THE BAND: Rob Halford (vocals), K.K. Downing (guitar), Glenn Tipton (guitar), Ian Hill (bass), Scott Travis (drums & percussion).
THE DISC: (1990) 10 tracks clocking in at approximately 46 minutes. Included with the disc is a 10-page booklet containing song titles/credits, song lyrics and one black & white band photo. All songs written by Halford/Tipton/Downing. Remastered with bonus tracks and expanded liner notes in 2001 (55 total minutes). Recorded at Miraval Studios (Brignoles, France). Label – Columbia Records.
COMMENTS: “Painkiller” is an ultra large dose of traditional Judas Priest sounds with some speed & thrash metal mixed in. In other words… compared to their previous two albums, the metal messiahs have returned to form! Nothing can compare to the band’s early releases (“Stained Glass” though “Screaming For Vengeance”) in the late 1970’s and early 80’s… but “Painkiller” comes close. For me, “Turbo” (1986) and “Ram It Down” (1988) were way to pop, to tame, too much bubblegum – way to happy. “Painkiller” showed the band still had the balls to bang their heads the old school way. Looking back now, “Painkiller” is still a bittersweet album. Rob Halford would officially leave the band in 1991, and Judas Priest was pronounced dead from ‘91-95… only to resurge in ‘96 with replacement scab singer, Tim “Ripper” Owens. To me, this was like David Lee Roth leaving Van Halen, or Bruce Dickinson leaving Iron Maiden… maintaining that ANY replacement would simply be unacceptable. Also note long time drummer Dave Holland was out and new skin pounder Scott Travis (from Racer-X) was in – bringing extremely quick feet and lots of heavy double bass. This is an album filled with anger, attitude, shredding guitars, pounding drums, and happily very little keyboards (only on “A Touch Of Evil”). From the 6-minute opening title track to the album closer, “Painkiller” just doesn’t let up – no filler to be found. Highlights include the title track, “Metal Meltdown”, “Night Crawler” and “A Touch Of Evil” (as it happens, all 4 of these songs were featured on the band’s 2-disc ‘93 compilation “Metal Works”). This may well be Judas Priest’s heaviest album – as well as their last essential release (4.5 stars).