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I was really expecting to like this record; Painkiller's been my favourite Priest since time immemorial and I've always been somewhat enamoured, or at least more sympathetic than most, of the Ripper era. At the end of the day, I prefer the newer, heavier, stupider version of Priest over that old bunch of nerds that did Victim of Changes and shit. This breaks the streak of good Priest albums though; it's quite mediocre, in fact maybe not all that good, in fact maybe it's up there with Turbo and RiD as the worst Priest ever written (haven't heard Nostradamus yet, probably won't).
Musically, it's rarely truly horrible (Angel being an exception, it's the worst ballad they've ever done); most of the songs have a lot of almost-there moments with a predictable stumbling block. 'Worth Fighting For''s effective, bummed out road ballad (feelin ya there, Halford) vibe ends up going nowhere very quickly- i'm not sure what annoys me so much about the bridge in that song but it does get irriating quick? 'Hellrider' has a brilliant instrumental section that's ruined by.. the rest of the song. Demonizer's retarded chorus, Lochness's close-but-no-cigar shot at Candlemass-esque despair and grandeur, well, the band tries hard on this album, but none of the songs do itt- musically speaking.
I say "musically speaking" because while Downing, Tipton and co generally hover around the mediocre mark here, that's not the main issue with the album. As mentioned earlier I've generally preferred Priest at their heaviest and stupidest (Painkiller is my favourite Priest song, after all) but here there's just too much stupid without the heavy- or at least without quality music, anyway- balancing it out. By and large, my philosophy has been one of "I don't care about lyrics but if they're really bad they can drag an album down", and here's all the proof of said train of thought. Demonizer (OUT DEMONS OUT), Lochness, Wheels of Fire- probably the best song on here, with it's rocky British Steel esque good times- not musically awful, not brilliant, but not bad- but the lyrics, man. They just kill it for me! Wouldn't be bad if this was a death metal album, or they were soaked in reverb, mixed down and what have you, but they're there high in the mix, highly audible, and meant to be sung along with.
I daresay if you can ignore the lyrics you will, at least, find this passable and mildly entertaining in sections. For the rest of us though, the stupid/heavy ratio is just too shitty. Avoid, as it's basically a really bad version of Painkiller.