Breaking the Law

"Breaking the Law" is a song by British heavy metal band Judas Priest, originally released on their 1980 album British Steel. The song is one of the band's better known singles, and is recognized by its opening guitar riff.


Vocalist Rob Halford is sitting in the back of a Cadillac with the roof down singing the song and it seems that no one is driving it. Then he meets with two men dressed all in black and carrying guitar cases at a bank and they burst inside, at which point the two men remove their disguises and are revealed to be guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton, and are then joined by bassist Ian Hill and drummer Dave Holland, and point their instruments at the camera singing the chorus "Breaking the law". They intend to rob the bank and torment the customers and staff by their loud electric guitars and bashing drums, with one shot of an old man who wears glasses breaking them due to the decibels. The Security guard, however, was sleeping but then woke up afterwards because of the robbery. Halford then opens the safe (Note that no tools are used - it is the power of their rock that breaks the metal safe) and reveals that he was looking for (ironically) the Gold Record Award for British Steel. The Security Guard is just smiling. They soon leave the bank with the gold record, get back into the car and drive off at which point Halford gives the camera the finger. And as the Security Guard sees a Rock Concert performance on his Security TV, he takes out his "Fake Guitar" and pretends to play the rock song just enjoying himself. Then the car drives by and the video ends with all five band members singing the chorus until the song is finished.


Since British Steel was released, "Breaking the Law" has been a popular staple at some of Judas Priest's most famous performances, most notably at the VH1 Rock Honors. The performance version of the song has evolved since 1980: at first, the band would play it the original way it was made. As time progressed, you can see that when the riff is played [and even when the song starts in recent performances], the band lines up from Halford to Downing to Tipton and to Hill as Halford hits the string and Downing does the fingering. Also, before the song ends [the final time the riff is played], Halford, Tipton and Downing line up side to side and move from side to side to the tune of the music. Even how the song was played has changed: originally, the song was played according to the music video and original performance, but, soon, the song got slightly faster and added a solo by Downing in between the second chorus and the final riff.

Critical reaction

The song Made VH1's 40 Greatest Metal Songs making the list at 40 .



Artists who have covered this song include:

  • Anal Cunt (on Another EP)
  • Alter Ego X (on Not For Intellectuals, live DVD)
  • Therapy? (on the single Nowhere, 1994)
  • XnmE (on Metal Madness 1980-1989)
  • Kristallnacht
  • Unleashed (on Across The Open Sea)
  • Doro (on Classic Diamonds)
  • The Cooters (on their 1995 album Invasion Of The Cooters)
  • Ensiferum (on Ensiferum)
  • T.R.G.O (at a talent show).
  • Hammerfall - All of the band members switched instruments for this version, and Oscar Dronjak, who sang, dressed in a manner similar to Rob Halford's iconic biker gear look.
  • Los Mox
  • Barcode
  • Ghouls Black Death
  • Hayseed Dixie
  • Pansy Division
  • Mavericks
  • Sturm Und Drang
  • The Junkyard Dogs aka The Supersuckers
  • Fightstar (Kerrang 'Higher Voltage')(2007)
  • Divit (a punk version of the song for the Compilation album Punk Goes Metal)
  • Medical Murder
  • The Meteors
  • Chamán de Kromañon
  • Green Means Go
  • Hellsongs (on Lounge EP)
  • The True Vinternatt
  • Berri Txarrak
  • Skafari
  • Mortifier (on Euthanasia 1993)



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