I’ve been a Judas Priest fan ever since I heard the first note they recorded pouring from my – at the time – very poor speaker setup. Unfortunately, with much better gear I own today, Judas Priest on remastered CDs doesn’t sound better. Quite to the contrary, their music sounds absolutely horrible.
Remastered Judas Priest on CD is a never-ending story of failed opportunities, bad choices and a band which apparently either lost their hearing (likely) or simply don’t give a right damn how their legacy is preserved (pretty likely, as each subsequent release either kept regurgitating the available sonic crap or made it even worse [one wouldn’t have thought it possible, but …]).
In short, a shit show of spectacular magnitude.
Within my collection, the Judas Priest remasters that started rolling out in 2001 are perhaps the worst-sounding CDs I have (I didn’t buy worse offenders by other bands because I didn’t need the music).
I have no idea if Jon Astley, the remastering engineer responsible for these abominations, was forced by the band to do what he did, but the resulting reissues are a brickwalled disaster. In fact, if you want to show anyone what is wrong with modern remasters, you just need to pull out any of the ones Astley did for Judas Priest. What you will then hear, if you dare, is a totally crunched dynamic range, messed-up EQ, over-compression with volume fluctuations, plus a very unhealthy dose of absolutely awful noise reduction. In the end, every single note you hear sounds like you’re listening to FM radio (if you’re lucky). Ram It Down and Painkiller, for example, are so bad that the dogs in my hometown stop howling and instantly disappear wherever extremely frightened dogs disappear to.
Subsequent Anniversary Editions of some albums were even worse and I would consider Defenders of the Faith (2015) to be the worst monstrosity of them all. A rhino healthily defecating on your rug probably emits (much) better sonics. Screaming for Vengeance fared marginally better but has the same awful noise reduction it already had since 2001. The Single Cuts boxed set, the Complete Albums boxed set. All the same sonic excrement, albeit with minor tweaks here and there. The latter had better versions of Rocka Rolla and Sad Wings Of Destiny (done by Vic Anesini), but that didn’t keep that particular boat afloat. The reason that boxed set was available for next to nothing globally shortly after its release was its absolutely horrible reputation. It must be weighing down storage shelves all across the planet as we speak.
The Priest catalog was never a sonic marvel, but what was done to it is a clusterfuck of epic proportions.
If you want to hear what this excellent band really sounds/sounded like, listen to the original LPs, get yourself some decent LP rips for digital consumption or, if you want to pay the steadily rising prices for them, get the original unremastered (US) CDs. They are (mostly) crankable and have dynamic range, but they also have their problems. Sin after Sin, for example, sounds quite a bit removed from any original master tape. If you can find it, the original Metal Works compilation (only the 1993 original pressing, as the later edition had its contents replaced with that Astley puke) is a good bet if you don’t need Priest’s entire output. If you only liked Killing Machine (a.k.a. Hell Bent for Leather on remote continents), get the Audio Fidelity version (which, to be honest, is only a minor improvement over the original US pressing … if at all).
All we can hope for is that some generous soul (probably only after everyone in Judas Priest is dead and buried, including relatives) will apply him- or herself to getting this back catalog into better (original) sonic shape.
Until then, flip Judas Priest (and Jon Astley) the middle finger.
They deserve it.