40 Years Ago: Judas Priest Get Hell Bent For Greatness with 'Hell Bent For Leather'

October 10, 2018

The year was 1978. The bluesy, psychedelic influences of Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath had paved the way for a new era of music. Denim was on its way out, and studded leather jackets were on their way in. And Judas Priest were leading the charge.

On October 9th, 1978, Judas Priest released Killing Machine (aka Hell Bent For Leather in the U.S.), marking a huge turning point in heavy metal music. Whenever the band performed the opening track "Delivering The Goods" live, frontman Rob Halford would enter the stage covered head-to-toe in studded leather while riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle to the cheers of thousands.

However, Hell Bent For Leather did receive some backlash from fans for allegedly trying to sound too commercial and radio-friendly. But just like their influences: Black Sabbth, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple, Judas Priest were able to expand by experimenting with new sounds.

There was big a cultural shift happening in the late '70s. Punk rock was outshining prog rock and heavy electric blues, sci-fi and good vs. evil fantasy epics were on their way out the door, and shorter songs with more intimiate lyrics were dominating radio waves. So Judas Priest reacted and adapted their sound to resonate with the times.

The tracks "Hell Bent For Leather" and "Running WIld" would serve to be big influences for the next wave of British metal acts like Iron Maiden, the "Big Four" thrash bands, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax, and metal bands of the new millenium like Five Finger Death Punch, Pantera, Ghost and Slipknot.