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The standard-bearer of speed metal - 95%

MercyfulSatyr, April 27th, 2009

Judas Priest’s back on track at last! After two not-so-great albums, they came out of nowhere with their glorious comeback. This whole thing screams “metal,” from its title to its cover to its songs. And what a set of songs we’ve got here! The whole band is in top form. The guitars screech with fury, the rhythm section thunders, and above all, the vocals soar. This is, by far, their greatest moment in the 80s. Every song is full of amazing riffs and at least one blazing solo, stuffed to bursting with cool sci-fi and independent lyrics. There are even metal ballads here!

It’s immediately apparent from the moment “The Hellion” comes on that Priest aren’t fooling around. The opening sequence is melodic yet oddly menacing, and at its climax the song gives way to one of the most legendary riffs in all of metal – the opening to “Electric Eye.” Yes, it’s that good; it’s powerful, inspiring, and energizing all at the same time. The lyrics detail, in rich imagery, a space-age surveillance machine that reminds of Big Brother, delivered in a restraint that further gives a feeling of something being hidden from the listener. One of the album’s most memorable and awesome solos graces this song with its presence, sealing its status as a legend in the realm of speed metal.

The speed continues in “Riding On the Wind.” This time, the restraint is gone; in its place you get shrieking falsetto – the kind Halford got famous for in the first place. The solo in this one is so high-register that it almost literally slashes your face off.

“Devil’s Child” is yet another example of metal at its best. The song employs an awesome “Back in Black” style crunch, making it great to headbang to. There’s yet another light-speed solo, not to mention an incredible falsetto-infused bridge. This is what “heavy rock” really means.

And at the top of the pack rushes the title track. You can tell from the scream only a few seconds in that this isn’t just any old song. And as if that weren’t convincing enough, “Screaming for Vengeance” continues to maul your body with ridiculously good riffs, insane wailed vocals, and to top it off, a face-melting, speedy solo. This isn’t a cliché, folks – this is a precedent.

However, there’s more to this album than speed. Take the cruelly underrated “Bloodstone,” for example. Though the tempo is toned down, the song is still undeniably metal. The best part of the song has to be the chorus, with its awesome vocal prowess.

On the lighter side of things (if you can call it light), you have the ballads. “(Take These) Chains” is something a bit new for the band, not quite progressive like “Victim of Changes,” but not quite standard either. The chorus is quite memorable, and through the whole song Halford comes across as genuinely depressed. “Fever” is more of the same (that is, more of the good) but also involves a masterful falsetto bridge much like that of “Devil’s Child.”

And let’s not forget “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” the other Priest song everybody knows. The song has strong, competently written, defiant lyrics, a great chorus, and an immortal and instantly memorable solo. Unlike many other bands’ “hits,” this is actually awesome.

All in all, Screaming for Vengeance is a glorious return to form for this storied band. Not a single song (except maybe “Pain and Pleasure”) ever dips in quality, and there’s enough greatness to keep listeners coming back again and again. It’s too bad this greatness didn’t last.