Released: 2008, Omnibus Press
For a veteran band of such classic status I’m surprised there aren’t more book about Judas Priest. There are only about half a dozen and Neil Daniels has written half of them! Canadian author Martin Popoff wrote an illustrated history of Judas Priest, which was published in December of 2007, and this biography by the British author, came out in early 2008, so they were written and published at pretty much the same time.
DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH is a slightly oversize paperback, printed on standard paper and is a good running length at 320. With so much history to cover I’m sure it could have been much longer. Al Atkins writes a nice foreword and in his introduction Daniels recounts some resistance from Judas Priest management who are notorious when it comes to tenaciously protecting the interests of the band. There are about 50 black and white photos printed on glossy plates split into three sections. There are lots of cool pictures from the old days. Check out the monster ‘afro’ on Chris Campbell!
The book is split into six main sections, the pre-Halford days, the formative era with Halford, the ‘glory’ years of making it in America, the Ripper years, the return of Halford, a brief conclusion and the appendices. Each section gets due care and attention and Daniels avoids the classic mistake of neglecting the later era. I found the Ripper years to be very interesting and there is quite a bit of extra material discussing Halfords solo career as well. The author interviewed drummer Jonathan Valen and discusses a controversial era of Priests career when allegedly Valen was a back-up drummer hidden off-stage. Other interesting stories are the whole Dave Holland controversy his arrest and conviction of child abuse and the author reprints a letter that Dave Holland wrote to the author addressing the issue. The book is loaded with interesting stories and tales. The main script runs about 200 pages.
I mentioned the Appendices as a major section because these lists run another 120 pages! There is a well done ‘where are they now’ section called ‘Heroes End’. There is a massive and extensive Tour history, a detailed discography, a filmography, a videography, a list of who plays what solo on which song, a list of Tribute albums, TV appearances, a list of support bands, more solo material discographies and an extensive bibliography! These 120 pages are a wealth of info for even the most die-hard fan.
I’ve read criticism that this book doesn’t have any unique interviews from the current band members and while technically true, (in the authors defense) the band doesn’t really grant many interviews and when they do, often the interviews are filled with (at times) generic platitudes and the band come across as non-confrontational or controversial. The strength is that Daniels did talk to many ex-members, eight ex-members in fact, and did extensive research from existing third-person interviews. Sometimes writing an unauthorized biography frees up the author to discuss sensitive issues with fear of censure or censorship. DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH is very enjoyable; well written and well researched and helps set the standard for Priest books to come. I hope an updated version comes soon because a lot has happened in the Priest camp in the intervening five years since this was published!