, though the record’s absence of a standout single hampers it a bit.
The real reason to upgrade — and make no mistake, that’s what every metal fan should do — is the bonus material on Discs 2 and 3. Those slabs feature a complete live recording of a May 5, 1984, Judas Priest concert in Long Beach, Calif. Frontman Rob Halford & Co. stomp their way through a 21-song set that includes most of “Defenders of the Faith,” plus spirited renditions of classic cuts like ”Metal Gods,” “Breaking the Law,” “Electric Eye,” “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown),” “Living After Midnight,” “Hell Bent for Leather” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming.” Long live Priest! (Jeffrey Sisk)