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Regaining Their Footing - 86%

Liquid_Braino, September 16th, 2010

Following Stained Class, the evolution of Judas Priest displayed a gradual decrease concerning the brand of heavy metal they helped create and a rise in pop rock sensibilities to the degree that after Point Of Entry the next logical step would be to release an album sounding something akin to Loverboy or Foreigner material. Thankfully, the band took a step back, saw the mellower direction they were heading, and brought back the metal to an almost jarring but not quite complete degree. Still, the lack of enthusiasm for their previous release by their fanbase and a lack of commercial success turned out to be a godsend.

From the first seconds of The Hellion, there was no doubt that this Judas Priest offering was a different beast than the hard rockin’ boogie of Point Of Entry with its explosive dual guitar heroics channeling the album’s cover art perfectly, a soaring iron eagle about to strike the listener. The bombast is aided by a production that brings the guitars clearly to the forefront where they belong, and the guitars themselves sound magnificent, sharp and gleaming but warm enough not to sound tinny whatsoever. Like two swords dripping fresh blood. It’s a rush.

With an intro like that, expectations would be set sky high, and Electric Eye does not disappoint by any means. In fact I’d say it’s one of their strongest tracks in general with its fast pace, killer riffs, Rob’s icy delivery and cool sci-fi lyrics. The drums and bass in this track, as well as the rest of the album, are serviceable in that they basically provide a base for the guitars to unleash their fireworks. An argument could be made that a more dynamic approach by the rhythm section could have electrified the songs to a higher level of intensity, but personally I can’t say it really bothered me in the least, since my focus would still be on Rob’s voice and the skillful guitar antics.

The reason why I stated earlier that the band hadn’t completely shed the straight up rock & roll skin that had gradually grown over their steel frame is that there are still a few songs in this release that seemed designed for mainstream rock radio airplay, in which You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ became a resounding success. But let’s face it, it’s a hell of a good hard rock tune with a punchy, ultra-catchy chorus and a mid-paced but driving pulse. Unfortunately other rockish numbers here don’t fare nearly as well, such as the pop-rockish (Take These) Chains and the sluggish Pain And Pleasure. They recall their last album’s style to the point where they seem odd nestled within an album containing a raging speed demon like the primal title track and the glorious Riding On The Wind, in which the guitar solos sound like two fighter jets in an intense aerial combat. Rob’s vocals on those two tracks are particularly stellar, high pitched angry screaming while boasting amazing control and skill. His vocals actually save the last track, Devil’s Child, from being a rock & roll disaster, giving the song a surprising edge with his barely controlled venom spitting.

Screaming For Vengeance was definitely a transitional album that displays the band in the process of shaking off their recent excursion into mainstream rock and developing a stronger and much heavier sound that would be further enhanced in their next album, Defenders Of The Faith. It has some shaky moments, and yet contains some of the most essential slabs of metal in their catalogue, thus it’s definitely worth getting as it certainly remains a prime showcase for what Judas Priest was all about in the 80s.