Judas Priest is a name every metalhead knows. Formed by guitarist KK Downing, bassist Ian Hill, and vocalist Al Atkins in 1969, the band toured the UK for the first few years of it existence, supporting acts such as Budgie and Thin Lizzy. Before the recording of the band's debut album Rocka Rolla, the band found its main core for the next several years in Rob Halford and Glenn Tipton. Judas Priest went on to record Rocka Rolla, as well as eight more studio albums, while being hailed as one of the best heavy metal bands in the world. Than in 1986 the unthinkable happened. Judas Priest released Turbo, an album which many fans condemned. The band added synths to their work, an unforgivable decision, or so the "true metal" fans claimed as they clung to their Iron Maiden, Manowar, and Metallica records. But the Priest soldiered on recording their eleventh album, Ram it Down in 1988. However, it was also not well received, and again the band was left looking for answers. But not even the most faithful fans of Priest could imagine what tricks the band had up its sleeve in the coming years.
The first change the band experienced occurred after the Ram it Down Tour. Drummer Dave Holland left due to musical differences and personal problems. His replacement was none other than Racer X drummer Scott Travis. Scott helped breathe some life into the band, as well as helped ease the band into their, at the time, unheard sound. The band also called up the man was the engineer on Sad Wings of Destiny, Chris Tsangarides, to produce the so far, untitled album.
Judas Priest finally released Painkiller
on September 3rd, 1990. It was an instant classic. The band came roaring back into the heavy metal universe with perhaps its heaviest release yet. Painkiller was a speed metal masterpiece, and its take no prisoners style was very influential over the next decade and a half, especially to German power metal bands such as Primal Fear and Gamma Ray.
Unlike in previous albums, every song is strong on Painkiller. Whether it be the heavy, intense title track; the short but energetic Leather Rebel
; The very metallic sounding Metal Meltdown
; or the mid paced and dark Between the Hammer and the Anvil
; each song is worth listening to. None of the songs could really be considered filler except for maybe Battle Hymn
, as it is just a short introduction to the tenth track, One Shot At Glory
. The two bonus tracks on the remaster: the ballad Living Bad Dreams
, and Leather Rebel (Live)
, are also excellent, excellent tracks and very well deserve to be on the album.
Painkiller is full of many memorable riffs and leads from Glenn and K.K. Among the finest moments of the album come from the intense riffing combined with Halford's wailing vocals. In many of the songs, the guitar work is very aggressive, especially in the relentless title track. The songs found on Painkiller are very energetic from start to finish, and each member seems to feed off each other's performances.
If Painkiller had a weak point, it would be the lyrics that were put together for the album's songs. Judas Priest has never been known for writing deep or introspective lyrics, but what you'll find on Painkiller is some of the worst of their career. Silly lines such as "Faster than a lazer bullet / Louder than an atom bomb!"(Painkiller
), "Cross cutting thundercharge / Blade of destruction / Flame throwing hurricane destroys the cage"(All Guns Blazing
) or "Imminent Collision / Shockwaves all around / Generating energy / Screams so loud"(Metal Meltdown
) can be heard throughout the album. The lyrics aren't bad enough to bring down an album Painkiller's stature, but at times they are very cringe worthy. This is my only complaint with Painkiller, however, and it isn't really that big of a problem.
Unfortunately, this would be the last album that vocalist Rob Halford would take part in with the band until 2005's Angel of Retribution, fifteen years later. Rob went on for form many projects such as Fight or his solo band, Halford in the coming years. Priest, on the other hand, layed low for seven years, before releasing their next album Jugulator with Tim 'Ripper' Owens. While this occurred, their 1990 release, Painkiller, flexed it's influential muscle, particularly in the field of power metal, where many band's tried to recreate it's intense riffing and unforgettable leads in their own albums. Painkiller is easily one of the all time great speed metal albums, and definitely ranks among Judas Priest's top 3 albums.