Judas Priest

Columbia Records, 1990

REVIEW BY: Alfredo Narvaez


Okay, I'm going to come out and say it: This is a guilty pleasure album!! OK?!! I don't want to hear anything from anyone about how cheesy and bad Priest was or how this isn't worth the time of day or how it's ten years too old. Everyone got that?!

Alright. Onto the review.

There have always been two sides of metal - three if you count the glam/pop side that Bon Jovi and Poison strutted through, but we're not counting that. On one side, there's a serious side to metal. This is where bands like Metallica and Megadeth exist. They write stuff that is firmly set on the real world and about issues - like drug abuse ("Master Of Puppets") or nuclear destruction ("Symphony Of Destruction.")

The other side has been a bit more...hmm...theatric. It's less interested in issues or real-life problems and more on fantasy and hormones. Bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest lived here. Their music was not usually about problems. It was about chest-thumping and attitude. Note that I said usually. The line is very thin and bands moved back and forth along it. In today's terms, Rob Zombie and Gwar are in this theatric side of metal - where anything can be said and done because it's not about it being honest. It's about a release of pent-up emotions into an media that lets people be something else.

Coming out of the late 80s, the British metal band known as Judas Priest was in a bit of a funk. Their previous album, Ram It Down, had failed to light up the charts in any way. And, truth be told, the album suffered from watered-down lyrics and a lazy attitude towards the material. Aside from the ass-kicking title track, that album was barely worth the plastic on which it was burnt. It was a sign that the band may have been trying to adapt to the sound of chart-toppers like Warrant and Bon Jovi.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

So, in 1990, the band released Painkiller. It mixed their two-guitar attack of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing with the thrash drumming of newcomer Scott Travis. Perhaps it is the addition of Travis that gives this album its stronger and sharper edge. The band hadn't sounded this fresh and crisp since their breakthrough album, British Steel. It's loud, mean and in-your-ears. All of this sonic boom actually helps lift the vocals done by singer Rob Halford - who is, along with Freddie Mercury, one of the few men who could go toe-to-toe with Mariah Carey in an octave contest. His voice hadn't sounded this well since their mid-80s hits, Screaming For Vengeance and Defenders Of The Faith.

So what about the songs? Well, if you can get past some of the lyrics that sound like they came right out of the Necronomicon (Hey! A Lovecraft AND an Evil Dead reference in one! Yes!) or that sound a bit contrite, you'll find that they're not that bad. The title track starts off with the pounding of Travis before letting loose the guitar attack. From here until the end, the band hits all its marks. They're tight and very, very professional. Some of the songs may seem trite and soulless - "Hell Patrol," "All Guns Blazing," "One Shot At Glory" - but no less than any of the songs in Britney Spears' album or in Limp Bizkit's. Like I stated, this music isn't about correctness or honesty. It's about becoming something else - even if it's just in your mind.

The more you hear this album, the more you may be inclined to believe that this is the perfect album for Halloween. "Night Crawler" might fit rather well in a Freddy Krueger or a Stephen King movie while "A Touch Of Evil" should be in the soundtrack to the next Anne Rice-vampire movie. Both songs are very moody and show off the talents of all people involved. In particular, Halford carries the songs and gives them much of the needed attitude. The funny thing is there is not one dirty word or profanity-laden song - proving that Priest was not a dumb band.

While the album became a minor hit when it was released, Priest soon faced serious problems. After their tour, they were forced to go to court to defend themselves against a lawsuit brought on by the parents of a fan who commited suicide. After that ran its course, Halford found himself tired with his twenty-year bandmates and left, recruiting Travis for his Pantera-Anthrax sounding project, Fight. However, neither one of Fight's albums went much of anywhere. Later, Halford joined Trent Reznor for Two - but that didn't do anything. Meanwhile, the rest of Priest eventually re-recruited Travis and, with new lead throat "Ripper" Owens, tried to capture their former magic. They're still trying.

Therefore, you can consider this the swan song of one of metal's most theatric line-ups. Like I said before, this is a guilty pleasure album. If you've ever been sixteen and had no money, no friends, no girls, no plans, then this album might remind you of how you felt deep down inside. Or if you just want to return to the times when you felt invincible and could hold the world by its cojones, this album will make you smile. Now, go on and enjoy!

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2000 Alfredo Narvaez and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.