It seems like a long time since I reviewed a book by Martin Popoff! The prolific Popoff has a wide range of musical taste, wider than mine, and it seemed that the last couple of years he was revisiting his Rock roots writing and publishing books about bands like Rush, Sweet, Angel, and Blue Oyster Cult. Arguably his last book about a Metal band was his Iron Maiden book back in 2020, (15 books ago!) so it has been a bit of a dry spell for me!
While I’m sure they are interesting, top-quality books some of those titles just didn’t quite fit here at Metal-Rules.com. So when it was announced in late 2021 that he was getting back to the Metal and had written a book about Judas Priest, I was very pleased.
JUDAS PRIEST A VISUAL HISTORY is Popoff’s fourth book about Judas Priest. If you are thinking he is going back to same well too often that is not the case. is a different beast than his self-published, two-part series from 2018/2019. His first Priest book, HEAVY METAL PAINKILLERS (2007) is out of print, and quite rare and sought after now, so in a sense this new book updates and replaces it, 15 years later. A lot has happened in the Priest organization since then!
Popoff has been working with the good folks at Wymer now for quite some time developing a fantastic series of visual history/hard cover coffee table books. I believe this is his ninth collaboration in the ‘A Visual History’ series of books including titles about UFO, Hawkwind, Nazareth, Yes, Uriah Heep, Van Halen, Thin Lizzy and Blue Oyster Cult. Collect them all!
In case you are not familiar with the series, these oversized, hard cover illustrated histories are a treat; high quality, glossy paper, full colour, and that little cloth bookmark called a tassel. Now you know. It makes a book seem classier somehow. This bad boy clicks in at 224 pages and nearly 500 photos! One comment on the live photos, they are without a doubt amazing. However, the way it works is that photographers to get so close go in the photo pit which means many of the live photos are up close and we don’t get to see much in terms of stage design, Ian Hill or Scott Travis. It is just the way it works, the drummer and bassist are often hidden in the back and the Metal god being the focal point. The historical (not live) photos, many of them never seen, as the band from the very late 60’s and very early 70’s are a real treat for historians. There are many shots of ads, album covers, memorabilia and so forth.
In terms of content, we are treated to a comprehensive and well-done timeline. Popoff in a very clever move starts the timeline with a quote, a quatrain from the seer Nostradamus who predicts the arrival of Judas Priest! There is some introductory comment but for the most part Popoff keeps his opinions to himself, keeping it tight and professional. After a few years of ancient stone-age history we really get going in 1974 and then go year by year. Each recording cycle, release, and tour are covered start to finish with, trivia, anecdotes, and quotes. The layout, design, paper quality make this world class.
If I had any (very mild) reservations it would be that Popoff, unintentionally shows his preference for certain eras of Priest. This is only natural for any fan but it manifests itself in the script in that certain parts are…shall we say…perfunctory. Popoff’s natural energy and enthusiasm for an album, for example BRITISH STEEL, shines through with no less than eleven detailed entries. By way of comparison NOSTRADAMUS (2008) gets one factual entry. In fact, pretty much everything after PAINKILLER, the excitement and/or enthusiasm for those later era albums gears down a notch. REDEEMER OF SOULS merits only five sentences! We don’t know where it was recorded, when it was recorded, chart positions…all that information was just sort of skipped, despite being readily available on-line. However, I suspect Popoff’s feelings are in alignment with the majority of Priest fans so I doubt many will even notice or care.
I’m not the first to suggest that Popoff’s own, aforementioned pair of books about Judas Priest, are the perfect companion, the deeper dive, in the history of Priest. This visual history is the one that knocks your socks off and say, ‘What a great run they had!’ Who knows? About the reception of FIREPOWER Priest might have fuel for life. Until then this beast is the perfect 50th anniversary (more or less) exclamation mark on a fabulous career.