Judas Priest’s Fifth LP Released Under Two Names

Judas Priest’s fifth album arrived on Oct. 9, 1978, but what it was called depends on where you live.

In the U.S., the LP was titled Hell Bent for Leather, a fitting choice given the band’s newly acquired leather-and-studs image. But almost everywhere else, the album was known by its original title: Killing Machine. In a curious move, their U.S. label chose sex over violence – a rarity in the American marketplace.

The music on Judas Priest’s fifth release was different, too. This album firmly announced to fans that Judas Priest was finding new ways to both streamline and modernize their sound by dispensing with most of the lumbering tempos, protracted song lengths and unnecessary complexities typical of the proto-metal and prog rock found on their earlier records.

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Songs like “Delivering the Goods,” “Rock Forever,” “Hell Bent for Leather” and “Running Wild” are short, fiery and to the point. Perhaps inspired, in part at least, by punk’s relative simplicity, the tracks retain the undiluted metallic power and sheer sonic weight of the group’s earlier cuts, but bolster the overall pace, energy, and melody – ultimately expanding their commercial appeal.

Judas Priest’s Notable Shift in Style

Once Judas Priest perfected their new musical and visual direction, initially on tour (documented on 1979’s Unleashed in the East) and then on the 1980 follow-up album British Steel, heavy metal was ready to be embraced by mainstream radio, paving the way for its rise toward global domination throughout the ’80s.

And some of that progression – not to mention the steep spike in leather jacket sales – can be traced back to the confusingly twin-titled album Judas Priest released in 1978. Whether the cover said Killing Machine or Hell Bent for Leather, this was a pivotal record in the band’s career and, eventually, the history of metal.

Listen to Judas Priest’s ‘Delivering the Goods’

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Gallery Credit: Eduardo Rivadavia

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