At least since the 1970s, band logos have been a big part of rock bands’ visual image. Not only to ‘brand the band’ in order to boost the sales of merchandise, but also, especially when we’re talking about heavy metal genre, to provide kind of signs of subculture to the fans -to make the music, and the whole metal culture, present in our everyday life. Many of us could easily remember drawing these logos in school books or on denim jackets, some of us even carving them on school desks… Here we are going to take a look back into the evolution of the Judas Priest logo, from the start in the 1970s to the present.
The first time the name Judas Priest appeared on the racks of record stores was in September 1974, when their debut album ‘Rocka Rolla’ was released. The logo, like the whole ‘bottlecap’ artwork used in the cover, was designed by John Pasche, Gull Record’s graphic designer, who had also made designs for the Rolling Stones earlier in his career. In fact, the ‘bottlecap’ artwork was first intended to be used with the Stones, but it ended up on Priest’s debut. Maybe it was the pop artistic nature of the cover that made John to design a new, better matching logo, instead of the old gothic style one the band had used before. Although this cover won some graphic design awards at the time, it somehow never matched the music on the album. The different logos used in French and German 7 inch single releases underline the fact that this particular logo never really stabilized to represent the nature of Priest’s music.
PETE: Most of the bands use different logo variations in their early days. It’s part of searching and finding an own and unique style. The most important task for a logotype is to reflect the music. Rocka Rolla’s ‘bottle cap’ artwork and logo is cool-looking and represents the era, but it doesn’t say much about the music. This is something where many bands and musicians go wrong. There are not many bands who have kept the same logotype for 30 years or more.
By the time Priest’s second album ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ was released, the graphics and the music were finally in ‘perfect synchronicity’. To underline the dramatic ‘fallen angel’ theme of the watercolour painting by Patrick Woodroffe, John Pasche updated the old gothic style logo that had appeared with some variations in concert adverts since the band’s British tour back in 1972. This logo soon proved its strength and made its way also onto the cover of the next release ‘Sin After Sin’, and it still keeps on appearing in various Gull Records re-releases. Woodroffe’s painting also introduced the famous ‘Judas Priest cross’, which soon became a strong part of Priest’s visual image. It even became a part of the Judas Priest logo years later, during the re-union tour in summer 2004.
If the gothic logo was a great success, the next one was to become a real classic. Based on the futuristic lyrics on Priest’s fourth album, ‘Stained Class’ in 1978, Roslav Szaybo from CBS Records designed a whole graphic concept that went hand in hand with the music. Long gone was the gothic darkness; instead there is a science fiction themed artwork with a new ‘electrified’ Judas Priest logo. This logo remained almost unchanged until the American version of ‘Point Of Entry’ was released in February 1981. The only change it went through was the addition of one extra point in the streamline going below the letter s, shortening the bridge between words ‘Judas’ and ‘Priest’. This change first appeared on the album ‘Killing Machine’, titled as ‘Hell Bent for Leather’ in America. Surprisingly, this revised logo was also printed on the cover of the re-mastered ‘Stained Class’ in 2001, instead of the first version.
PETE: Stained Class album really is a unique piece of art. It is futuristic, evil, demonic and actually quite trendy. It’s the first time the Priest logotype was placed diagonally to the right side of the albumcover. For a graphic designer (who has done like a million bootleg covers for Priest) it’s challenging to place a logo like that on the cover. Stained Class has a bullet flying in it diagonally, so it makes sense to place the logo where it is. Ram it Down was the first album cover where the diagonal line doesn’t suit the main image. All the previous albums (especially Screaming for Vengeance, Defenders of the Faith and Turbo) share the same kind of movement, and the logo is just perfect the way it is. I really wonder about Stained Class whether the main image was designed before the logo or vice versa.
Yet again it’s interesting to see how Judas Priest (and so many other bands) keep changing the logotype in their single releases. Looking at Priest´s singles (you can view almost all of them at Steel Mill´s Discography –section) you can see a lot of different designs of the logo, stretched in different sizes horizontally and vertically. Some might say it keeps the logo alive, but personally, I don’t believe these “mutations” keep anything alive. In order to create a ‘band brand’ you must keep the band visually recognisable in any media available. Small adjustments and evolving are always welcome (compare logotypes of Stained Class and British Steel, for example) and that is what keeps the ‘brand’ alive.
In Europe ‘Point Of Entry’ was still released using Roslav Szaybo’s old logo, but in America Columbia Records, for some reason, wanted to use different graphics. The man called to redesign ‘Point Of Entry’ was John Berg, the art director of Columbia Records. John had earlier worked with artists like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Chicago, just to name a few. Despite the fact that during his long career Berg was nominated for Grammy awards various times, this particular artwork couldn’t be counted among his best ones. However, the 3-dimensional effect John added to Roslav’s old logo was excellent, and it appeared on the covers of next 3 albums: from ‘Screaming for Vengeance’ to ‘Turbo’, the period when Doug Johnson was responsible for the artwork.
PETE: Usually I’m not a big fan of 3D graphics but Screaming…, Defenders…, and Turbo with Doug Johnson’s artwork are albums where this style fits perfectly. I’ve always wondered why they needed to change the album cover for Point of Entry. The original might not have been the most ‘metal’ out there, but it did it’s job and it reflects the music well.
PETE: Priest…live has a really cool artwork, logotype and feeling in it but it is too different from all the other designs and visual elements Priest has had during the years. Personally, I like it a lot and even remember when I bought the LP and opened it. It was just so cool-looking and… I´m using this word again… trendy! For some other band it could give all the elements for the whole visual image.
Since ‘Ram It Down’ in 1988, Mark Wilkinson, an English freelance illustrator, has been responsible for almost all Judas Priest artwork. The extremely ‘macho’ and ‘metallic’ sleeve of ‘Ram It Down’ was definitely a way back to the classic heavy metal art, and was also a return to the good old Szaybo design. This time the 3-dimensional effect was shortened, and a molten metal effect was added. The molten metal logo appeared unchanged on the cover of 1990 ‘Painkiller’, but when the ‘Metal Works’ compilation album was released in 1993, the 3-dimensional effect was dropped off.
PETE: The visual image of ‘Metal Works’ with its black and white feeling is one of the best in Priest albums. The logotype looks really cool with its metallic shine and the lettering ‘Metal Works 73-93’ around it fits just perfectly making the image look like a stamp or something.
As the previous three Judas Priest logos (with the exception of ‘Priest…live!’, of course) had been based on Roslav Szaybo’s original idea, the era between ‘Jugulator’ and ‘Live in London’, from 1997 up to 2003, got a totally different logo decorating the sleeves of Judas Priest releases. Mark Wilkinson was still the man behind the artwork, and although there are some elements left from the old Szaybo logo, this new one was different enough to underline the line-up changes Priest had recently gone through. In fact, this ‘Ripper era logo’ has two variations. ‘Jugulator’ and ‘Live Meltdown’ had the words ‘Judas’ and ‘Priest’ placed vertically, with a design that could be seen as a part of the famous ‘Judas Priest cross’ or ‘Devil’s Tuning Fork’ placed in between. The latter two albums, ‘Demolition’ and ‘Live in London’ were without the cross and the words were now levelled horizontally.
PETE: Sometimes I’ve wondered what I would do if I had to design the Priest logo all over again with the respect of the visual legacy Priest has. I’ve come up with ideas similar to with Demolition has. I like it with its harmonic and pleasing feeling. The logotype on ‘Jugulator’ is also cool-looking. It has this diagonal thing along with brand new Priest fork. The good old ‘Devil’s Tuning Fork’ is a brand itself, and very unique, but there’s nothing wrong with the fork on these two albums. The ‘axe’ look in it gives a sharp feeling of a brutal metal band. The word ‘brutal’ also reflects well f these two albums, especially Jug.
PETE: It’s really an ‘obvious’ choice to create a logo with the ‘Devil’s Tuning Fork’ sticking out from it. It fits well and stands out. It might make the text look a bit too ‘tight’, a more open lettering would help a lot, but joining these two classic elements enhances the logotype a lot. I’m really waiting for the Nostradamus album as well as the logo evolvement of the future albums of the greatest metal band ever.
Sad Wings of Destiny:
Sin after sin:
unleashed in the east:
point of entry:
point of entry:
screaming for vengeance:
ram it down:
98 live meltdown:
angel of retribution: