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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.