Judas Priest – Unleashed in the East (1979)

Article contributed to Death Metal Underground by George Psalmanazer.

Judas Priest started life as just another Led Zeppelin influenced band in the early 1970s. Quickly they became massively influenced by Black Sabbath and especially Thin Lizzy. Priest adapting the counterpointed riffing and harmonzied melodic guitar leads of Thin Lizzy into a mixture of progressive rock and the then new heavy metal of Black Sabbath but with operatic vocals instead of Ozzy “singing” the riff through his nose kicked off the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in the late 1970s.

Priest’s riffs remained mostly static like most NWOBHM bands. Mostly the leads were what progressed in songs structured around a few riffs alternating in an almost verse-chorus-verse fashion. Compositions eventually progressed towards climatic solos or the riffs shifting up an octave or modulating into a “triumphant” major scale as would become common later in power metal and those influenced by it such as Sacramentum and Arghoslent. The excellence of the riffs and leads overcomes all the limits of riff rock song structures.

Judas Priest were not held back by song structure but rather their desire to be rock stars on the radio. Their sublime heavy metal songs were placed in albums jam fulled of everything from covers to prog rock to arena pandering to attempt to appeal to everyone who could possibly snatch it off a record store shelf. “Beyond the Realms of Death” off of Stained Class infamously shares a riff with Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love” with a new fill at the end. Eventually Judas Priest fully sold out to an MTV audience on British Steel.

The albums were arranged like 1960s rock with a few “hits” and a ton of filler to pad them out. They also mostly suffered from tame performances and poor, flat production like the studio material of so many other bands. This meant that the best way to experience Priest and many other NWOBHM bands’ music in a complete artistic package was to see them live. The band would play the “hits” (nobody actually had hit singles as metal wasn’t played on popular radio) and shelve the filler, save a couple from whatever the latest record was that they were touring behind to shill for the label. Live albums (Witchfinder GeneralLive ’83) and sometimes demo anthologies (Angel WitchSinister History) are testament to this.

Unleashed in the East consists of instrumental tracks from early 1979 live shows in Tokyo with later studio vocals from Rob Halford pasted on top. This is readily apparent from the different, excessive artificial reverb they have. All songs are from the early part of Priest’s career and much faster, energetic, and looser than the lamer album versions with their oft-awful guitar tones. Halford’s “live” vocals are closer to heavy metal snarls and air raid sirens than the Robert Plant like wailing.

The only real criticism of the album is the pacing with regards to track order. The first set of four songs from “Exciter” (Stained Class) to “The Ripper” (Sad Wings of Destiny) are excellent heavy metal compositions. The next tracks, ” The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)” and “Diamonds and Rust”, are energetic, metallicized pre-Stevie Nicks Fleetwood Mac and Joan Baez covers well-suited for a live set. Then Judas Priest Judas Priest subjects their audience to two, seven-minute long progressive rock songs from Sad Wings of Destiny: “Victim of Changes”and “Genocide”. While compositionally adequate with decent riffs and by no means bad, these two songs stop the rush of the record which was already slagging a bit on “Diamonds and Rust”. Thankfully Priest close out with the profound, proto speed metal of “Tyrant”, which was a huge influence upon Slayer.

Despite this pacing issue, Unleashed in the East is the most effective way to experience Judas Priest’s quality early material before their MTV days. It is also one of the only metal “live” albums worth a damn. Most commercially-released live recordings are cash-in releases shit out by labels to take your money with another shelf-turd to occupy and steal space in the same way that Coors Light comes in ten different forms of packaging in every super market. Unleashed in the East is no shelf-turd.


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29 thoughts on “Judas Priest – Unleashed in the East (1979)”

  1. BornAgainKornFan says:

    “…the different *excess excess* artificial reverb they have”

    Cool write up though, never gave Priest a real chance but I could probably listen to this.

    1. Intentional alliteration for emphasis on part of the writer’s metal English? I don’t know but I corrected it.

  2. OnlytrueBelievers says:

    This and No Sleep are the 2 live albums I keep coming back to

  3. Rainer Weikusat says:

    Judas Priest is way older than the New-Yardbirds-turned-Led-Zeppelin Jimmy Page touring band.

    1. Rainer Weikusat says:

      Actually not. They’re roughly contemporaries.

  4. LostInTheANUS says:

    I remember the last time I was in Japan I also unleashed something in the East if you catch my drift heheheh… I got deported afterwards.

    1. Blood Bukkake says:


  5. danny you’re a faggot for implicitly putting shit on sad wings and i’m going to rape you to be honest

    1. Exactly. Anyone who fails to realize that this album is an extension of prog rock, just like Black Sabbath was for their time, needs a serious kick in the dick. Early Priest (except rockarolla) is a fuckton more Van Der Graaf Generator, ELP, and a touch of Queen than it is Bad Company.

      But keep on being an iconoclast, Daniel. Maybe one day you’ll stumble upon a truth or two.

      1. I didn’t write this. George did. He’s right though about “Beyond the Realms of Death”.

      2. Anyone who fails to realize that this album is an extension of prog rock, just like Black Sabbath was for their time, needs a serious kick in the dick.

        Metal could be described as “prog rock interpreted by punkers.” The Jethro Tull and King Crimson overtones in metal are still visible, and they seem to have absorbed the heavy guitar rock and horror movie soundtrack influences.

  6. Night Booger says:

    I feel the second half with run through of Tyrant are not as strong as the album version whereas Victim of Changes is the absolute highlight of the entire record as well as being far superior to the lethargic and awkward album version.

    I’ve always thought Judas Priest were the greatest of all classic heavy metal bands, while not as “important” as Black Sabbath or huge as Iron Maiden they were certainly the most metal. Excluding all of Point of Entry, Turbo, and Ram It Down there are great tracks on everyone one of their pre-reunion albums with Stained Class and Painkiller to closest to being good all the way through.

    As for live metal albums, this and Motorhead’s No Sleep Til Hammersmith are as good as it gets. It is odd there are no classic live death metal albums, I’ve seen plenty of great performances live, maybe the budget and shit sound conditions don’t allow for it, or maybe the best live recordings are always touched up in the studio.

    1. Death and black metal bands outside of the biggest bands like Morbid Angel didn’t really have the opportunities to tour that heavy and speed metal bands were afforded. Immortal and Emperor didn’t play festivals until Abbath copied Iron Maiden and Ihsahn played turtleneck rock.

    2. Cynical says:

      “Ram it Down” is probably their best ’80s album, though…

      1. What about Screaming for Vengeance?

        1. Night Booger says:

          It’s got some amazing songs on it, but it is bogged down by too much wimpy butt rock songs. But you can say that about almost all of their albums. I think Defenders of The Faith has more might and speed, but also a lot of shitty tracks. They’re just one of those bands you can make a killer 2 disc compilation of outside of the previously mentioned near perfect albums.

          And hey, that is way more than most bands will ever be able to do.

        2. Cynical says:

          I’ll never understand why people like Screaming For Vengeance or Defenders of the Faith. Both of those albums are just cheesy ’80s butt rock with about one actual riff per song by a band that really should have been making better material. You might as well be honest with yourself and listen to Sammy Hagar or Ted Nugent.

          Ram it Down isn’t as good as the ’70s stuff (or Painkiller, for that matter), but it’s a lot more energetic and listenable than anything else from its decade.

          1. Screaming For Vengeance​ has “The Hellion” leading into “Electric Eye” and then the album tanks. Those are better than most of JP’s other 80s crap.


          2. Interesting to watch Priest react to the musical context of the time. They started with a progressive bent, then went into heavy guitar rock as glam rose, incorporated punk and industrial later, and finally caught up with the genre they helped launch and imitated Slayer. Since that time, they have mostly been imitating Pantera (Jugulator) and Iron Maiden (recent material).

    3. GGALLIN1776 says:

      You forgot Decade of Aggression.

  7. Roger says:

    Sad Wings is their best album, and this is when they were more within the Zeppelin-influenced stage. NWOBHM is when punk dumbed down earlyheavy-metal. It led to some good things, but only after thrash took it over.

    1. I pretty much agree. NWOBHM was a step back from Sabbath and Motorhead but hardcore would reinvigorate the best elements of NWOBHM. The best NWOBHM studio albums are basically speed metal except for the songs being structured around pairs of riffs and harmonized leads. These albums also mostly post-date the whole thing, which was was pretty much over by the early 80s. Otherwise Show No Mercy and Mercyful Fate are better than all the rest of this shit.

      1. NWOBHM was a step back from Sabbath and Motorhead but hardcore would reinvigorate the best elements of NWOBHM.

        Sounds right to me. NWOBHM = Black Sabbath + Led Zeppelin (and Deep Purple, Cream, etc). This represented a step backward into rock. Hardcore stripped off the pretense and rock conventions and made music effective again, then Metallica et al took the NWOBHM riffs and gave them the Black Sabbath long-form treatment, using the tendency of bands like Discharge to use longer riffs.

    2. Rainer Weikusat says:

      NWOBHM is when punk dumbed down earlyheavy-metal.

      That’s a pretty bizarre idea: In one aspect, (English) punk stemmed from an unbroken lineage of intentionally primitive, uptempo rock’n’roll intened to be (or remain) dance music. Another big influence the 1960s mod bands, in particular, early Who, and also, early 1970s (so called) pub rock, specifically, “Wilko Johnson” era Dr Feelgod.

      NWOBHM is more likely a continued evolution of late 1960/ early 1970s ‘underground music’, cf

      (probably not the greatest examples but I’m not very familiar with “1970s stuff” as I mostly don’t like it)

      The second is an example of a track built around a static riff.

  8. I said what what in the butt says:

    Rob Halford thinks you’re a nerd.

    1. Isn’t it clear at this point that almost all of the people who do interesting stuff in metal are nerdly?

      Then there are the geeks….

  9. GGALLIN1776 says:

    Halford will sodomize those that criticize.

    I’m pretty much a fan of all Priest, Jugulator isn’t even that bad if you remove the JP name. Not a huge fan of Owens but he did pretty good on that one.

  10. canadaspaceman says:

    Near my high school, we used to hang out at a donut shop at lunch, or skipping periods, or after school, and we always played the live version Diamonds And Rust on the jukebox (a big steel box full of 7″ singles that you feed quarters to work).
    Needless to say, when I eventually got Unleashed in the East, it seemed flawless, compared to other Priest albums.
    You guys probably mentioned it elsewhere, but if there was no Judas Priest , there would be no Mercyful Fate.

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