Speed metal anthems and mid tempo jewels conquer this Judas Priest ‘Painkiller’ release, accompanied by Chris Tsangarides’ crystalline sharp production.
Written by: George The Jack
ARTIST: Judas Priest
SERIAL: 467290 2
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Rob Halford – vocals * K.K Downing – guitars * Glenn Tipton – guitars * Ian Hill – bass * Scott Travis – drums
Additional Musicians: Don Airey – Keyboards on ‘Touch Of Evil’
TRACK LISTING: 01 Painkiller * 02 Hell Patrol * 03 All Guns Blazing * 04 Leather Rebel * 05 Metal Meltdown * 06 Night Crawler * 07 Between The Hammer And The Anvil * 08 A Touch Of Evil * 09 Battle Hymn * 10 One Shot At Glory * 11 Living Bad Dreams (bonus) * 12 Leather Rebel (live bonus)
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Judas Priest were meant to enter the 90s with a record that not only represented a landmark in their history as a band, but also creating a large impact on heavy metal all over the world. However, the record in question was completed a few months earlier than scheduled. The notorious court dispute that afflicted the band for years, stalled the album from coming out until late 1990, and not before the band members were cleared of accusations regarding two young men committing suicide in the U.S.A.
Having to overcome an overall exhaustion due to constant trials, along with controversial reviews regarding their former album, ‘Ram It Down’ and its commercial failure, the band needed a release, not only restored to their original style, but fresh enough to lead them ahead into a new decade. A combination of Chris Tsangarides production skills and drumming newcomer Scott Travis (Racer X) provided a sense of enthusiasm leading to this long awaited outcome.
Rumor has it that Scott had such a desire to play for Judas Priest, that he considered ‘camping’ with his drumset outside the band’s hotel in order to impress them with his skills. Thankfully for his sake, he settled for handing them a demo tape instead – which ultimately gained him a job, in place of the long serving Dave Holland.
Speed metal anthems and mid tempo jewels conquer the ‘Painkiller’ release, accompanied by Chris Tsangarides’ crystalline sharp production. This vein affected dozens of speed and power metal bands in the following years.
Opening ‘Painkiller’ sweeps you off your feet, from the very start. Travis introduces himself with an overwhelming drum intro, leading to a Tipton / Downing guitar duo and their impressive lead breaks, being played in turns with incredible variations, constructing an typical guitar dialogue between the duo. One can’t help noticing that Tipton has transformed into a 6 string virtuoso with tremendous imagination, showing not only in his solos but in his inspired riffs as well.
‘Painkiller’, ‘All Guns Blazing’, ‘Metal Meltdown’ and ‘Leather Rebel’ follow speed forms, inducing intense headbanging to any listener, while Rob Halford reveals a harsher and sharper personality, always using his wide vocal range to the max and unfolding his enchanting voice and its magnificent abilities.
A pompous and marching melody gradually leads to a triumphant chorus in the amazing ‘Hell Patrol’, which is my personal favourite, while ‘Night Crawler’, ‘Between The Hammmer And The Anvil’ and ‘One Shot At Glory’, cut back on the speed, uncovering more of the band’s gifts, openly referring to their glorious past.
This writer is overwhelmed with melodies and sing-a-long choruses that keep playing in one’s head over and over again, while Halford’s vocals are of unquestioned quality, subjecting you to drift away. The album lyrical theme varies from rock attitude to epic battle moods, to dark pagan paths of mystic rituals.
A special reference should be made to the monster ballad ‘Touch Of Evil’ that’s impearled with Halford’s performance, keyboard hero Don Airey’s unique ritualistic playing, while Tsangarides has contributed in this piece of art too. The 2001 Reissue includes two bonus tracks. ‘Living Bad Dreams’, an amazing unreleased emotional anthem and another rendition of ‘Leather Rebel’, a live version.
From the above, one can easily conclude that we are dealing with a spotlight, which, along with Iron Maiden‘s ‘Fear Of The Dark’ and Metallica‘s ‘Black Album’, stigmatized the 90s and nursed an upcoming generation of metal fans. In the years that followed, Rob left the band to satisfy his musical (and ‘personal’..) interests, disappointing Judas Priest fans all over the world.
Returning to Judas Priest in later years, Halford had already adopted thrash elements from his frequent contact with Pantera and musicians like Roy Z, together with industrial influences, while the band had already been experimenting with thrash forms from their ‘Jugulator’ era.
In a few words, if this record is not a part of your collection yet, you should obtain it at once, as it represents a memorial of the hard melodic metal scene that can hardly be repeated. In polls that have been taken place in Rock/Metal magazines, ‘Painkiller’ justly takes up a place in the top 20 metal albums of all time. It was gold certified and did receive a Grammy nomination for the Best Metal Performance in 1991.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)