27 May 2014

Judas Priest - Painkiller

This is quite possibly the most METAL album I've ever heard! From the awesome cover art right down to the songs, everything about this album screams METAL - and then some...

'Painkiller' was released in 1990 and is the twelfth album by seminal British metallers Judas Priest. This album was looked upon as a comeback of sorts, partly due to the band having been embroiled in a court case over subliminal messages in records which inspired two teens to kill themselves (The case was thrown out of court) and also because the last two albums ('Turbo' and 'Ram It Down' respectively) weren't very well received from a critical standpoint, accusations of commercialising their sound by adding glam and pop elements to their songs. I've not heard 'Ram It Down' so I cannot comment but from what I've heard of 'Turbo', I can see their point. You should also check out their stage clothes for the 'Turbo' tour - multi-coloured bondage gear! That, plus the fact that the thrash bands who'd originally been inspired by Judas Priest were now conquering the globe meant that Priest were being viewed as a band who were past it. Something needed to be done in order to get their star back, and this album is the result...

Opening with 'Painkiller', it shows off the skills of new drummer, Scott Travis (Formerly of Racer X) with a formidable drum pattern before the song kicks off with a riff that sounds like Slayer. Rob Halford's vocals are a high pitched scream throughout which adds to the songs intensity. Lyrically, it's about how a messiah known as 'The Painkiller' will banish evil and save mankind. Real "Boy's Own"-type stuff, athough some of the lyrics seem a bit camp ("Faster than a laser bullet, louder than an atom bomb..."). Nevereless, I suppose it's a change to hear how we're all fucked and going to hell...

Next song is "Hell Patrol" and whilst it may conjure images of demons conquering the land, Rob Halford claimed it was inspired by the U.S Air Force during the first Gulf War - he missed out the bit where they shelled their own fucking side, however. Maybe it's a comment I've read too much into but when I hear this song, it sounds like the incidental music of an air force movie from the late 80's, something along the lines of 'Top Gun' or even 'Iron Eagle'. An awesome headbanging tempo as well as soaring leads and vocals, it's fucking brilliant. "All Guns Blazing" is the next song on here and it takes no prisoners, another up-tempo number, you can really hear the band answering their detractors who'd reckoned they were a spent force. Great solo too, but Priest always did have great guitarists in Glen Tipton and KK Downing. "Leather Rebel" opens up with a fast, almost buzzsaw-like riff before settling down into what I guess would be a more traditional Priest song, some great drumwork too. The most inappropiate display of fret-wankery opens up the next song, "Metal Meltdown". It's a fine song, a personal fave of mine but it's ruined by that intro.

A synth-intro heralds the start of "Night Crawler". Nope, not the dude off The X-Men but a beast who comes into town to fuck shit up then leaves. This is, for me, the best song on the album. There is not a thing wrong with it. Great rhythm, solo...everything, really. If there was any doubt that Priest were back in business then this song removes those doubts. "Between The Hammer And The Anvil" is next and is another exercise in METAL! While we're here, I'd also like to mention that the production on this album is flawless. It actually finds the right balance between making the band sound heavy as fuck but also clear enough to make a dent in the charts. This is what "Turbo" should've done instead of going for the glam dollar. "A Touch Of Evil" sounds like a power ballad and let's the pace up a bit. To be fair, we've had SIX songs in a row of awesome METAL, it's not gonna hurt to drop the pace a bit. In fact, variety is the spice of life. "Battle Hymn/One Shot At Glory" brings us back up to pace with the type of song that sounds like it would be right home in a training montage from an 80's sports movie. Come to think of it, I'm surprised that movie producers didn't get more Priest songs for their soundtracks! Anyhow, this song has a great solo and afterwards, we're back into power ballad territory for the final song, "Living Bad Dreams". Synthy intro before a clean guitar passage and you can sense a thousand lighters being held aloft when the band plays this live. It's a slow number but it's so good, it doesn't matter. Sometimes it's best to have the last song on the album as a slow number as it let's you wind down from the main assault.

So, all in all - this album is excellent. As mentioned, the production is flawless and each band member sounds like they've discovered their fire. The songs are all timeless and serve as a good introduction to Judas Priest. They certainly showed that they were ready to take on the best that thrash metal had to offer - unfortunately, Rob Halford would leave the band amid much internal strife and form the groove-metal band fight (More on that later, maybe...) whilst the rest of the band recruited his replacement from a Judas Priest tribute band. It's a story that made the silver screen as the (alright, I guess although it could've been better) movie "Rock Star". Still, this album rocks.

10/10 - This is proof there is a (METAL) God.

Top Track: Night Crawler.

Link to purchase on Amazon...
Link to listen on Spotify...

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