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 ALANDER: 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.
PETE ALANDER: Sad Wings of Destiny has everything that a good album cover needs: it has a picture which reflects emotions from good to bad. It’s angelic and demonic in every aspect. You can imagine the artwork hanging in an art museum somewhere and people around it are amazed about what they see. It almost speaks to you, especially the LP-version brings the art to life. When you see how the logo and the album title are placed you can’t argue what an excellent piece of work it is. It also has the “Devils Tuning Fork” in it, the symbol that has been Priest’s trademark for many years. These little symbols are just what every band needs, something to help the fans to remember the band visually, something to draw on the paper when there´s nothing else to do. It is extremely important for a band to be remembered also visually. It´s a branding technique which almost never fails.
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 ALANDER: 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. I’ve also always liked the way the album titles are placed in many Priest albums; very simple sans serif typing without any unnecessary effects.
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 ALANDER: 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.
The change in the next release, ‘Priest…live!’, was extremely dramatic. A completely new logo was designed by an English graphic designer Richard Evans, best known for his numerous works with the names like Robert Plant, the Who and the Doors. This new distinct logo got the shortest lifespan of all the Priest logos so far: it was used only once. Here, the text was reduced just to plain initials J&P, and according to numerous fans, its abstract artwork came a bit too far the from traditional heavy metal expression that had been a trademark for Judas Priest albums during the past years.
PETE ALANDER: 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 ALANDER: 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 ALANDER: 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.
Brand-wise, its a sticky situation for a band to come up with a new singer, a new kind of music and still try to keep the legacy alive and well. It is also challenging concerning the visual image of a band, and I believe Priest a did pretty good job with their logo changes.
Along with the reunion of the band in summer 2003 came the classic Roslav Szaybo’s design from 1978 back to service, as it was used on the cover of the retrospective ‘Electric Eye’ dvd. The latest update of the Judas Priest logo got its world premiere on the 2nd of June 2004 in Hannover, as it appeared on the band’s stage backdrop, during ‘United’, at the end of the show. Here the ‘Judas Priest cross’, which during the past years had also become a very important part of the band’s visual image, replaces the letter t from the classic logo. So here they are now, also united, the two perhaps the most well known visual elements ever appeared on the covers of the Judas Priest albums.
PETE ALANDER: 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.
Album by album commentary by Pete Alander and Jari Asell:
Cool idea and nice design but not the best concept for hard rock music.
Sad Wings of Destiny:
Ultimate piece of art. This is what heavy metal is all about: the battle between heaven and hell. Judas Priest brings it all with Sad Wings of Destiny.
Sin after sin:
I like the atmosphere a lot but for some reason I believe the lady figure should be dropped out. The logo is also a bit hidden in this cover.
Beautiful! Total heavy metal with it´s unique way.
Leather clad zombie monster. This one is a killer and very Priest-style cover. Dark feeling gives justice to the music.
Unleashed in the east:
I love the way how the whole band is positioned to the picture. Classic but maybe too “made up” and “candy”.
A total classic. If there is the one album cover Priest will always be remembered, it´s this one. One of the best album covers of all times. Even Absolute Vodka knows this…
Point of entry:
Very harmonic and honest. It just isn´t so heavy as it should be. For almost any other band a perfect album cover.
Point of entry:
Here we have the first cover where the diagonal logo just doesn´t fit at all. Album title is also positioned strangely.
Screaming for vengeance:
Back to heavy metal roots! Attacking winged warrior landing from the sky, this is what Judas Priest is. The colours are brave but insanely good for this album.
Defenders of the faith:
This one has a cool comic book monster in it. Maybe not the most metal but it fits well to Screaming… and Turbo style. They make a good triangle together.
Metal meets pop. The concept is really cool and this picture reflects the music just perfectly. The style is so 80´s yet there´s still something for today also.
This cover reveals the different logo version of Judas Priest. It actually is quite cool and it is something you can draw and easily remember. The whole LP is a grat package to look at (and to listen also…).
Ram it down:
Ram it Down has a powerful image in it but otherwise I find it a bit cliche and not so unique. The use of diagonality doesn´t fit very well to this image.
This one has been said to be one of the funniest metal covers and I agree at some point. The character in it looks like a kick-ass monster but the album itself is so freaking good that it deservers a bit better package.
I just love the way the artist has made all the characters from previous albums to alive. This is just too good to be true. This is what “best of” albums should look like.
Jug looks like a vicious beast ready to attack and kick your ass. The enhanced logo and the “Devils Tuning Fork” are also pretty good looking. The weird rasterize effect on it spoils this one a lot.
98 Live meltdown:
This great live recording has just too much effects in it. Typography is also too weak for the readers.
Another enhancement for the Priest logo and a pretty good one. I like the way this cover is pretty simple. The combination of red and black never fails.
Angel of retribution:
Another enhancement for the Priest logo. Back to roots with a small new vibe. The Angel looks good and the black backround fits well to this.
” A surprise, kinda fits, yet logo is a bit lame ”
Sad Wings Of Destiny
” Music and sleeve art in perfect harmony, gothic logo make it even more sinister, brilliant! Introducing Priest Fork ”
Sin After Sin
” Very dramatic approach, almost surreal, brings out the album mood nicely ”
” Streamline logo and precision sound, good move ! ”
Killing Machine/Hell Bent For Leather
“Now the leather stage look was in full blast and sleeve art underlines it perfectly- This is heavy and we are Metal, all in synchronicity.”
Unleashed In The East
” Really good, all essential crediments on board,posing, Harley, leather- fuck-we are Priest ! Eat this !
For a stageshoot it has an intimate feeling ”
” A real classic ,always relevant,cementing Priest´s standing in metal, It is safe to be in metal -no blood ”
Point Of Entry
” A flight to unknown , got the mood , U.S. version brings desert plains with 3D logo ”
Screaming For Vengeance
” The Hellion, bright colors fits well with gymnastic riffing, Priest introduced a modern, sporty metal production ”
Of The Faith
” Metallion, a jawbreaker sets the mood perfectly for hard and fast route. Re-introducing Priest Fork ”
” shift to summer mood , with lots of girls and party ”
” Almost like an intentional bootleg, a new logo,interesting colors, and finger signs maintain dignity ”
Ram It Down
” Pounding the world -we are back ! good colors with mascular power, Wilkinson on board .”
” lots of fine details, fits perfectly the mood, a salvation ! Priest Fork again resurrected ”
” Again lots of to look at, a foundation of the Steel Mill ”
” brutally back, a new singer, a new logo. Jugulator Falls inside takes attention ”
” A change to logo, steering into “original” with strong colors”
Angel Of Retribution
” Judas Rising ! Sad Wings updated,Priest Fork again centered ,good stuff ! “