without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Well yes, you guessed it right: this is my favorite album in existence. For my 100th review in MA (with apologies to the moderators) I had to do something special. So… are you in for non-stop fanboy masturbatory praise mini-novel? If you are, welcome, my valiant friend. I applaud you. If you're not, well, I honestly don't care much… after all, Painkiller's better than you, better than me ;) It all started at the end of the 80s, when Priest realized they were famous and successful enough but needed to ante up their game, as younger, bolder bands were producing more powerful metal; faster, heavier, meaner, tighter. Thrash metal, speed metal, power metal and even the nastier nascent death metal, which had already reared it's rotten head here and there, made their last couple of albums, Turbo and Ram it Down, sound like Duran Duran. It has been reported that the Metal Gods themselves where actively listening to all this metal bonanza made by their human followers, so decided to descend back to Earth to push the limits once again, as they did during the mid-70s, when they took the metal throne from Sabbath. They did so, thus unleashing upon the masses their utmost champion, the ultimate metal creation: THE FUCKING PAINKILLER!
I was around fourteen years old when a friend lent me THE GREATEST METAL ALBUM OF ALL TIME. I had not listened to Judas Priest previously, so didn't have any expectations about it. My friend told me the vocals were “too much”, but after you got used to them they kicked ass. Before that point, my experience in metal was reduced to worshipping Metallica above everything else, listening to them on a daily basis while also listening to some Scorpions, Megadeth, some Pantera and 90s Sepultura… so you can imagine my head exploding the first time the title-track came blasting forth from my speakers. Sweet baby Rob!!! What the hell is this?! So much power, so much energy! Those mighty riffs, those stratospheric screams, Scott's thunderous double bass battery… they changed my life forever. Before pushing 'play' a Metallica fanboy existed. After listening to the whole thing, a metalhead emerged. Painkiller got me delving further into Judas Priest past discography, along with Iron Maiden's. And from there, I just kept exploring and exploring. I thank this record for giving me my current taste in metal, and not allowing myself to be transformed into a nu metal adorer and consumer during the mid-to-late 90s, as most of my generation in Mexico did. Black Sabbath, Slayer, Blind Guardian, Immortal, Suffocation, Candlemass… they were all waiting for me out there. The Painkiller showed me the way. So to this day, you can understand why there isn't an album I cherish, enjoy and worship more than this one.
Starting with Mark Wilkinson's cover artwork (the band’s concept, actually), this got me by the balls with a grip of steel and never let go. I was already immersed deep into all things fantasy, sci-fi and horror, so watching a badass but sensual, maybe even a bit homoerotic (perhaps Rob's suggestion) metallic angel riding a flying, living dragon-Harley over a red-hot apocalyptic landscape, complete with humans jumping out of the falling buildings into their fiery demise, had all the right elements to make me really interested. The booklet also, as some of my fellow reviewers have already mentioned, is also iconic in its own right. Red pages with a clear grey Judas Priest cross logo stamped on them, a simple but monumental black and white photo of the band posing amidst a rocky landscape, looking like some rejects from Lord Humungus' gang in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. Even the buzzsaw shape of the CD… damn, this album was conceived to slay and kick so much ass! Though nothing could have ever prepared me for what I was about to listen. Not even if I had been able to listen to Priest's material before this one. Oh no, this is another whole fucking level!
Right from Scott Travis' immortal drum solo intro 'til the final fading notes of “One Shot at Glory” this is pure metal mastery, supreme and stainless. The addition of the Racer-X drummer brought additional power and speed (two words I will repeat ad nauseam in this review) to their rhythmic section, which hasn't been this interesting and mighty since the late 70s. A master of double bass pummeling, you can witness his awesomeness in all songs, but I'd say “Leather Rebel” is the composition in which he shines the most. Fortunately for the band and the rest of the World, Scott would become Judas Priest's definitive drummer, as he continues to play in the band, 27 years and counting, playing the classics with ease while still hitting the skins at full speed when needed. Honestly, Ian Hill's bass playing has never been more than compelling, an often quiet but always solid backbone for the rest of the band, and that didn't change here. But that doesn't diminishes this tour-de-force's quality nor status at the top of the metal elite masterpieces, not when you have the Holy Trinity of Downing-Halford-Tipton putting to tape the best work of their lives.
The speed metal anthem that is the colossal opening title-track is arguably the best metal song ever, despite being born 20 years after the birth of heavy metal music. The riffs and rhythm are just irresistible to headbangers worldwide; there's just no fucking way to listen to it and not bang your head as fast as possible. It also features one of metal's greatest guitar solos ever, at almost one and a half minute in length probably Glenn Tipton's magnum opus. K.K. Downing's output is no less stellar, and one can attest he was and is as great as Glenn in the slightly overlooked closer “One Shot at Glory”, which happens to be one of his and the record's strongest compositions. But the riffs in each and every tune here have enough personality, complexity and raw power to propel every song into metal stardom. Most compositions are fast, but not everything's relentless blazing. Pace is slowed down a bit during the creepy and nasty “Night Crawler” or the dark ballad “A Touch of Evil”, which compensate their apparent lower energy levels with awesome atmosphere. Between the two Priest axemen, at that time already veteran riffcrafters, they gave the World a masterclass in how to compose and play metal, AGAIN. And there, my metal brothers and sisters, resides some of the magic and importance of this work. Not only it rekindled Priest's career and artistic credibility, but cut their ties on living from past glories and helped push the whole scene into new territory. This is indeed a 1990 album, and the 80s where left behind in its scorching, influential path. Newer bands would look up to the Metal Gods again, with their new level of aggression, speed and power as the measuring stick.
Here is where I comment on the Thundersteel comparison issue. Well, no one can deny there are similarities between Riot's and Priest's masterpieces, and to be honest I love them both, both deserve a 100% rating in my book. Perhaps that American album is one of the many that influenced Priest in their change of direction, though that was already hinted in 1988's Ram it Down. But there's something that makes the difference evident between the two. Or more aptly said, someone. With all my respect and love to Tony Moore's vocals… he's just not The Metal God. Robert John Arthur Halford delivers here what is indisputably (at least for me) the greatest performance by a metal vocalist … ever. His vocals on “Painkiller” are something from beyond this plane of existence. He truly sounds both divine and evil, omnipotent, badass beyond compare, simply mind-blowing! For me the only comparison would be himself on “Dreamer Deceiver” from Sad Wings. It took me some time to adjust to his level of awesomeness, but I remembered what my friend told me. He does shine in the whole record, just like his bandmates, but the title-track remains my favorite from him, and when he sings it live… DAMN! That is certainly something to behold, even now, 26 years after recording and performing it for the first time.
Thundersteel and Painkiller are also differentiated by their production values. Another sign of the changing times Priest was committed to undertake, is the fact that Chris Tsangarides replaced long time collaborator Tom Allom, giving them a meatier, clearer but at the same time harder edged sound, while contributing to the composition of “A Touch of Evil”. Riot's album sounds deeply rooted in the 80s, while Painkiller sounds way more modern, and its powerful mixing holds up to today's standards of quality with ease. And finally, the former record has a greater power metal influence, belonging with the great USPM classics Ample Destruction and Unstoppable Force as the top of their style, while Priest's twelfth studio LP is unadulterated heavy metal accelerated to rapid fire velocity; the quintessential speed metal record. Complete with simplistic but hymn-like unforgettable lyrics, nothing beats it:
Burning the road
Speed demons cry
The Hell Patrol”
Metal maniacs, metal saviors, blazing salvo, darkness, fire, glory… it's all metal ethos here. Cliché as hell? Sure. Metal 101 lore? You fuckin' bet your ass! Sure, it isn't the fastest, more technical metal album ever released, it wasn't in its day for a start, but the sheer power, class and spirit this magnum opus possesses will never be matched, not to mention NO ONE can or will ever match the Metal God’s metahuman singing on this record. For me, this is the One Ring, the apex predator in metal, the masterpiece of masterpieces, the one album I would play to aliens visiting our planet not knowing what metal music is, the one album I would play to humans from an alternate dimension in which Dio, Lemmy, Cliff, Pete Steele, Midnight, J.D. Kimball, Clive Burr, Jimmy Bain and Nick Menza are alive and well, still playing, but there's no Judas Priest. If you are new to metal and interested in learning, picking this record is probably the best thing you can do. If you're a veteran like myself, or even more veteran, well… let's sing along:
If ever there was an album that could define both power and speed metal, one which is completely evocative of metal in the '80s and the blazing, carefree spirit that supercharged the genre in that decade, it would be this. The one, the only, the almighty, chromium plated blazing steel bolt that is Painkiller. It isn't the most intelligent album ever, lyrically, structurally or aesthetically, but that is missing the point. No other album in metal is quite so capable of embracing it’s fun side without delving into comedic territory; this is the absolute pinnacle of the light of heart side of metal that from start to finish is an all-out assault on the senses in the most headbangable, melodic and catchy of fashions. Nothing before or since has been quite such an effective love letter to a bygone era in metal's history (not to say the '70s or '90s weren't awesome for metal in their own way, but we don't care about those times right now.)
And not only is this *the* flagship album of the time, sub-genre and mindset it represents, but it is also the culmination of the almighty Priest, at least in their leather-clad, silly '80s form. It is the perfect combination of the rockin' heavy metal of Killing Machine up to Defenders of the Faith, the undeniable synth-laden catchiness of Turbo and half of Ram It Down, and the hard-edged aggression of the other half of Ram It Down and other classics like 'Exciter' or 'Freewheel Burning'. Wrap that all up with a new metal god behind the kit and you have a shiny, new, blazing Priest, ready to kick the thrash scene's ass with the perfect modernisation of all their past developments.
Right from the off, this album grabs you by the throat and unleashes its first form of attack: THE DRUMMING! Seriously, Scott Travis of Racer X fame is an absolute tour de force behind the kit here, crashing into every single song with flurry after flurry of double bass and pounding, stomping beats. He injects the songs with so much noise and energy that he takes the songs to new heights of intensity and energy. His performance reminds me of a stampede of prize bulls running down a red brick road, all loud, stomping, over the top and furiously fast. The difference here though is that unlike said sirloin steak, he also knows when to slow down to fit with the pacing and atmosphere of the song and not throw everything off-time with his exuberance and power. He shows restraint when needed, but is otherwise balls to the wall, restless and wild, and a fucking rebel. Accept would be proud, as would any metal drummer, nay, any metalhead listening, in fact.
Not to detract from the very next thing this album shoves down the listener's throat, the very body of any good metal album, the riffs. Oh yes, there are bags and bags of razor sharp and classic riffs to be found here. They perfectly nail the balance between melodic power metal epicness and hard-driving, speed metal fury, to create the ultimate in high octane metal riffing. They drive the songs like nothing else, and the album is loaded with so many of 'em, in addition to memorable licks and melodies, that everything sticks with you after one or two listens. Whether it be the thrashing goodness of 'Metal Meltdown' or 'Leather Rebel' or the more epic, power metal-esque 'Hell Patrol' or 'A Touch of Evil'... every last riff is awesome on this, every last one is memorable, every last one is headbangable, and energetic, and inspired, and just a masterclass in power/speed riffing. And of course by 'they' I meant the metal shredder tag team of Glenn Tipton and K. K. Downing... holy shit do they deliver here as ever, and not just on the rhythm front. Needless to say, the Tipton/Downing trade off leads here are as amazing as ever. The soloing is complex and lengthy without being noodling or unmemorable. They are melodic and flowing whilst still being aggressive and sharp, and are the perfect counterpoint to the pounding riffs and drumming surrounding them. Whether it be a simple harmonised lead or an all-out shred fest that would make Malmsteen smile, they do it all, and nail it every fucking time.
And we haven't even got to the best bit yet. Rob Halford is a fucking demon on this album; he truly is a heavy metal maniac (Exciter bows down in awe.) He really gives it his all here and delivers the finest performance in his entire career, better even than the likes of 'Victim of Changes' way back in 1976. His standard mid-range is powerful and commanding as it always has been, but his constant shrieks and sporadic glass-shattering high notes are otherworldly. They are stunning, awe-inspiring, and will give anyone goosebumps. They are placed in the songs perfectly to create a haunting and tense atmosphere of unprecedented levels. And every last lyric, no matter how over the top and cheesy they may seem, is a love letter to the burning spirit that drives metal, the very core of what makes the genre so wonderful. Who cares if 'paratamize' isn't a word? They made it a word, and made it convincing enough that I'll sing along every fucking time, and if a listener has even an inkling of activity in their heart and head, they'll do the same. Something like 'Nightcrawler' is an amazing horror story of electric atmospheres and creatures clawing at the windows, told in a frantic and yet brooding way that only the best narrators can manage. Of course, the namesake 'Painkiller' is the epic tale of the metallic saviour on the cover who destroys all in its path. This is why it is called POWER metal, people!
Ah poor Ian Hill, he was never the most prominent of bassists and thus is seldom mentioned in the context of Priest unless it is to criticise how hidden away he is. Not on this, he isn't. It may be the production itself, which I'll get to shortly, but this album is extremely heavy for what it is, and I know for a fact that Scott Travis isn't the only one providing bass on the album. This album is as heavy as a fucking anvil, with the already hard as fuck and sharp riffs being given that bit more low-end muscle by good ol' Hill. Of course, he is being helped by the production, which is hands down one of the single best production jobs I have ever heard. The whole album sounds like it is made of stainless steel. Everything is sharp, crisp, loud and slick. The drums, particularly the omnipresent double bass, resonate like nothing else. The guitars can cut through solid lead. The vocals are the sound of a man with a metal heart, and the low end is punishing and powerful. The whole album is vivid, pulsating with energy and fucking alive, and this production is a pretty big reason as to why that is.
Add all this sheer HEAVY FUCKING METAL awesomeness together, and you get 9 unbelievably awesome monuments to metal. Judas Priest get everything right about the songwriting on this one - sticking to verse-chorus structures while making the songs evolve throughout, giving the songs a fluid, flowing texture through near constant use of the double bass, long and gratuitous soloing that never overstays its welcome, it’s all here! The vocal lines are insanely memorable, which is important for something anthemic akin to the epic closer 'One Shot at Glory' or the blazing power metal track 'Between the Hammer and the Anvil'. Songs like 'A Touch of Evil' or 'Nightcrawler' evoke a strong atmosphere through either clever use of synths or haunting melodies and (relatively) occult lyrics. And then there are the speed metal masterpieces in the form of the title track (a top 3 greatest metal song for me, that is), 'Leather Rebel' and 'Metal Meltdown' - each one combining frantic drumming, thrash riffs, insane leads, Rob's alien shrieks and the fastest tempos of their career to produce burning slabs of speed metal fury. No one before or since has done it quite like these guys did it here.
And that my friends, is that. The very definition of metal's intangible spirit, as well as the ultimate incarnation of both power and speed metal. Every aspiring power or speed metal band since looks toward this shining beacon of all that was good about metal in the '80s for inspiration. It was defined by a generation and defines generations even today. Really, for those trying to get into Priest and don't know where it all started to go wrong for the band, it was after *this* album. The insane fury of this release is the result of heightened tensions between the band, and with the loss of Halford and the release of that thing we call Jugulator, that was where it all went wrong for the metal gods. Let us not dwell on that though, for we are in the presence of the Painkiller, which is once again, the very definition of '80s metallic excess. The album that sums up and defines where it came from and what it belongs to, the ultimate tribute to all that is trve and pure and elite in metal.
Judas Priest has made music all-over the map in terms of style. Throughout their long career, they have consistently produced albums that effectively reflected the shade of the metal scene at the time of their release. They've done it all: psychedelic (Sad Wings of Destiny, Sin after Sin) glam (Turbo, Ram it Down) and straight 4/4 heavy metal (British Steel, everything else).
After 4-years of 80's glamdom, and enough synth to make you wanna piss in a mason jar and dump it out of a skyscraper, they made a complete 180 degree turn with Painkiller (1990). With its disgustingly cheesy lyrics, smokin' Tipton/Downing leads, and Halford's operatic accordian-bladders for lungs, it makes for a very unique power-metal record.
Scott Travis makes a beautiful maiden voyage with Priest with the drum-intro and double-bass bushwhacking he delivers on the title-track. Tipton and Downing gouge out the mid with snarling riffs and leads, as Halford soars 2 octaves over everybody. Once again, the title-track is a scorcher that is about to become your sing-along staple. "All Guns Blazing" opens violently: leading into the scorching double-bass anthem of "Leather Rebel". The rest of the album doesn't stray too far from this path. The bass guitar, like most metal that came out between 1987 and 1991, is barely audible, leaving you with some good ol' mid-range noise fatigue. Can you handle it? Of course you can, because you are a jelly-brained metal-listener.
"Between the Hammer and the Anvil" is a throaty-epic with surprisingly great-lyrics and some of my all-time favorite vocals from Rob Halford. "A Touch of Evil" also stands out from the rest of the album with its bruising, synthy riff, and Rob's raspy voice dripping with lust.
This album is cheesy as fuck, and that is part of what makes it so enjoyable. The lyrics, as a whole, sound like they were ripped out of an elementary-school poetry compilation. The "Night Crawler", as described, would make a fine villain in Sesame Street. The Painkiller, who I assume to be the studly dude on the cover art, starts off as "faster than a bullet", and two verses later: Voila! He is now faster than a LASER bullet! Mixed with Rob's utterly ridiculous falsetto, the compulsion to sing-along is gosh-darn irresistible. I can only imagine the engineer sitting down to record this album: "What's the game plan Rob?' "TREBLE. Treble is the game plan."
This is one of the most fun-to-listen-to metal albums I have ever heard.
Painkiller, All Guns Blazing, Leather Rebel, Between the Hammer and the Anvil, Touch of Evil.
Metal Meltdown, Night Crawler
Pairs well with:
Intoxication and Karaoke
Judas Priest's Painkiller is one of the best comeback albums in metal history. It takes the speed/power metal of the previous album, Ram it Down, and combines it with the thrash metal style of bands like Metallica and Megadeth to create one of the greatest speed metal albums of all time.
The easiest way to describe Painkiller is as an intense speed metal shredfest. The opener/title track is a shredfest both guitar wise and drum wise, with its legendary drum intro, and it's unforgettable guitar solo. "Metal Meltdown", a metal anthem, opens with a dual guitar shredding solo, and then leads into some brutal riffing with almost thrash metal like intensity. This is how a lot of Painkiller is. The aggression here has increased by a great deal. Ram it Down and its predecessors were more melodic, and a bit softer. Painkiller is a fairly melodic album, it sounds more aggressive, and less like power metal. Glen Tipton and K.K Downing can shred like crazy. Both of them can do sweep picking as well as all out shredding, heard on songs such as the title track.
While Judas Priest have always embodied metal and its stereotypes, Painkiller shows a whole new level of metal embodiment. The title track may or may not be a metal anthem. "Metal Meltdown" is about Judas Priest's music itself. It is almost like they were thinking "Let's see how metal we can be."This is part of what makes Painkiller such a great album- it's pure metalness.
Rob Halford's vocals have gone to a whole new level as well. His range is unbelievable. His extremely high screams at the end of the title track sound almost like the high notes of a guitar. "All Guns Blazing", a title that perfectly describes the track, may freak the listener out with its high screaming intro that is very fun to hear. Lower vocals are used with just as much proficiency as the high vocals. The epic "Hell Patrol" features a more traditional Halford low vocal style. "Leather Rebel", on of the best songs on Painkiller, also has excellent lower vocals.
While Judas Priest did go very slightly glam metal with the Turbo album, Painkiller shows almost no traces of glam. The one trace of glam is the guitar and synthesizer ballad "A Touch of Evil". It isn't overtly glam metal sounding, but it heals just the right amount of glam. It is definitely one of the best power ballads of all time. It is unforgettable catchy, and it also features some great vocals, both low singing, and high screaming.
Judas Priest have stolen quite a few elements from thrash metal here. Painkiller is not a thrash metal album, that title would be a more apt description for the next Judas Priest album, Jugulator. Painkiller is more of a melodic speed metal album. However, a lot of the riffs, most notable "Metal Meltdown" are in a fast, thrash metal chug style. Both "All Guns Blazing" and "Metal Meltdown" have thrash metal style "mosh breakdowns" in the middle, which are some of the heaviest things written by Judas Priest.
Power metal also comes to mind when thinking about the influences on Painkiller. It takes the early power metal of Accept and Metal Church, and yes, early Judas Priest themselves, and adds an "epic" feel to it, making it one of the first "epic type records". "Leather Rebel" is a very melodic song with a catchy, sing along chorus. So, while Painkiller was influenced by power metal, it is also one of the biggest influences on the genre.
The drumming on Painkiller is the best drumming of any Judas Priest album. Scott Travis provides extremely fast rhythms, fills, and other interesting things. "Painkiller" has its legendary drum intro. "Metal Meltdown" has some of the greatest drumming ever heard in metal. Scott Travis is like a machine behind the drums. And not in the way of the drum machine controversially used on Ram it Down. I'm talking about his immense level of technical skill.
The album ends with the slower song, "Living Bad Dreams". It is not really a power ballad in the sense of "A Touch of Evil", but it is "ballad like". Still, it is much closer to an epic, with its powerful lyrics and delivery.
Painkiller is Judas Priest at their most powerful. The lyrics are almost as good as Ronnie James Dio's lyrics. They are deep and emotional, and could mean various things, as they use a great deal of symbolism. The melodic delivery on the vocals gives them even more power. Simply put, Painkiller is Judas Priest's best album, and on greatest metal albums ever to be released. The album should be enough to tell you that this is required listening for any metalhead.
After the release of the abysmal "Turbo" and the mediocre "Ram it Down" albums, Judas Priest finally decided to get their act together and craft some of their best material, and then some. As a result, we have "Painkiller", which turned out to be one of Priest's best since "British Steel". Gone is the goofiness of the poodle-haired "Turbo" and here we've got an album more serious. Possibly more serious than any Priest album released before.
Every song on here has some form of aggression on it, and that means getting rid of that rock influence as well as that pop influence that plagued the previous two albums. In fact, this might as well be the most aggressive Priest album ever made at that time, since there is a song, "Metal Meltdown", which contains a blindingly fast tempo. Other songs, like "All Guns Blazing" and "Between the Hammer and the Anvil" include fast and driving tempos, not to mention the foreboding vibe during the intro and the bridge of "Nightcrawler". This is proof that Priest didn't just try hard to eliminate the influence of "Turbo", they completely vaporized it into oblivion with an aggressive, flamethrowing sound. In terms of vocals, Rob Halford had brought back his signature screaming with "Ram it Down", but it wasn't until "Painkiller" when it really had the chance to shine the way it should. Here, his vocals are more powerful than ever, as he puts a lot more energy into them than in any song released previously. There are few moments in the title track where he calms down, and when he does, he never runs out of energy, he just sings a little softer. Even when he's not belting out metal screams, he can produce a very convincing performance. Take for instance, "Nightcrawler". During the bridge of that song, Rob sings/speaks with a gruff, yet soft sneer to convey a terrifying story.
The album is known for its more aggressive side, like with the title track and others, but the synthesizer has not disappeared. In fact, the band decided to use them the way they should be used; to supplement the sound of some of the songs rather than creating a glossy pop single. "One Shot at Glory", along with its intro "Battle Hymn", has them, but it's more aggressive than you'd expect it to be, 'cos the synthesizers are there, but the guitars take up much of it. They create an epic, powerful tone during before each chorus as Rob Halford sings a powerful melody "Nightcrawler" has a dark and forbidding tone as well, thanks to the synthesizers, which create a dark atmosphere, setting the stage for the titular monster as it stalks the streets. Even with the ballad (yes, there's a ballad), "A Touch of Evil", there isn't even the slightest hint of goofy radio-friendliness, not even with synthesizers involved. That's only 'cos the synthesizers don't choke the song with their influence, and let the guitars do all of the dirty work. There's also the fact that it's not wimpy and syrupy, like most ballads are, instead, we have a darker, more sinister tone that's actually punctuated by the synthesizers playing a cold, eerie hook as the guitars kick in.
Judas Priest didn't just come back with "Painkiller" they burst through the room at full-throttle, delivering what is arguably their finest effort. This album is one of my favorites, and it's not hard to see why. It's an album where Priest redefined their sound almost completely, and it ended up sounding excellent. The album's glory was not to last, however, as lousy alternative rock bands began to become the norm in the 90's. Priest was just coming back, too, so it couldn't have come at a worse time, when metal was almost completely wiped off the face of the Earth by the popularity of bland artists like R.E.M.
There are some albums that absolutely everybody should hear at least once in their lifetime, due to the fact that they are written so well that anyone, no matter what their preferred genre, can get into them. Judas Priest wrote several of these releases, but the one that was slightly overrated, Painkiller, is also the most interesting of these. Upon the time of its release, there was simply nothing out there that could boast quite the brash, unadulterated nature that Painkiller carried so proudly, and for this reason it truly is a landmark album, despite not being perfect as one would expect from an album of such a stature.
Kicking right off with the thrashy title track, it becomes immediately clear that something has changed about Judas Priest. Gone is the softer, more radio friendly styling of albums such as Screaming For Vengeance, and in its place we have a stunning, extremely heavy drum solo, before diving headfirst into a very aggressive song. This is one of the highlights of the album, coupling intense drumming with memorable riffing and Rob Halford's signature high pitched vocals, that match the apocalyptic feel of this song very well. However, in my opinion, it is the soloing on this song that really makes it as good as it is, with some incredibly powerful use of solos that are almost unmatched in all of metal.
Painkiller showcases that which is great about this album to great effect, showing off some very talented guitar work and fast drumming for its time. Rob Halford's vocals are still the high pitched style that much of the metal community will be familiar with, but it seems as though on this album he took it up a notch, hitting some ridiculously high pitched notes. Rob Halford really is one of the few metal vocalists out there who can come close to hitting some of the notes that fellow revered metal vocalist Bruce Dickinson can hit, which is an achievement in itself.
This album is considerably heavier than anything they had put out before, really pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable in its day and age to a near insane degree, but without ever being too off putting. When stacked against the extremities found today, it does not give off quite the same atmosphere nor impact, but when put into context, the true magic of this album seeps through. The musicianship on its own is stellar, but imagining what this must have sounded like upon release is where the beauty truly comes from. This is faster and far more aggressive than anything of its day, and delivers a truly lasting impact that does not deteriorate following numerous listens.
Despite having memorable riffing, however, Hell Patrol does not quite pack the same punch as the title track. In fact, only one of the songs on here can claim to be quite on the same level as Painkiller, and that is track 7, Between the Hammer And The Anvil. This has some of the most well thought out guitar work of its age, and is pure heavy metal at its finest. Night Crawler suffers from being a little too long but has some great drumming , whereas All Guns Blazing has an annoying vocals only intro, before going into some nice guitar work throughout, including a nice lead lick near the start. Metal Meltdown is another great song, with the chorus in particularly standing out as being rather catchy and having some great vocals to it.
This album, however, is just not a consistent one. Many of the tracks have one or two points that really do drag them down, with All Guns Blazing having the worst vocal performance on the album by a long way, and Battle Hymn feeling exceedingly unnecessary, despite just being there to prepare the listener for epic closer One Shot At Glory. This is another song that is just a tad too long, being the most drawn out song on the album, but having some brilliant vocal work and exceptional guitar playing to keep it away from being a poor song.
This is just an album that feels a little underwhelming when stacked up against the countless albums that have come out since that are a lot better. It is not a bad album, having a lot to love, especially the incredible guitar work throughout the entire release. The guitars on here are some of the best ever written, with crazy soloing across the board, and memorable riffs by the dozen. However, some of the songs are either too long or just have something dragging them down.
Even though Judas Priest are considered a heavy metal band, the songs on this album are played with such intensity that I dare wonder whether it wouldn’t be more fitting to label this album thrash metal. Why? Well, for starters I listen to it alongside early Slayer. ‘Painkiller’ is probably the best Priest work and it definitely deserves the recognition it has had for over two decades now.
The album is formed by 10 tracks that are each and every one all-time classics. Ask anyone who’s been into metal for awhile about any of these songs and they will surely tell you that the raw power present in this record is an unstoppably full throttle, full force hammer ripping through your ears, pummeling your brain and leaving you begging for more.
The secret behind this album’s success is the excellent performance of all five members of the band. Truth be said, these guys had already been very good on previous works, but the very special ingredient that catalyzed ‘Painkiller’ was the inclusion of drummer Scott Travis, a true genius behind the kit. From the very beginning of the opening track we can acknowledge the crushing power of his drumming, completely sweeping away every resistance before guitarists Rowling and Tipton, perfectly secured by bassist Hill, and introduce the devastating riff that sets the mood for the whole album: incredibly powerful, twisty, and heavy as hell. The stage is set for Halford to deliver his heavy duty vocals, comparable in intensity only to Bruce Dickinson’s, but far more evil than the Iron Maiden man.
The whole album is highly intense. The guitar duo present crushing riff after crushing riff as well as some uniquely thick and intricate solos that nobody else can match with such quality. The drums are simply unbelievable; Travis must have reached the end of the recording sessions completely sore judging by the way he uses and abuses his double bass pedals, conferring an over the top intensity that is amazing.
The lyrics are amongst the coolest you can find anywhere, from vicious hell patrols that will get you anyway to horrific monsters with wings, heroes with steel wheels, explosive fire power guns, and heart-inflaming desire for love and lust, you have all that a true metal heart may look for. Evil is everywhere and the Judas Priest members are still black leather bad boys.
No track stands out here because every single one is an absolute classic. The whole album is a relentless heavy metal attack that makes your heart race wildly, your head bang like hell, and your brain completely surrender to the pace of the music.
The production is killer as you can hear everything perfectly and yet the overall sound is quite brutal and as heavy as heavy metal can be. In fact, it is such a powerful album that listening to it alongside thrash metal acts will actually make sense.
If you like raw, powerful music wrapped in furious whirlwinds of state of the art twin guitar perfection, crushing drumming, enveloping bass, and very high-pitched vocals that reach incredibly high notes and sound extremely powerful, yet hypnotically melodic, grab this timeless classic. A true masterpiece.
Judas Priest had their rock music discography (1974-1981) when they played classic/hard rock, then they turned into heavy metal music (1982-1984) when they played classic heavy metal. Then comes pop music break with Turbo, and again they go back with heavy metal (1988-onward) where they did classic heavy metal releases, power metal release (this one) and symphonic metal (Nostradamus). Too many genres and sub-genres. This studio album deserves respect, but not too much, 'cause things are not always how we imagine. This was one of the most influential albums which had special impact on power metal bands. In fact, this is Judas Priest's power metal release. However, it's one of the most overrated albums ever. I mean, not excellent one, and definitely far from being perfect. This studio album is very good, but I can name tens of other albums where you can find every song which is excellent. It's not the case here. This is the only interesting and the most creative Judas Priest album, where you can find more excellent songs than in 2-3 albums together from the rest of their discography.
I give a limited respect to this release because it is so well-known, but the facts about its sound and idea are not well-known. This is known as one of the wonders of heavy metal music, one of the most original, unique studio albums and shit like that. But really, is it so? The answer is simple - no. This album is a pure rip-off, its sound, the whole image and idea. Distortion is improved, and doesn't sound like the stuff they did before. It sounds like Sanctuary's Refuge Denied. Sanctuary is underground band, but their studio album was known back then, and was accepted well. I bet they got it in their hands, and decided to sound like Sanctuary. Maybe I'm wrong, but no-one can deny the identical sound. Another reason why this release is not unique, because they stole the whole idea from Riot's Thundersteel. Just like Thundersteel, Painkiller is some kind of powerful fictive messiah who comes from the sky, rides horse of steel/metal monster, and slaughters evil, etc. Not just that they stole lyrical image, but both songs have fast drum work in the beginning with sharp riffs, although Painkiller's drum intro is more creative, high-pitched screams, fast tempo, technically demanding solos etc. Basically everything, just this studio album has better production.
So, whole work from album Painkiller, was inspired by work on Thundersteel. Thunder-steel, Pain-killer. Hm, kinda has the same feel. I did not come just to compare these three albums (Thundersteel, Refuge Denied and Painkiller), so I'll stick to the Painkiller now. I'm not hate-boy who came to piss on Judas Priest's work. I just state the facts. From these excellent songs which this studio album has to offer, Painkiller is the absolute highlight. A furious and powerful opener, which will catch every listener's attention after the very first listen. High-pitched singing parts and screams, blazing riffs, killer drum work, fast tempo, very good technical guitar solo, everything is perfectly packed. It really made impact on Kai Hansen who used this song as inspiration for some songs in Gamma Ray, and specially Ralf Scheepers, who made his entire discography with Primal Fear, influenced with this song. But both Kai and Ralf are god-like singers, and Rob can't match with them. Face it fanboys, Rob sucks live. He was never capable of singing this song live, and he rarely pulls some higher notes from other songs where he screamed. When he attempts to sing this song, he sounds like a baby crying, even worse.
Metal Meltdown is another excellent song done with the same pattern. The only difference is that Metal Meltdown has insane guitar solo in the beginning, and the rest, well... again lyrics without deeper meaning, blazing riffs, fast tempo, high-pitched screams and again very good technical guitar solo. Between The Hammer And Anvil is rare song which has lyrics with deeper meaning. If I'm right, it's probably about Judas Priest, when they were accused for having hidden messages in their songs, when two fans of theirs committed suicide. It is slower song comparing to these two above, but still it has faster tempo, heavy riffs, enjoyable rhythm, tempo etc. One Shot At Glory is another heavy riff-driven song, with Rob's higher register, Manowar inspired lyrics. I can feel Manowar influence in this whole release, specially influence from the aggressive, furious, and powerful song Black Wind, Fire And Steel. A Touch Of Evil is much different song than the ones I mentioned above. Mainly because it is powerful ballad-like slow, lustful song ('cause of lyrics of course, yeah, second song with meaningful lyrics).
The rest of the album is not impressive at all. Leather Rebel's intro sounds like Helloween's Victim Of Fate, which is another rip-off part of this album. It has mediocre lyrics, great riffs and drum rhythms, fast tempo, but fast doesn't mean excellent. Hell Patrol is mid tempo song which has enjoyable drum and guitar rhythms, nice singing parts, but guitar solo is not special at all, lyrics are crap and Rob's screams are annoying here. All Guns Blazing has annoying opener screams. It has similar guitar solo to Painkiller, tempo which is the same like in Painkiller and Metal Meltdown, in fact, it was done with the same pattern like Painkiller and Metal Meltdown, but not as half as good as these two songs. Mostly because of shit lyrics again, and making so many similar songs in one album is not impressive at all. Night Crawler has some catchy rhythms, but that's all.
Good sides of this release:
Some excellent furious, aggressive, melodic songs with blazing riffs, fast tempo, great high-pitched screams, also great slower songs.
Bad sides of this release:
Fairly overrated, mostly crap lyrics, some boring songs, and songs with less creative effort, whole thing is a big Riot's Thundersteel and Sanctuary's Refuge Denied rip-off. It's not the most unique, original or whatever studio album. However, it had influence on other bands.
Painkiller, Metal Meltdown, Between The Hammer And Anvil, A Touch Of Evil and One Shot At Glory.
I felt that I needed to leave a review for this album because it is probably my favorite Judas Priest album. Although some of the lyrics in the song in this album can be a bit cheesy, it is still great due to the fact that Rob Halford is singing them.
To start out, the title track, "Painkiller", starts out and just instantly crushes you. The drum solo at the beginning is just spectacular. Even the first guitar solo is amazing. This whole song just crushes you for the whole 6 minutes and is easily the best song on the album. I was once watching "That Metal Show" and Rob Halford was a guest on it and the audience was asking him questions and one of them was asked what is the greatest song ever. Rob Halford replied that the greatest song ever was "Painkiller", and I must say that I will agree with him. This is just a kick ass song.
The next songs, "Hell Patrol" and "All Guns Blazing", are also awesome. The guitar parts and drumming in it are just great. I also personally feel that the chorus of these songs rock. When the high scream comes up in the song "Hell Patrol", it is probably my favorite part of the song. The song that comes after that, "Leather Rebel", is another fantastic song. The opening guitar riff (fast and heavy) is what instantly tells you that it will be a great song. Even the chorus of this song is just like classic Priest, having the high pitch scream in the background and it is just awesome.
"Metal Meltdown" is what comes next and the opening guitar solo in that song is remarkable and even when that ends and the rest of the song starts, it is fast and awesome. The song "Night Crawler" is also amazing. It opens up with kind of an eerie sound to it which is what to me adds some of the greatness to it. The style of how Halford does the vocals is just amazing and with his voice right beside that is a key to making this song awesome.
To sum it all up, this is maybe the greatest metal album of all time and I would recommend any metal head to listen to it. The intensity and the speed throughout the whole album is just fantastic and is why i love it so much. You are just amazed with the whole 46 minutes that it plays and you will not be able to resist to head bang or at least move your head a little bit when listening to this.
I can do this for all of the songs on this album. I think that all of them are really good. I have heard some people say that this isn't a good Judas Priest album. Sure it isn't like other Judas Priest albums but that doesn't mean that it is bad. I just can't fathom why people would think that this album isn't as good as the other Judas Priest albums. I must say that this is probably my favorite Judas Priest album along with "Screaming For Vengeance."
Shocking: this is the best way to describe Painkiller, the studio album published by Judas Priest in 1990. If the band from Birmingham during the previous decade had rewrote the rules of heavy metal with masterpieces like Screaming For Vengeance and Defenders Of The Faith, in 1986 they published Turbo, in which they left their classic style introducing a softer sound and using synthesized guitars, causing discontent among fans. Then they retraced their steps with Ram It Down, a good work with some good songs but certainly not a masterpiece and not particularly original. So at the beginning of the nineties Judas Priest appeared as an almost tired and without ideas band until they incredibly published Painkiller that stroke as an hurricane on the metal world.
This album, even if it keeps the continuity with the best works of the group, shows a power and a rage never heard before in the discography of the English band as well as an incredible perfection and attention for the details, thanks to the production of Chris Tsangarides. All the members of the group seems rejuvenated and revitalized. Ian Hill is very fast and rigorous and Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing are perfectly integrated and play duels that reach surreal levels. And about the drums, we find a new entry in the group, Scott Travis, who presents himself with the introduction of the first song (Painkiller) and who, throughout the whole album, builds a powerful and very firm wall of sound that seems like reinforced concrete. At the end, Rob Halford's falsetto is even more shrill and at the same time less melodic, and in this way it becomes almost strident, showing an effect of evil and malice.
Among the songs, there is never a step-load or a loosening of tension. We can find songs that are fast and sharp like blades (Painkiller, All Guns Blazing, Leather Rebel, and Metal Meltdown), while others are more similar to the “classic” Judas Priest style (Hell Patrol and Night Crawler), then others that sound almost epic (Between The Hammer & The Anvil and One Shot At Glory), and even one with slow and crawling tones (A Touch Of Evil).
In conclusion, Painkiller is highly tense and a destroyer of an album, showing a fully fit band like it will probably never be. In fact, Judas Priest couldn’t continue with this new stylistic subject started with Painkiller because the following year Halford left the band and when he returned in 2003, he was no longer able to sing in such a extreme way. This is a pity, but in this way Painkiller has remained an absolutely unique masterpiece.
There my friend sat. He sat on his leather chair, slumped in curved ball of mass in front of his computer screen. His face was trapped in a near-orgasmic expression, as though his mind literally been blown. What appeared to be drool leaked in a little drizzle from his mouth, a warped grin. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it wasn't drool; it was mercury. LIQUID METAL! Turning my head oh so slightly to the right, I faced the monitor. The words "Judas Priest-Leather Rebel" were scrawled across the top of the screen. Morbid fascination overtook me, and as a happy smirk began to crawl across my mortal lips, I clicked the play button...
or some shit like that.
But seriously, this is IT! THE most metal album from THE best metal band of all damn time! There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with this album. You want bone-crushing speed? You got it! You want head-exploding vocals? You got it! Do you want Olympian heaviness? You got it! How about merciless guitars and sizzling drums? You got that too! Do you want a beatbox? Fuck that shit!
"Painkiller", released in 1990, is oft considered to be Priest's magnum opus, a complete triumph in speed, aggression, and heaviness. And I totally agree. It's my favorite album from my favorite band. There's just nothing wrong with it! Rob Halford's voice is practically demonic, a wailing scream of immense proportions that he has never achieved before or since. Glenn Tipton and KK Downing's guitars twin-shred in such a way that me thinks the mighty sea god Poseidon has just shit his flipper in terror. Ian Hill's bass is shattering; totally a maker of earthquakes and volcanoes! Last but certainly not least, the blasting, light-speed, monster-sized double-bass hammering of Scott Travis, JP's then-new drummer and arguably the best thing to ever happen to the band.
The songs are all just perfect in their own ways. From the soul-mincing speed and legendary aggression of the title track to the upbeat hyper-speed of "Leather Rebel" to the monstrous solos and heavy ferocity of "Metal Meltdown" to the dark atmosphere of "Nightcrawler", all 10 tracks scorch with an all-mighty blaze of technical perfection that no other band has even come close to measuring up against.
Now, why 98% instead of the full hundred? Well, just some nitpicks. The lyrics of most of the songs are rather cheesy nonsense, but it never gets on my nerves enough to stop listening to any particular song. Also, while still really good, the songs "All Guns Blazing" and "Battle Hymn/One Shot At Glory" tend to be forgotten soon after a single listen.
This album is the epitome of speed metal perfection. If you don't own it, then you are no metal fan. If you've never heard of it, then you are NO music fan. THIS...IS...THE PAINKILLER!
Everything, although the two previously-mentioned songs are slightly forgettable.
Oh lord, another glowing review for Judas Priest's foray into the heavier side of metal. Let's face it, the praise isn't thrown this way on accident, this is a beast of an album. There is one thing I'd like to address before I even really get down the grit of the review here, and that is that Painkiller is NOT Priest's best album. Not at all, I'd never claim otherwise. Sad Wings of Destiny, Sin After Sin, and Stained Class are all better albums from a musical standpoint. The holy trinity of S albums in the '70s carry a monstrous wealth of musical depth and complexity that Painkiller can only dream of reaching. The dynamics and vocal acrobatics are completely otherworldly and quite ahead of their time. I mean really, how many straight up heavy metal bands, that can still be classified as such by today's standards, were there in the mid '70s? Priest wasn't only in a league of their own, but their seminal works of the time still hold up today as absolute milestones of songwriting. Painkiller can't claim any of those technical landmarks as its own, not at all. It's nothing but big stupid speed metal riffs and mindless double bass. But honestly, given the choice, I'll pick Painkiller every single time, without even hesitating.
Perhaps this makes me a dullard, but god damn I'd rather hang out with the cavemen than the physics professors if this is how they party. This album is a perfect example for dissecting the difference between an album being "the best" and "my favorite". Some examples, like Megadeth's Rust in Peace, are both my favorite and what I would also consider the band's best work. But Priest is different, they completely fucking nailed it early on and only got dumber as time went on. This, to me, seems to be their zenith. This is the perfect combination of retarded silliness, the leather and rock n' roll attitude of their '80s era, and the modernization of their music with heavier, faster songs and a much more aggressive approach. I mean look at the album cover. That ridiculous image right there sums up this whole album perfectly. It looks like Silver Surfer finally got his wings and then celebrated by stealing Wheel Gator from Sigma's Fortress. If that one-two punch of nerd references was lost on you, I'm sure you can still just look at the damn thing and see how over the top and silly looking it is. It's the perfect visual representation of what you'll find underneath.
The album begins with the title track, which probably still, after all these years, ranks as my #1 most favorite metal song of all time, across all subgenres. There's nothing wrong with it, this is Judas Priest working out some immeasurable amount of pent up anger and aggression, and the addition of drummer Scott Travis shows its merits right away as the album begins with a moderately short drum solo. It's fast, it's pounding, it's double bass out the wazoo, and it shows what Priest is now capable of with this young fellow behind the kit instead of the droning, mustachioed kiddie fiddler of Dave Holland. Once the song itself picks up, Rob Halford also shows off his pipes in a way he hasn't done since the glory days of those magical three S albums I mentioned earlier. Some of the passages he belts out are amongst the most heartfelt and agonized of his career, you can really tell he's giving it his all on this record. At not one single moment on the entire album does he sound content or laid back, he is always a snarling, raging beast behind the mic and is determined to scare off all of the infidels in the area. The title track also contains some of the best soloing that heavy metal has ever witnessed, the legendary Tipton and Downing team are also completely on top of their game here. They shred like they never have before, pushing themselves to the limit and beyond, which is quite remarkable considering Tipton was well into his 40s at this time.
With all of the band members pushing themselves so hard and possibly even trying to outdo each other, the whole album carries an inescapable frantic pace. Even the half ballady track, "A Touch of Evil", carries a sense of urgency unlike anything the band had ever done. In a way, this is kind of like the Judas Priest counterpart to Anthrax's Persistence of Time, which came out around the same time. Both albums are the band's darkest and heaviest works to date and were a result of outside factors and tension within the band. On tour for this album, as we all know, Rob Halford managed to wreck his motorcycle onstage, which somehow acted as a catalyst for him to essentially give the band the finger and walk away, thus ushering in the oft maligned Ripper era of the band.
And again, that tension and aggression shows itself throughout the duration of Painkiller. "All Guns Blazing" is one of the more violent tracks in their repertoire lyrically, and the title track, "Leather Rebel", and "Metal Meltdown" are all completely balls out speedfests. "Between the Hammer and the Anvil" and "Night Crawler" are both sheer heavy metal anthems with catchy choruses and huge, hard hitting riffs. This is abundant in the one element that I always felt the '70s era lacked, fun. This is one of the most fun albums in heavy metal history, and while this is overblown and idiotic, I never feel like going out on a Friday night and cranking Sad Wings. This is over the top, headbanging fun and there's no other way I'd rather have it. This straightforward speed metal is something that Priest apparently completely rocks at, and even though they never really expanded upon the sound found here, it's still an everlasting testament to what makes Painkiller so damn awesome. It was a glorious one-off in an already glorious career. The internal strife and pent up frustration with the band members resulted in some of the most high octane music heavy metal as a whole has ever put out, nothing gets the blood pumping quite like throwing on "Metal Meltdown". It retains their '80s signature of being incredibly infectious while providing the goofy AOR anthems with a much needed shot in the arm.
And that's what makes this close to being the perfect album in my eyes. It's a magnificent mixture of everything that made the band so noteworthy up to this point while also keeping it fresh and interesting. The aggressive style really works with Priest's songwriting skill and Painkiller is absolute proof of it. I'll be the first to admit, despite my vigorous masturbation, that this is a flawed masterpiece. The album loses steam at the end, with "One Shot at Glory" not being quite as big, over the top, or anthemic as it wants to be and preceding the kind of disappointing ending with the ballady track really seems to give it a weak back end, but in the context of the entire album it's just a quirk that I don't think brings the album down all that much, if at all. You'd still bone Marilyn Monroe, regardless of whether or not she's got that mark on her face, and I'd still bone this album, even if it does have that mark on its butt. I still recommend this to every newcomer who seems interested in metal, to every jaded veteran who for some stupid reason hasn't heard this, to anybody with a pulse who seems to realize music exists, really. I write love notes to this album weekly, and this time I decided to publish it.
In 1990, Judas Priest had already been a well-established band and were considered one of the first true heavy metal bands since the 70's. However, some accused the band of losing a few steps with the releases of Turbo and Ram it Down. Whatever criticisms were thrown in their path, Priest blasted them into the air with the quintessential Painkiller in 1990. Twenty years have passed since then, but metal has still never been the same.
Perhaps Judas' Priest's first "speed" metal album, each song sounds like a heavy metal anthem injected with jet fuel. The album starts off with the title track and features a fast-paced, rattling drum solo by then-newcomer Scott Travis before ultimately erupting into a booming riff. Not just heavy, but booming. Halford shows off his range with shrieking vocals telling us the story of the metal savior, the Painkiller. Duelling guitar solos by the always excellent K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton fill the bridge before Halford delivers one final verse and chorus before ending with a note held for what seems like twenty seconds while Travis plays another drum solo that starts slow but picks up in speed and intensity before the song ends in an explosion of sound with Halford shouting "Pain!" How can the rest of the album possibly follow that? Surprisingly, it does.
Hell Patrol has a griding riff that sounds similar to that of a military march, All Guns Blazing features more shrieking and high-pitched vocals by metal god Halford, Metal Meltdown is quite literally a metal meltdown with a mindblowing opening guitar solo, and Night Crawler tells the story of a viscious monster with a bridge that is strangely quiet, but dark and sinister. All of these aforementioned songs are classic, but nothing prepares one for A Touch of Evil. Starting off with what sounds like wailing winds in a graveyard is followed by a spine-tingling keyboard and then heavy riff. The keyboard and later guitar solos give the song a real chilling and haunting feel with a mix of Halford's baritone and shrieking vocals. A song about forbidden and forsaken love, this about as close as you will get to a power ballad, but to say that it is isn't even close.
The bass by Ian Hill is sometimes lost in the speed and loudness of the guitars and drums, and songs like Between the Hammer and the Anvil and One Shot at Glory may not be as memorable as Painkiller or a Touch of Evil, but there is really nothing at all wrong with this album. Incredibly fast and incredibly heavy with songs of appocalypse and impending disaster, the emotion deliverd by Halford in his vocals is as powerful as the sound of the music. Judas Priest were already metal legends before this album, but Painkiller is what makes them immortal. If one looked up heavy metal in the dictionary, one would see the iconic album art of the Painkiller and the faces of the band members next to the definition. This isn't just metal. This is the Painkiller.
Awe. That was my initial reaction upon hearing this for the first time. On a normal occasion, it might not be as such. But, this was one of my first metal albums; I bought it at a garage sale on cassette for 50 cents. This was when I was beginning my love affair with metal, so this sonic assault was entirely new to my virgin ears. This intense amalgamation of speed, power, NWOBHM, and maybe even a tad bit of thrash remains just as aggressive two decades later.
The album certainly looks menacing enough from its cover. A winged, metalloid demon riding a flying, draconic motorcycle with lethal buzzsaws for wheels, roaring at the sky in triumph?! Metal enough for you?! It was amazing for me as a padawan of the metal order. The booklet has the pronged Priest insignia inscribed behind the lyrics on every page and a black and white photograph of the band in traditional leather and studs. Immediate icons for a boy of 15.
Anyways, onto the music! The guitar work is absolutely blazing in all senses of the word. The riffing is fast, tight, melodic, and original. Chugs, staccato, melodic wank up on the high frets, it's all present. A tinge of technicality is definitely present; not just boring power chords anymore. Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing have stepped up their game to keep it extremely innovative. The riffing style is normally fast and melodic, but some are more mid-paced, and Between the Hammer and the Anvil starts with slow, doomy chords. And the solos! RADICAL!! Both guitarists trade off lead and rhythm duties, and each of them do both jobs to a T. Tipton seems to be more structured and Downing seems to be slightly more chaotic with squeals and dive-bombs. The tone is crisp and saturated with brightness and distortion.
The vocals are generally high pitched and soaring way above everything, with some slight reverb at times to add some epic effect. Halford is a legend in his own right, on par with Bruce Dickinson, and Ronnie James Dio, and has set the bar high on this album for future power and speed metal vocalists and is THE example to be emulated. He sings generally cleanly, with a coloring of harshness and anger at times.
Ian Hill, the resident bassist, is audible, but nothing of true note here. He thunders along behind the rhythm guitar and never anything very special, but then again, keeping up with the ferocity is quite a feat.
The best thing they ever did was hiring Scott Travis to sit behind the skins. Replacing the mundane Dave Holland, who could have easily been in AC/DC (yes that's an insult) was a wonderful move, for he without a doubt could not have kept the pace Travis sets forth and would have been a liability to the rest of the band. Scott relies heavily on double bass, relatively simple beats, and lightning fast fills and rolls.
Lyrically, the album is both "trve" and goofy at the same time. The poetic verses about glory, mythical and apocalyptic beings, leather, metal, and more leather are amazing but also somewhat ridiculous. They are over the top at times but are also extremely metal, in the most literal sense. Also, Touch of Evil sounds like a totally romantic cheesy plea of infantile lust.
The production is very clear. Every instrument can be clearly heard, or at least felt. The vocals are a center point obviously, rising above the writhing guitar. The drums are audible and the bass pounding with the kick drum can be clearly felt as well as heard. The snare has a nice sounding snap to it.
-Painkiller is a blazing song complete with killer, pounding double bass intro, melodically deadly riff, greased lightning solos.
-Hell Patrol has a really interesting staccato riff syncopated with the snare drum and some lower-end singing which is a nice touch.
-Metal Meltdown has a lovely fast-paced thrashy riff in the beginning, an insane intro solo, and an interesting chord progression.
-One Shot at Glory is an anthem of metal, hands down. It has a great riff, chorus that makes you wanna run and never stop, and singing that sounds like a call to war if I've ever heard one.
Overall, this is a really good album, for either a beginner like myself or a seasoned metal veteran. No real weak points, and every song is good by itself or in sequence. There are no real bad songs, and even the filler, Battle Hymn, is pretty gnarly. It has everything a metal masterpiece should have: pounding drums with awesome double bass, soaring vocals from a legend, heavy, melodic, and fast riffing, magnificent, chaotic solos, and production where everything is audible.
-Amazing Guitar, both riffing and solos
-Much Better drumming
-Clear, Thick Production
-Rob Halford (yes, he is a pro by himself)
-Can be same-y; same basic structure, solos similar
-All Guns Blazing intro is kinda gay
-Touch of Evil sounds like a pre-pubescent romantic attempt
Though they had already delivered numerous masterworks in British Steel, Screaming for Vengeance and Defenders of the Faith, it is Painkiller which stands the test of time as both the de facto Judas Priest experience and their heaviest effort to date. Which begs the question, why in the Nine Hells did they not continue in this direction? I realize they had the falling out, and the 'Ripper' Owens period (my head still aches), but even the two reunion albums so far have been garbage by comparison.
Painkiller was like the culmination of an architectural masterpiece: the foundation had been laid, brick by brick, carefully for years; the riffs a geometry of melodic aggression; each of Halford's vocal lines delirious with ham-fisted metal imagery and stark passion. The title track EXPLODES, the heaviest fucking anthem this band has ever manifested. Halford soars forth like an escaped asylum inmate who wants to end your pain AND YOUR LIFE. Who cares that the song is about some figurative alien metalloid angel of salvation (Jesus with a flying motorcycle and double chainsaw action). That's just bonus.
'Through boiling clouds of thunder
Blasting bolts of steel
Evils going under deadly wheels'
Ride on! Right on! It doesn't hurt that the rest of the album is equally solid support for this blazing avatar. "Hell Patrol" is a melodic anthem which celebrates the machinery of final judgement. "All Guns Blazing" is just...well, let's just say when I saw the band on their Painkiller world tour back in the day, Rob Halford dedicated it to Saddam Hussein.
"Leather Rebel" opens with a whirlwind of melodic speed picking before glorious verse and chorus, a sweet and pure tribute to the tr00 metal elite. "Metal Meltdown" ranges from shredding to thrashing, with it's ominous and silly chorus. Fuck, just how many songs on this album have the word 'lazer' in them? Okay, only two, but that's two more lazer references than YOUR favorite metal album! En garde! "Night Crawler" is a creepy horror anthem and yet another hybrid of power and thrash metal with poppy melodic riffing similar to "Painkiller". "Between the Hammer & the Anvil" starts with some slower, doomy chords which are revisited later in the track with an actually beating of such solid objects together. "A Touch of Evil" is a seductive tune with silly synthesizers, it's similar to the stuff Ozzy was doing at this period, and a little Zeppelin influence. I love it, especially that chorus:
'In the night, come to me
You know I want your Touch of Evil
In the night, please set me free
I can't resist a Touch of Evil'
Touch me, Rob! Oh, touch me! Too much information. The majestic instrumental "Battle Hymn" sets up the album's final number "One Shot at Glory", which is pure Priest and again features that amazing, unforgettable chorus.
Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing once again proved their worth as the genre's pre-eminent straightforward axe duo. Tasteful leads when required, but never over-wanking or attempting to upstage the vocal and verse. Ian Hill has never been an amazing bass player, and here he just continues to follow along with the guitars. Scott Travis delivers a pretty stellar drum performance, especially the memorable fills which open the title track. The lyrics are hokey but loveable throughout; they function perfectly with the pseudo-metallian concept. The album has been remastered but the original still sounds fantastic.
To describe the influence of this band (and album) is beyond the parameters of a mere mortal's humble review, but I can assure you, it's worth the hype. You didn't need me to remind you, of course, because you already have and love this. Or so the voices told me. Now I just need to forget about what the slew of atrocities the band issued post-Painkiller, so I can sleep.
I've never been able to understand why this album gets so much praise and acclaim; or, rather, I've understood why it gets the praise and acclaim, but never seen why people have found it deserving of such. Scratch that, I see exactly why people have found it deserving of such, but I'm not fooled by the bells and whistles that dazzle so many and don't believe it actually is deserving of such. The sound and fury signifies nothing.
To start with, the band wisely chose the title track to open the album; it's basically the only really good song of the bunch. Just listen to it: after the drum barrage, the razor-sharp guitar riffs slice in, shortly followed by Halford's falsetto, probably more aggressive than we've ever heard him before. Then the melodic solos, hot poop! If you don't turn into a flailing neanderthal during this song, you hate metal. The lyrics are kinda stupid, but in this endearing tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top way that can't help but make me smile. I mean, a man made of metal on a flying motorcycle is going to ride down from the sky and save the world? And fuck your speeding bullet, the Painkiller is faster than a goddamn laser bullet!!!!! The song is so good, the positive feelings and adrenalin spill over into the rest of the album, coloring its mediocre pace, lack of quality riffs, and the repetitive crowd-pleasing tripe they call melodies. That adrenalin still left in your system from the title track makes these feel like good songs. They're not. "Hell Patrol" is plodding and devoid of good riffs; mostly the guitars just go through chord progressions with a lick or two. The drumming is flashy but can't hide the mediocrity, and Halford is still a great singer but even the best voice in the world can't save crappy songwriting. "All Guns Blazing" is like the title track with all quality leeched out, leaving nothing but blandness (except the little opening vocal bit, which is cool I guess). "Leather Rebel" is OK, decent speed metal but without much more going for it than speed and energy; it's repetitive as hell, and what it repeats wasn't even that good the first time around.
I could go through every song like this, but I would essentially be saying the same thing over and over, which is pretty much what the album is after the opener. Each song has the required one cool bit to carry it, after which Halford and Scott Travis try to distract you as much as possible from the boring songwriting. "Metal Meltdown" has a good main riff, "Nightcrawler" has a cool chorus, but the songs are pretty bare-boned with a facade of drums and vocals stretched over them, like a big zeppelin or something. Looks solid from a distance, but there's only gas inside. I know metal isn't the most serious or lyrically intellectual of genres, but come on, how can anyone listen to the chorus to "Metal Meltdown" without feeling retarded? It would make Manowar blush. The tongue-in-cheek of the title track seems gone in the boring-ass description of a metal meltdown; whatever the fuck that is, this song isn't. More like popping a paper bag. And then what's with "A Touch of Evil"? Sounds like "bad touch", you can't tell me Halford was thinking about some buxom wench while writing those lyrics! I'm sure it was some barely pubescent metalhead with peach fuzz on his balls, or perhaps some big burly biker type. Any subliminal messages that may have actually been in Judas Priest songs were assuredly trying to convince people to bugger ol' Rob's lonely cornhole.
You mesmerize slowly
Till I can't believe my eyes
Ecstasy controls me
What you give just serves me right
Yeah, I'll bet Halford's getting it just right. The whole song sounds like he's wrestling with being in the closet: "I'm so afraid/But I still feed the flame" for example. It seems somehow appropriate the song is saccharine, plodding, and repetitive as FUCK. That fucking drum beat is like getting pounded in the ass over and over and over and over. I've never engaged in homosexual relations (you'll just have to trust me on that one), but somehow after listening to "A Touch of Evil" I know just what it's like.
Painkiller is essentially a comic book movie. At first there's the joy at recognizing a beloved character up on the big screen: for a second, all your childhood nostalgia comes rushing back, and you think for that fleeting second that this movie will portray the superhero with all the bells and whistles modern special effects can provide, yet still remain faithful to the original character you know and love. After that initial thrill, you slowly realize that aside from those bells and whistles, the plot and characters have been trivialized. Corny romance, laughably inept villains, eye-rollingly bad dialog, clearly family-oriented humor - all serve to bring home the reality that no, this is not the beloved Judas Priest of old. It's cartoon versions of themselves, two-dimensional, with the target demographic clearly being the Saturday morning market. Watch the music video for "Painkiller", Halford looks like a Looney Tunes character. Homo Hal, or something. Metal isn't always the most mature of genres, sure, but these are no youths, swept up in dreams of knights, gore, and Satan; these are middle-aged men with huge budgets indulging in regression. Midlife crisis? You betcha. There's nothing wrong with traditional metal themes, but there are much better ways of dealing with them. You know, like Judas Priest used to, over a decade before writing this crap. Unsurprisingly, the thought put into the music reflects the thought put into the lyrics.
"Painkiller". What is there left to say about a true classic in the pantheons of metal? This surely remains one of the greatest 'comebacks' in music history, as the legendary Judas Priest - after two sorely lacklustre records - reinvented themselves in a blaze of molten steel. "Painkiller", from the thunderous drum-roll-to-the-power-of-100 intro of the title track to the cathartically epic closer "One Shot at Glory", showcases metallic masters firing on every cylinder they possess.
What immediately impresses is the sense of vitriolic rage that blazes from the music. This is priest burying the synth-pop horrors of Turbo, and rediscovering the dark, Sabbath-ian-plus-extra-epic sense of Romantic (big R; I'm talking "Frankenstein" here, not "Love Actually"), Gothic gloom that haunted their early 70's classics. Channelled through a ripping post-Thrash sensibility, the results are truly immense. This is Priest sounding angrier, hungrier and more dangerous than they have in a decade; the slow degeneration into a strange kind of camp comedy metal - "the REAL Spinal Tap!", as one eminent British rock publication put it - is swiftly and irrevocably wiped out. This, I contend, is the album which cemented their place as true legends of Metal.
Bold words? Think of Priest's 80's output; slick, heavily produced, streamlined. Along with the bombastic Bruce Dickinson-era Iron Maiden, they set the blueprint for 80's metal. But as the new wave of metal forged on, and as thrash, black and death metal formed around them, Priest were in danger of being left behind. Where once they were the leaders and innovators of a burgeoning, revolutionary genre, now they led huge tours with numerous stage props and enough pomp to bankrupt a small African country. Where once they plied their trade with fury and deadly determination through the clubs and pubs of England, now they resembled nothing so much as a strangely mobile Broadway musical production. This album was a symbolic turning point for Priest; it is the sound of a sleeping beast awakening.
For if any band - or any human for that matter - can truly claim to have pure METAL flowing through their veins, it is Priest. Casting aside the big, anthemic choruses and fruity excesses of their 80's sound, they blast forth with a lightning bolt of pure steel. Scott Travis - their new drummer - invigorates and energises the band immediately; unlike the plodding and pedestrian Dave Holland, he attacks the kit with a frankly blistering combination of power, intricacy and rhythmic perfection. Glenn Tipton and K.K Dowing unleash raging, dark and relentlessly powerful riffs left, right and centre, adding a sprinkling of furiously technical, face-melting solos. And Rob Halford lets rip with the most hair-raising performance of his entire career; a tour-de-force of shrieking vocal mastery, delivered with intense power and conviction.
The lyrics follow suit. You'll find nothing here but nearly formless expressions of rage, violence, terror and glory; archetypes of metal. These lyrics delight in the exultation of pure power. They are great because they invoke; rather than sticking to the descriptive, story-telling aspects of traditional metal, Halford summons the primeval energies that fuel these dark fantasies, and expresses them directly and viscerally. Music and Lyrics together constitute a clenched fist; a mighty blow that lays a true benchmark for traditional metal. There may be many imitators, but none come close to this; a true masterpiece.
Generally, "Painkiller" is considered Priest's opus amongst their huge and varied discography and I strongly agree, as I've found this to be their only album that doesn't fall short from songs that are either plain crappy or generally weak.
The overall feel of the album is pretty much an extreme Judas Priest evoking the powerful spirit that has become synonymous with their legacy. The whole first half of the album is ripe with fiery guitars, high falsetto vocals, and cheesy lyrics about metal messiahs, dudes in leather, and hellish militias. Good stuff. The second half is a bit darker and epic with the medieval-ish "Between the Hammer and the Anvil", the gothic-ish "Touch of Evil", and "One Shot at Glory" which is as glorious as its name suggests.
The band performance of this album is excellent. Rob Halford’s singing is very diverse, ranging from high pitched falsettos ("Painkiller" or "All Guns Blazing") to his more masculine gruff style ("Between the Hammer and the Anvil" or "Leather Rebel"). K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton go all-out with their solos on the album, (they range from fiery to plain gripping) and often aren’t satisfied with just one. As usual, not much to say about the bass but it seems to do its job. Lastly, Scott Travis makes his debut with Priest on this album, and gives a very solid performance. He does a great job adding some double-bass action into Priest and also contributes an incredibly memorable drum solo at the start of the album.
As far as being innovative, "Painkiller" is fairly notable with its pretty distinguished sound, and its famous title track which is incredibly aggressive for traditional metal with Halford's ferocious screamed vocals being especially uncommon in the style. The band also makes heavy use of sound-effects in "Nightcrawler" and keyboards in "Touch of Evil". I find the double-bass in the drums to also be of noteworthy interest for classic Priest.
Perhaps the greatest thing about this album is how memorable it manages to be. The songs aren't incredible pieces, but they end up sticking with you and thus you become quite attached to them over time, making this album an often nostalgic blast to relisten.
To close up, I've found that this release deserves its place as a metal classic for its consistency, memorable songs, and its powerful spirit. It was a perfect album to close up the first Halford era and its top-form performance really represents the great things about 80's metal one last time as the golden decade of classic metal came to its close. "Painkiller" continues to be one of the most enduring metal albums of my life and is naturally recommended. Just don't expect a revolutionary landmark, but a very solid and meaningful piece of heavy metal.
In the year 1990 metal was going through a strong period of reckoning. Many of the previous masters of metal were beginning to have their credibility questioned due to the over-the-top image the many bands had exhibited, and the lack of musical intrigue to back up the flamboyance. The thrash scene was on the verge of being overrun by a group of minimalist groove bands, whom ultimately grew out of the seeds of Metallica’s overrated “Master of Puppets” album and it’s similarly overrated mainstream counterpart in “The Black Album”. Bands such as Pantera and Sepultura would end up completely dumbing down their sound soon after and the way was paved for a generation of musical malformations which properly labeled themselves “Grunge”.
However, as all was seemingly slipping away from metal and the end seemed looming, a seed was planted that would start to grow even as the old guard began to fold the tents and the metal mainstream would go back to the underground that it came from. The seed was an album that had all the melodic hooks and technical intrigue that defined 80s power metal, and yet had the speed and the attitude of early 80s thrash, and the resulting growth would be the rise of a generation of new bands who would focus on the untapped potential of this innovation in Europe, most notably Germany and the Scandinavian countries. And that new generation would come gradually from obscurity to laugh at the short and utterly pathetic rule that the so-called Nirvana wave had at the top.
Painkiller is, from start to finish, an all out assault on the conventional wisdom that heavy metal is either fluffy glam music or inaccessible/atonal art dominated by nihilistic darkness. It throws caution to the wind and blazes away with blinding speed and technical flair from start to finish, forcing the listener to take a musical breather after the close of a listening session. Even the more mid-tempo tracks such as “A Touch of Evil”, “Nightcrawler” and the somber lead-in to the bonus track “Living Bad Dreams” are pulsating with power and glory. It takes the soft ambiences of the synthesizers that dominated “Turbo” and married them to the endless assault of metal riffs and dueling solos with a genius that would inspire many speed metal bands to pursue the possibilities outside of the traditional bass, drums, and guitar arrangement.
We kick off this album with a thunderous drum intro to the title track, which sets the tone for the rest of the album. Rob Halford screams away with the best of them, and the atmosphere is dominated with a driving heavy guitar riff. “Hell Patrol” follows with more double bass work, though a bit more melodic emphasis. We have a riff on here that somewhat resembles “Children of the Grave”, a riff that is often looked to for inspiration by the early thrash fold. “All Guns Blazing” brilliantly continues the merging of melody and speed that the previous track exhibited, with some brilliant drum work. “Leather Rebel” is probably one of the most inspirational songs to the current wave of power metal acts, and showcases a trademark riff that is often paraphrased by speed metal bands in the late 90s to now.
The high octane thrill ride continues with an amazing guitar shred fest of an intro that leads into “Metal Meltdown”, which showcases more of the brilliant marriage of thrash and melody at work on this album. Probably the easiest chorus to remember and sing along with on here, especially considering that the verses are most likely not within the range of most male metal fans. “Nightcrawler” is a more mid-tempo anthem with a spooky keyboard intro, but bear in mind that it is mid-tempo in comparison to what has come before it, which means it’s still pretty damn fast. The main guitar riff is highly memorable, as are the horrifying lyrics which provide a super-villain contrast to the heroic figure depicted in the title track. “Between the Hammer and the Anvil” has a quasi-doom inspired intro that reminds a bit of early Sabbath, though the rest of the song is more amazing riffs and a good amount of speed. “A Touch of Evil” is probably the only track on here that could be qualified as down tempo, but the guitars are heavy and dominant enough that you still can’t sit still. We also have another brilliant, yet less spooky keyboard intro that would later be paraphrased by Nocturnal Rites on their latest album. “Battle Hymn” is a brief instrumental segue to “One Shot at Glory” which is a highly memorable metal anthem loaded with melody and yet still kicks ass in the riff department, great closer to a riveting album.
The re-mastered version of this album contains a bonus track titled “Living Bad Dreams” and a live version of “Leather Rebel” to complement the collection of brilliance on here. The former is a ballad that is still loaded with power and amazing guitar work, though it doesn’t have the speed that dominated the original album. The latter is what I would call a perfect performance of a highly difficult song, as I had a hard time distinguishing it from the studio version, except for the sounds of the crowd.
People may ask, what is the significance of this album? Especially when considering all the groundbreaking work that was done on Priest’s earlier efforts, one would definitely be tempted merely to shelf the significance of this release as a great band merely going out with a bang. To this I respond, look at what is contained within this bang of an album that they ended their 80s era sound with. Even Pantera’s “Power Metal”, though having a good deal of speed and power, doesn’t quite capture the groundbreaking formula at work here. The problem is that it took 7 years for the full effects of this album to be realized, when Gamma Ray released “Somewhere out in Space” and Iron Savior released their debut, which ushered in a new era of melodic speed metal. Metallica may have killed metal in the 80s, but Priest brought metal back in the late 90s, and the fruits of this work are still be realized in the metal world as bands such as “Rhapsody”, “Luca Turilli”, “Sonata Arctica” and a bunch of other European bands mix the standard set by “Painkiller” with their own unique symphonic and electronic influences.
In conclusion, this album is essentially for any fan of speed metal and melodic power metal. Fans of the current scene in Germany and the rest of Europe will not only find a great album, but the very manifesto of the music that they love and cling to as a haven from the mediocre garbage that has dominated the radio for the past 15 years. Some may downplay this album as merely being good, but I know better, and am unapologetic in giving it a perfect score.
I don't believe that an album of this magnitude will ever be achieved by this band ever again. To be perfectly honest with you, this was also the first time in their career that they'd managed to achieve such a level of greatness as well. Here is basically how things occurred;
Priest, is generally viewed as the forefathers of heavy metal, alongside Sabbath and to a lesser degree Deep Purple and the Scorpions. If you listen to many of the aspiring metal acts from the eighties, including the Bay Area thrash bands from this time, you will hear a lot of striking similarities with Priests' earlier efforts. More notably albums such as Sad Wings of Destiny, or even Screaming for Vengeance. But as the 1980's came to an end, Priest slowly changed their sound to a more "friendly" sounding collage of songs. Hence giving birth to albums such as Turbo and Ram It Down.
At this same time however, many of the bands who began their careers, citing Priest as a major influence continued to get progressively more technical and heavier. This included bands such as Forbidden, Metallica, Pantera, and Overkill. It wasn't until 1990 that Priest was able to release an album which was a fusion of past formulas, mixed with some of the current and explosive elements of thrash metal into what many still consider to be their pinnacle achievement...Painkiller.
Everything about this album, from the lengthy compositions, to their technicality, the anger of Halford's delivery in the vocal department, or the addition of new double bass monster Scott Travis, Painkiller was a tour de force for this band, and I believe that this album was worthy of re-establishing Priest as one of the genre's leading artists.
The most predominanty technical aspect of this album is without a doubt the guitar solos of Glen Tipton and KK Downing. Where the fuck did these solos come from? Are these the same guys who do the lead on Living After Midnight? Yes, by point of fact it is! And although many revere the solo in Painkiller (the title track), to be the greatest solo on this album, I actually can't pinpoint the best one, since every song with the exception of Nightcrawler has a face melting guitar solo.
The production on this album by Chris Tsangarides is phenomenal for its time. I did recently purchase the remastered version of this album, but don't really notice that big of a difference in the sound quality from the original, it was pretty much done to perfection the first time around.
Each song gets 10 out of 10 for being true metal greatness. Lyrical content is diverse and intelligent, with the mandatory cliched heavy metal hero context from time to time (see Leather Rebel or Metal Meltdown). Even though I am a self proclaimed Priest fanatic, this is the only album from their lengthy catalogue that I never neglect for more than a month before throwing it on for about a week at a time. A classic in a league of its own!
Last night I was out shopping, looking for the perfect present for my adorable girlfriend, of whose name I’ve forgotten at this stage. I wanted something cute, something cuddly and something as trendy as a lipstick tube that contains over one thousand and one shades of pink. Then I saw it. I locked eyes on it, going into stealth mode as I crept down the aisle, making sure that others were oblivious to my movements. My hands grasped the jewel case of the large ringed object, a gem on anyone’s mantelpiece. It was Judas Priest’s “Painkiller.” The album that stole my girlfriend and saw me land out of her door into the mud-filled gutter with a spine-crushing thud as she wrapped the wrapping paper on my head like a broken party hat. The CD came last, striking me between the eyes, knocking me out with the force of an origami spoon, a soggy origami spoon. Not that I cared, I was in hell.
Drill sergeant Robert Halford gave me my mission as we stood on the edge of the world. I was dressed in an over-worn faded black t-shirt, jeans with ripped knees and a broomstick strung around my neck with an ingenious strap made out of a mix of an old kite string and a colourful collection of rubber bands. I was not wearing a backpack. The edge of the world doubled as my garden shed, made out of corrugated iron that had reached boiling point in the sweltering sun, causing my bare feet to tingle as my the warm northerly wind blew through my hair. I did not feel any pain, as a painkiller was present in my blood stream, or should I say, THE PAINKILLER. My mission was simple to destroy all that opposed, with strength, honour and bravery. I set off zealously, but not before falling eight-feet to the ground, back first, careering into the concrete below. Again no pain was felt.
Adrenaline was rushing to my head as the thunderous drums spurred on my one-man army, as we attacked the enemy with frenetic riffing, in mixture with intricate soloing. They did not know what hit them as the Metal reigned supreme, unleashing its fury like a dragon scorching a prince into crispy smithereen. No sex for you, you lascivious wench-like princess. Comrades rejoiced everywhere as Speed Metal influenced by traditionally flavoured Metal, incorporated with palm-muting, melodic tremolo and the epic embrace of tonic power chordal structures. This was brutal. Even more brutal than those modern gore bands that blast at 391.62 beats per minute over visceral guitars played using a bone from a small child as a plectrum. They could not match our purposeful mindset as we stormed at them, “All Guns Blazing.” The voices in my head were relentless, even higher in pitch than the queen of banshees, and yet as melodic as a tenor, as they guided me to the final glory.
I ventured to hell and back, seeing vast landscapes of fire, as Satan bid me “Good luck.” Down picturesque streams I flowed, harmonious choruses rolled by in clockwork motion, as cleansing as the grandeur enforced by the Painkiller. As soulful and as elegant as the night sky, yet as mysterious and ominous as the stars that fill it like a back-lit canopy. The end was nigh, but not before one final stop through the LSD trip of 70s influenced disco era. In my bright pink suit I stood. Of course, slaying the “teenyboppers” I found with my handcrafted plastic pirate sword, then I ventured back to my garden fernery and held a seance with a friendly brigade of garden gnomes, feeling “A Touch Of Evil.” The battle was won, as we stood under the banner of heavy fucking metal, pride in our people, the saviour was found. We crushed the machines as they attempted to invoke a “Metal Meltdown”, destroyed the enemy and in the process saved ourselves from facing the wrath of an enraged Mother Nature.
The British lads obviously sat first row of the class all year in economics, as this is the perfect example of capitalist efficiency, six beautiful solos in the first song! (Hell, the chalky haired, glasses toting nerd that is their economics lecturer would have been proud of this practical application! An A+ for you chums, even a complimentary chocolate chip cookie because you did so damn well.) Not once does it let down from that point on. That was until tears formed in my eyes as I realised that the last track was fading out… “One Shot At Glory”, indeed. What else, you say, chaps? Nothing, just a sullen silence after the CD stops spinning. I sat there for an hour, not moving, not knowing what to do next. My whole left arm still trembling a week later. This sure is better than getting a haircut from your next door neighbour’s lawn mower, getting chased by the dog that still has a huge chunk of the postman’s leg between its jaws or drowning in a pool of liquidised Siamese cat shit. It may rank up with some of the great inventions, such as convicts, snooze alarms and Vegemite. In fact, I’ll be audacious enough to recommend it to you, faithful student of Metal. Skip along now, children, I need to rest my weary body. For some reason I felt a dull ache in my back, and my feet were red as a lobster, warm enough to cook a piece of toast on…
I guess I'll never understand the metal world's love affair with this one. Yes, this is better than Turbo and Ram it Down, but it's not one of Priests best efforts. I love the fact that these guys stood up and said 'yeah, we fly the flag for metal and we're actually gonna try to participate in this whole thrash thing', and when this album is hot it's red hot. It's hard to find better slabs of boiling metal than "Painkiller", "Metal Meltdown", and "Between the Hammer and the Anvil", but in between it's like biting tinfoil, Priest writing dumber lyrics than I'd thought possible (remember, Jugulator wasn't out yet) and really just trying too hard to recapture their youth.
This not to say that musically Priest has rarely been better. Halford is like a man possessed, really taking his vocals to their logical extremes and just generally screaming his head off. At times it's eerie, Halford displaying an almost King Diamond-like flexibility in taking off from growl to screech, but with about a million times more force and technical ability. Downing and Tipton have completely forsaken the more melodic soloing of Turbo in favour of an even more extreme version of what was attempted (and failed at) on Ram it Down, shredding like men half their own age. The solos throughout, but particularly the title track, are about as loopy and speedy as they'll ever get, but perhaps lacking in the intelligence of some of their classics. I also sorta feel that new drummer Travis is a little intrusive, his double-bass insanity and generally busy style almost getting out of hand.
This is a Priest album crafted for the metal heads who wanted "Freewheel Burning" for a whole album, edgy and extreme in every way, but with a slightly glassy eyed stupidity that has been crippling this band since approximately 1979. It's like a comic book, every song seeming to wish to escape from the reality into this brightly coloured and shallow world where you can say words like 'vaporapeize'. I understand this, because Priest was in a bad way at this point, slowly being usurped by Maiden as the classic metal of choice, slumping album sales, and of course the idiotic trial and Rob Halford's struggles with living a lie. That is the simple explanation for why this album is totally obvious, everything on the surface with no depth and really no thought required. Bang head, sing the chorus, everything is okay.
While the lyrics are the all-to-obvious Achilles heel of Painkiller, there are other issues that gang up and ruin the parade. Consider "Leather Rebel" for a start. There's nothing all that wrong with the catchy chorus or rockin' riff, but it just feels warmed over, like any one of a dozen Priest albums served up to you to gobble down once more. The drumming too, man, just a Racer X drum track grafted onto a regular Priest song, disconcerting and totally throwing off the whole feel of the song. Hell, on the live track thrown onto the remaster Rob seems bored off his ass and itchin' to get out of the damn chaffing leather and into... well, he did wear it in Fight and Two as well, but cut me some slack.
"Once Shot at Glory" is a boring, boring, boring anthem, something that aside from the man on the stick and the man banging the skins could've been performed by any third-tier power metal act without creating any waves. The "Hell Patrol" has a really kickin' chorus too, but the lyrics are just absolutely laughable. There's just something about Halfie screaming about 'devil dogs' and making up words to fit a rhyme-scheme that reeks of a man totally fallen out of love with this metal muse, a fire that would wane through a pair of adequate Fight albums, be completely snuffed out on the infamous Two project, only to reignite on his solo records, although there's something about them that indicate a slight depression that he's locked into this figurative straightjacket, or even an iron maiden if you will.
Regardless, this is Judas (“fuckin” optional) Priest, and they are still one of the greatest metal acts of all time. The love affair with this album, like British Steel and Screaming for Vengeance, is not entirely unwarranted. "Between the Hammer and the Evil" brings back the religious themes of the early records with stunning results, band tight and locked in, Travis behaving himself as the Metal God rewards us with a conventional (!) singing performance, and therefore a relatively unique one on the album.
And hey, I never said Priest and speed metal couldn't be cozy bedfellows, and the energy of the musicians combined with their sage-like knowledge of how it works (they were one of the primary practitioners of the early form) serves them well. "Nightcrawler" works both as a creepy Halford vocal platform and as an instrumental knock-out punch, the guitars lusty and feral and Rob ferally lusty (for the blood of innocents), also recalling favourably "The Sentinel" with it's spoken break and epic style, thankfully without that song's mechanical window-dressing. "Metal Meltdown" is exactly what you'd want from a track called "Metal Meltdown", a thrashed out guitarfest that is all intense, all the time, and with an essentially great base (or at least essentially hot performances on a hot riff) so that it stands out from the rest of the maelstrom.
Of course the best track is "Painkiller", that conceded by everyone with a pulse and brainwave activity who has heard the album, screaming through your skull and pounding away at the tasty mush inside, six minutes of pay-off, amazing bit leading to amazing bit, from the crazed drumming to the multi-tiered solos, to Rob grabbing his balls and incinerating ours. The song is absolutely astounding, because it should not work. There are about six false endings to this thing (or maybe this is just how Scott does fills), and the lyrics are uniformly stupid, but unlike on the rest of the album where you just wish you were listening to something of substance, it's just like 'yeah, I'm rocking so hard that it doesn't matter'.
"Painkiller" the song is what Priest wanted for this whole album. Alas, thoughts can only be suspended for a short time, and only when what they're being aborted for is worthy of the effort.
Stand-Outs: "Painkiller", "Between the Hammer and the Anvil", "Nightcrawler"
Painkiller was a very interesting release for Judas Priest for a number of reasons. The most apparent reason, in my opinion, is for many years, Judas Priest had been laying the groundwork for Speed and Power Metal. They never really went full out, but most bands took their basic sound, and then sped it up to create Speed and early Power Metal. Many of these bands flourished in the 80’s and early 90’s and it took the band that influenced them all to show them how it’s done. After showing hints of their more aggressive sound-to-be on Ram It Down, Judas Priest really went all out on Painkiller, which was very aggressive and powerful, yet still very Priest.
The CD opens up with the classic drum intro of the title track, which is one of the best opening tracks ever. Right away you see where Judas Priest is going with their sound. Rob Halford uses his screaming falsetto all the way through and it works very well! The leads are amazing, and the riffs are killer, but The Priest Machine doesn’t let up there though; they continue their onslaught with “Hell Patrol”, “All Guns Blazing”, and my personal favorite song from the CD, “Leather Rebel”. Everything in these songs is just amazing, almost beyond words or classification, because it really is the epitome of good traditional Metal played fast and with energy! It’s almost a bizarro world situation when you think of “Turbo Lover” (with its mid-paced, pop-synth heavy melodic textures), and then “Metal Meltdown” (with it’s crushing and fast riffs, and dark atmosphere) for example- because they’re just that much different in feel. It’s almost as if Priest said, “Ok, all these bands are playing Metal that we started, lets show them who the masters are” and that’s exactly what Judas Priest did with Painkiller. As already mentioned, many bands have come close since the release of Painkiller, but nothing has surpassed Painkiller yet in my opinion. And for the record I also see nothing wrong with “Touch Of Evil”. It has a great atmosphere, vocals, and a terrific break near the end of the song where Halford delivers his most shriekingly perfect scream on the CD with the line, “You’re Possessing Me!”
The weakest song on here is “Between The Hammer And The Anvil”, but hey, it’s still a great song. Just having a song of this quality being overshadowed by the rest of the CD really depicts just how good the actual release is. Every chorus is catchy (my favorite being on “One Shot At Glory”), every lead is solid, every riff is unique, and Scott Travis is a monster behind the kit.
So if you’re into Speed Metal or 80’s Power Metal, definitely pick this up because this is the CD that everyone from Primal Fear, to Iron Savior, to Silent Force are trying to surpass.
Song Highlights: Everything, but Painkiller, Leather Rebel, Metal Meltdown, and Nightcrawler are my favorite.