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I know there are already shitloads of reviews for Painkiller, and I probably won't have alot to say that hasn't already been said. But I feel that I must pay homage to what is in my opinion the greatest heavy metal of all time, and always will be.
While Judas Priest have always been, in my opinion, the greatest band ever, this is where it all came together. Tom Allom, a great producer in his own right, was dropped in favour of Chris Tsangarides, who along with the band created what is easily the best production the band ever had. The riffs sound heavy, sinister and really fucking evil (with a monstrous guitar tone as well), yet they also bring forth the amazing memorable melodies in a way that creates a totally mad atmosphere and sound. Check out the remaster for full enjoyment on this note.
Drummer Dave Holland was a pretty decent guy but somewhat repetitive. On Painkiller, they dropped him for Scott Travis, who completely fucking annihilates the drumkit, and by far owns all their previous drummers, and most other drummers in history. Special note again to the amazing production, giving the drums an awesome, thick and heavy sound- just check out that monster double bass onslaught on Leather Rebel.
The guitarwork of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing is at it's very finest here. The riffs are inventive and varied, and most importantly they kick a whole truckload of ass. And the soloing has never been better. They are incredibly memorable and always add to the atmosphere of the song. Every single note adds to the picture as a whole, and gives us masterful solos in each and every song.
The opening track, and also the title track, features Glenn Tipton's greatest solo ever, and also one of K.K.'s finest moments, even though his is a bit short. But K.K.'s very finest moment can also be found on this album, with his awesome atmospheric solo on Between The Hammer And The Anvil. A Touch of Evil features another mindblowing performance by Glenn, presenting an absolutely spinechilling atmospheric and melodic solo. And the final lead section on One Shot at Glory is just unbelievable.
And of course, let us not forget about Rob Halford. If anyone ever doubted his place on the throne as the Metal God, his mind will be changed whenever he hears this album. The demonic falsetto shrieks reeks with pure fucking evil and insanity, and his powerful midranged voice has never been better.
As a whole, the band puts up what is by far the best performance they ever had, sounding incredibly tight and energetic, and puts their entire hearts into the effort, making a musical experience that surpasses anything ever known to mankind.
This does not have the party metal spirit that most other Priest albums contain. Instead, Painkiller runs you over with monstrous aggression, devastating brutality, bestial insanity combined with a lethal sense of amazing melody.
But the album does let up at one point, namely track number eight: A Touch of Evil, a midpaced semi-ballad with an atmosphere that will lift you off your feet. The atmosphere is increased by the dark, spinechilling keyboard work by Don Airey, Glenn's mesmerizing solo and the chiming bell and blowing wind during the intro, and it's accompanied by wicked vocals, a badass midpaced riff and an amazingly powerful chorus, seemingly exploding out of nowhere, not to mention the dark and twisted lyrics.
The second half of the album is in general more atmospheric than the first. Songs like Nightcrawler (Yes, I got my name from it) and Between The Hammer And The Anvil has that incredible sense of melody to the lethal riffwork, and One Shot At Glory is just a huge epic speed metal masterpiece, and can give any true metalhead shivers down the spine with it's sheer glorious power and feeling. The first half of the album features blistering heavy fast-paced headbanging monsters like All Guns Blazing and Hell Patrol, the mindblowing speed metal of Leather Rebel, the shredding brutality of Metal Meltdown, and the best song of all fucking time: Painkiller.
Scott Travis pounds the song going with an insane drum intro, and then the song explodes into a madness of sinister headbanging riffs, blistering melodic soloing and demonic falsetto. It is completely impossible to describe the sheer awesomeness of this song. I tried earlier to tell you how amazing the solo was, or just how insane the vocals are, or just how menacing the riffwork is, but you really have to hear it to believe it. This is the best song ever, no doubt about it.
The album's lyrics may seem silly to some, but they are really cool, and go extremely well with the music, writing about evil, monsters and death. It complements the musical direction very well, and further increases the dark and wicked feeling hanging over the album.
Painkiller is heavy metal's finest hour, period. While many other amazing albums have been made, nothing even comes close to the greatness of this one. Never has there been a greater combination of raw, sheer brutality and dark, atmospheric melody. This is an essential album for any metalhead, and as it was also the album that from the start got me into metal, I worship it more than any other album ever made. As I said, I simply can not describe how amazing this is or how much I love it, but at least I hope I gave those who haven't heard it some insight in the greatness packaged in here.
But truly, you have to hear it to believe it.
The remaster also features two bonus tracks, Living Bad Dreams and a live version of Leather Rebel. While the latter is a rather weak and uninspired rendition of the masterpiece, Living Bad Dreams is a splendid atmospheric ballad with powerful vocals that shine the most.
But just to make it clear- I do not count the bonus tracks as part of the original album, thus they do not affect the album's rating.