Review Summary: Easily one of the most accessible yet vigorously metal albums, the Priest managed to create a deceptively balanced record in Screaming For Vengeance.
By the turn of the decade in 1980 Judas Priest managed to make a name for themselves between releasing Killing Machine
(aka Hell Bent For Leather) and British Steel. After these two records hit shelves, the band became almost instantly identifiable as the “metal gods,” while also being known for wearing black leather and silver studs on stage. The band’s reputation would only continue to head upward following the release of Screaming For Vengeance. This album contains some of the band’s most celebrated tracks and has earned its place as a fan favorite among many.
Opening with one of the band's better songs, “The Hellion/Electric Eye” kicks things off very well while serving as a proper precursor to “Riding on the Wind,” one of the Priest’s more energetic tracks. The three following songs gradually settle the album's sound down before going full-blast again on the title track, showcasing top-notch charisma from renowned vocalist Rob Halford and guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing. Following that show-dazzler comes arguably the band’s most famous song, “You Got Another Thing Coming,” a generally rebellious yet feel-good track that dares you to not sing along. After the modest but likable “Fever” the album closes out nicely with the moderately gleeful “Devil’s Child.”
Easily one of the best aspects of Screaming For Vengeance is the pacing. Every track feels like it has been given the right amount of time to be expressed, helping them flow into each other quite well. The album isn’t terribly lengthy (forty minutes without the bonus tracks), which is perfect for the musical style present here since the songs are generally brisk and help keep the album from overstaying its welcome.
In regards to the band members, frontman Rob Halford is the immediate standout with Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing having an equally terrific presence. Rob’s vocals are in excellent form here, hitting high yet nicely controlled pitches on the title track and “Riding on the Wind” while managing to show some good singing on “You Got Another Thing Coming” and giving hints of passion on “Fever.” Instrument-wise, you’re not going to find many who can hold up with Downing and Tipton for balancing technique with clear interpretability in-chorus. Though the work here isn’t exactly face-melting material, there’s still some impressive playing to be heard throughout. And with perfectly placed solos breaking the songs up without feeling overdone, less insane shredding makes for a better sound here. As for then-drummer Dave Holland and long-time bassist Ian Hill, they rarely shine on this album (though this has almost always been the case with Hill), but Dave does manage to have a couple strong moments such as the intro to “Riding on the Wind.”
However, the one area Screaming For Vengeance falters on enough to be noticeable is, as with plenty of other Priest records, the lyrics. It’s not that the lyrics are all bad, it’s just that we’re only given a couple songs that have good material. The clear exception to this lyric mediocrity is “Electric Eye,” which arguably has more relevance today than it did back in ’82. However, outside of that and “You Got Another Thing Coming,” there’s really little lyrical substance to find here. Granted, the simplicity of the lyrics has become one of the appealing factors for the band, but even some of the well-intentioned writing here simply isn't handled all that well.
All told, Screaming For Vengeance is a fine example of how to make an album and is also a very easy recommendation to any metal fan. From an aspiring headbanger to the widest listener of every subgenre, this is a record that can easily click with anyone. While the entire band isn’t on full display and the lyrics aren’t exactly the best out there, this album has more than enough charm to help you look past this and manages to be a great, easy listen.