Killing Machine

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Killing Machine
Judas Priest - Killing Machine album coverart.jpg
Studio album by
Released9 October 1978
RecordedAugust–September 1978
StudioUtopia and CBS Studios, London
GenreHeavy metal
Length35:06 (Killing Machine)
38:30 (Hell Bent For Leather)
ProducerJudas Priest, James Guthrie
Judas Priest chronology
Stained Class
Killing Machine
Unleashed in the East
Singles from Killing Machine
  1. "Before The Dawn"
    Released: 27 October 1978
  2. "Take On the World"
    Released: 20 January 1979
  3. "Evening Star"
    Released: 12 May 1979
  4. "Rock Forever"
    Released: 1979

Killing Machine (known as Hell Bent for Leather in the US due to controversy over the Cleveland Elementary School shooting) is the fifth studio album by British heavy metal band Judas Priest. With its release in October 1978, the album pushed the band towards a more commercial style; however, it still contained the dark lyrical themes of their previous albums. At about the same time, the band members adopted their now-famous "leather-and-studs" fashion image, inspired by Rob Halford's interest in gay leather culture. It is the band's last studio album to feature drummer Les Binks.

International and American versions[edit]

The album was retitled Hell Bent for Leather for its U.S. release in early 1979, because the U.S. branch of Columbia/CBS did not like the "murderous implications" of the title. Both titles are drawn from songs on the album with "The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)", an early Fleetwood Mac cover, being added to the U.S. release.

The album was also pressed in red vinyl in the UK.


With Killing Machine, Judas Priest began moving to a more accessible, commercial format that abandoned the complex, fantasy-themed songs of their previous three albums. While this album still had dark undertones, it was more grounded in realism. This was reflected in their change of stage costumes from flowing Gothic robes to leather, but was also a reaction to the rising punk and New Wave movements. K.K. Downing had expressed doubts about the New Wave of British Heavy Metal stating "everybody was totally dedicated to having their own show, their own images". Priest were part of the influence on the NWOBHM, but not part of it. The band's new, simpler sound was the result of several factors, including a desire to compete with punk rock, produce songs that were easier to perform live, and also appeal more to American audiences.[1] Tracks such as "Burnin' Up" and "Evil Fantasies" are replete with S&M themes while "Running Wild" is about late-night partying and "Before the Dawn" a depressing ballad. "Hell Bent for Leather" reflected their newly adopted leather costumes as well as Rob Halford's soon-to-be-trademark entrances on stage in a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The single "Take on the World" was an attempt at producing a stadium shoutalong tune in the mould of Queen's "We Will Rock You", and was also covered by New Wave band The Human League on their 1980 tour.[2] If the lyrics were simplified a bit from the band's previous albums and adapted more into mainstream arena rock, the instruments retained their characteristic aggressiveness with heavier guitar riffing and elements of blues influence returned on some songs. The album is certified gold by the RIAA. Finally, the production of Killing Machine was markedly improved from Judas Priest's earlier albums, which were criticized for having excessively flat sound, and would be further refined for their next and breakthrough album, British Steel.

"Delivering The Goods", "Hell Bent For Leather", and "The Green Manalishi" were the three songs from Killing Machine which became standard parts of the band's live setlist, with the other songs being performed rarely or not at all.


The album was remastered in 2001, with two bonus tracks added (three in the UK). The bonus track "Fight for Your Life" was the "original" version of Judas Priest's "Rock Hard Ride Free" from their Defenders of the Faith album. "The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)" is considered a bonus track on the UK remaster, but a regular track on the U.S. version.

In 2010, audiophile label Audio Fidelity released a limited-edition 24-karat gold CD of Hell Bent for Leather. Mastering was done by Steve Hoffman. This does not contain the bonus tracks from the 2001 edition.

Recording and production[edit]

This is the first Judas Priest album where Glenn Tipton incorporated the guitar technique of tapping into his soloing style, perhaps[according to whom?] inspired by Eddie Van Halen's popularization of the technique, with his band Van Halen's popular debut album having come out earlier that year. This is also the final studio album for drummer Les Binks who had joined the band in early 1977 in time for the Sin After Sin tour; he is credited with helping develop the traditional Priest percussive sound. Binks was dropped and replaced by drummer Dave Holland after the 1979 tour because of a financial disagreement where the band's manager Mike Dolan wanted Binks to "waive his fees" for performing on the platinum selling 1979 Unleashed in the East live album.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[3]

In 2005, Killing Machine was ranked number 321 in Rock Hard magazine's book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time.[4] This album, as well as subsequent albums by the band, have somewhat divided fans, with some preferring the complexity and darkness of the early albums, while others prefer the more mainstream and polished later albums.

In popular culture[edit]

The song "Hell Bent for Leather" is featured in Ari Gold's 2008 film Adventures of Power, the 2004 episode of the sitcom That '70s Show entitled "Surprise, Surprise" and also featured in 2009 game Guitar Hero: Metallica.

Track listing[edit]

Side one
1."Delivering the Goods"Rob Halford, K. K. Downing, Glenn Tipton4:16
2."Rock Forever"Halford, Downing, Tipton3:19
3."Evening Star"Halford, Tipton4:06
4."Hell Bent for Leather"Tipton2:41
5."Take On the World"Halford, Tipton3:00
Side two
6."Burnin' Up"Downing, Tipton4:07
7."The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)" (Fleetwood Mac cover; originally exclusive to Hell Bent for Leather, also added to later releases of Killing Machine)Peter Green3:23
8."Killing Machine"Tipton3:01
9."Running Wild"Tipton2:58
10."Before the Dawn"Halford, Downing, Tipton3:23
11."Evil Fantasies"Halford, Downing, Tipton4:15


Judas Priest



Year Chart Position
1979 US Billboard Top LPs 128

Sales and certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA)[5] Gold 500,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on 16 April 2018. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  2. ^ [1] Archived 4 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "Killing Machine review". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 16 August 2016. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  4. ^ [...], Rock Hard (Hrsg.). [Red.: Michael Rensen. Mitarb.: Götz Kühnemund] (2005). Best of Rock & Metal die 500 stärksten Scheiben aller Zeiten. Königswinter: Heel. p. 82. ISBN 3-89880-517-4.
  5. ^ "American album certifications – Judas Priest – Point of Entry". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH.