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Classic Review: Judas Priest - Painkiller
Judas Priest

Label: Sony
Year released: 2001
Duration: 55:03
Tracks: 12
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 5/5

Review online: May 22, 2002
Reviewed by: Pierre Bégin
Readers Rating

Rated 4.55/5 (90.94%) (106 Votes)

After two very disappointing albums, "Turbo" (1986) and "Ram It Down" (1988), Judas Priest released the solid "Painkiller" in 1990. This CD is a pinnacle in their career.

"Painkiller" marked the arrival of Scott Travis on drums. This one has a huge impact on this great album. The previous two albums were recorded with terrible drum machines (listen to "Blood Red Sky" on "Ram It Down" when the drums enter and you’ll get the picture) and was one of the main reasons why these two albums sound awful, among other things like cheesy lyrics and guitar synthesizers. Fortunately, Scott Travis did a wonderful job behind his kit on this opus. He also allowed Judas Priest to further push their limits with faster songs and more complicated songwriting.

The proof can be heard right at the beginning of the album with the fast and furious "Painkiller": the song begins with an excellent fast drum solo by Travis. This incredible six minutes fast-paced song contains ultra high pitch vocals by Rob Halford and a wonderful very long melodic lead guitar by Glenn Tipton. This is one of my favourite leads of all time in the music history, period!

Song after song, the intensity never drops with such tunes as "Hell Patrol" (solid in-your-face heavy metal song), "All Guns Blazing" (fast tempo and high pitch vocals), "Leather Rebel" (another very good fast song with double bass drum) and "Metal Meltdown" (two furious lead breaks introduce this beautiful fast-paced song). The guitar riffs and leads are heavy and melodic throughout the entire album. In fact, I love this album from the beginning till the end. Also, the band has recorded two promo-videos for this release, "Painkiller" and the very emotional "A Touch Of Evil".

The guitar sound is impressive on this album. In fact, production-wise and to this day, this is the best sound that the band has achieved in their entire career. I really believe the band when they said that they never worked so hard on an album like "Painkiller". I also think this album is a turning point for heavy metal music in general, like "British Steel" did, 10 years before "Painkiller", in 1980. Many bands are partially inspired by "Painkiller" like, for instance, Gamma Ray, or entirely like Primal Fear and Silent Force! (-;

The remastered CD contains two bonus track, "Living Bad Dreams", an excellent mellow song that the band didn’t know why they never released it on any album due to its potential hit success, and "Leather Rebel" (live).

For me, "Painkiller" is a classic Judas Priest album and a very important point in the history of heavy metal music. It still sounds refreshing and not dated a decade later. "Painkiller" received mitigated response from the fans in 1990 and I think this is partly due to their two weaker albums released previously and the huge step between "Ram It Down" and this album. I think everyone can see today the huge impact this album has had on the metal community. Sadly, Rob Halford left the band after this awesome album and Judas Priest took seven years off before releasing the awful "Jugulator". In conclusion, "Painkiller" is a must-have and it’s one of my three favourite Priest albums along with "Screaming For Vengeance" and "Defenders Of The Faith".

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