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A Lesson On How To Satisfy Everybody - 87%

MrSubmarine, December 13th, 2011

By 1982, heavy metal’s spearheads Judas Priest were dangerously heading towards ‘sell-out’ road with British Steel and Point of Entry. It was clear to the band that they either had to keep up with the legions of NWOBHM bands that they had helped influence, or deliver another British Steel that would guarantee them even more commercial success. However, Halford and the boys seemed to have asked themselves, “fuck it, why can’t we just please everyone?”, and 1982’s 'Screaming For Vengeance' was the answer to that question, being the perfect storm between commercial success and classic heavy metal. The band’s well-received return to their heavy metal roots spurned even greater success and was arguably the pinnacle of their popularity.

If there’s anything Priest had a knack for, it’s creating albums filled with songs that each have their own charm and individuality, and this album is a testimony of that. From the AC/DC-tinged ‘Devil’s Child’ to the blistering title track, it is clear that each song is noticeably different from each other. There are still the ‘poppy’ hooks to attract casual listeners, but songs such as the classic ‘Electric Eye’ and ‘Riding On The Wind’ pack enough of a punch to satisfy the average heavy metal fan. Halford, as usual, remains in top form, transitioning effortlessly from his mid-register to his trademark screeching falsetto and never comes off as overbearing. Downing and Tipton continue to breathe life into the songs with crunching riffs and memorable guitar duels, and while the solos aren’t exceptionally great, they’re a welcome change from those present in the previous 2 albums. Ian Hill is well, Ian Hill, and Dave Holland puts up a more inspired performance which, while allowing the guitarists to do their thing, isn’t much to write home either. Rest assured, he still gets the job done.

The album gets off to a roaring start with ‘The Hellion’ reveling in all of its unabashed ‘epic-ness’, that transitions into ‘Electric Eye’, which, in my opinion, is the best Priest song from the '80s. You’d be hard pressed to find a major fault with this song as it thankfully doesn’t fall victim to the dreaded '80s cheese factor usually expected from the band. Riding On The Wind and the highly underrated ‘Bloodstone’ do an excellent job of keeping the listener engaged and are both catchy and generally fun tracks to listen to. Another great thing about this album is the track order, as one never seems to get burned out with the slower numbers ‘(Take These) Chains’ and 'Pain and Pleasure' to 'calm' the listener down before preparing them for the hellacious title track. Make no mistakes, this songs has BALLS, and big ones might I add. From the memorable opening scream, Priest launches a heavy metal attack on the listener’s eardrums with Halford spitting out lines in his powerful falsetto while Tipton and Downing deliver some great riffs and a swank guitar duel, topped off with a hair-raising wail Rob hits towards the end of the song. This would have been my pick for the album closer, simply because it kicks so much ass, but 'Devil's Child' works as a serviceable album closer. And screw the haters, because ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ rocks. Yeah, it’s simplistic, but it drives the message home and is infectiously catchy, serving as a far better anthem than ‘Take on the World’ (seriously, fuck that song). Sadly, there is the usual filler with the incredibly bland ‘Pain and Pleasure’ and the somewhat weak ballad ‘Fever’. These aren’t exactly bad songs, but fail to live up to the standard of the other tracks and detract from the album’s quality just a bit.

The best summary I’ve heard for this album is that "when it’s hot, it’s HOT. And when it’s not, it’s not", and that summary is absolutely correct. But that’s not to say that this album is bad, because it’s really not. There’s a little something for everyone, and it’s fair to say that ‘Screaming For Vengeance’ is one of Priest’s greatest accomplishments as they successfully created an album that stays true to metal, yet contains enough hooks to ensure commercial success and remains the epitome of '80s Judas Priest. Sadly, the band would never enjoy the same levels of popularity again, which eventually led to the teeny-bop crap they put out in 1986 and 1988, in a desperate attempt to reach the masses, but that’s for another review. Enjoy a landmark heavy metal album and one of Judas Priest’s most popular ones.

Standout Tracks:
The Hellion/Electric Eye
Riding On The Wind
Screaming For Vengeance
You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’