Posted on January 22, 2010 -
Following the poor record sales of 1988’s attempted but largely unsuccessful comeback, “Ram It Down,” Judas Priest tried to win their fans back with their twelfth studio effort, 1990’s “Painkiller.” Frontman Rob Halford, axemen K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton, bassist Ian Hill, and drummer Scott Travis went about this task by returning to their classic, 1970’s style of metal while simultaneously intermixing some techniques from modern, contemporary speed metal bands. The result was a masterful new disc, the heaviest and most musically complex of Judas Priest’s career, which successfully won all of the band’s fans back, and even gained them many new fans. “Painkiller” is not only the definition of a Nineties’ classic; it’s a truly wonderful comeback, and easily the best release of Priest’s long and storied career. Plus–since it’s saturated with fast riffs, scorching leads, extended, technical solos, quick drumming, and Rob’s shrieking vocals–many music fans think (justifably so) that “Painkiller” is the epitome of speed metal. It’s also one of the most famous and important albums on heavy metal’s timeline. Motorhead may have given birth to speed metal, but “Painkiller” has spawned a generation of imitators, so it’s equally as influential as anything by, well, any other band. The opening title track sets the mood well for the rest of the songs. It has a fast drum beat and fast churning riffs, as well as Rob’s standard, very high pitched vocals, and two sweet guitar solos (the first of which is well over a minute long!) The appropriately titled “All Guns Blazing,” has a spectacular, wailing solo which has several different parts to it. The next song, “Leather Rebel,” is a very speedy track with an almost buzzsaw rhythm, and track five (“Metal Meltdown”) features three back-to-back guitar solos. Other highlights include the memorable chug and churn guitars and thumping drums of “Night Crawler,” “Between The Hammer & The Anvil,” which is highlighted by yet another lengthy, winding, mazey, three part solo, and, the catchy, mid-paced, stop-start rhythm behind “A Touch Of Evil.” Finally, if you buy the remastered version of this album, you get two bonus tracks–”Living Bad Dreams,” and a rare, live version of “Leather Rebel”–which are both excellent inclusions in your collection. “Painkiller” is, from front to back, an eargasm. If you’re a speed/thrash/classical metal fan, there’s almost no record you need more than this one, and if you weren’t a Judas Priest fan before, you’ll definitely be one now! This has got to be one of the finest metal albums ever recorded, and it is nothing short of being a flawless, genre defining, standard bearing classic.