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A Review of the Album Painkiller by British Heavy Metal Band Judas Priest: Is It Their Best Album?

Updated on December 27, 2021
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Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

Track Listing for the album Painkiller (2001 re-mastered version)

  1. Painkiller
  2. Hell Patrol
  3. All Guns Blazing
  4. Leather Rebel
  5. Metal Meltdown
  6. Night Crawler
  7. Between the Hammer & The Anvil
  8. A Touch of Evil
  9. Battle Hymn (instrumental)
  10. One Shot at Glory
  11. Living Bad Dreams (Bonus Track)
  12. Leather Rebel (LIVE version)

Some background information about the album Painkiller and the style

Painkiller is the classic 1990 album by British heavy metal band Judas Priest. This may be their best album that they have written. It is one of those albums that stands out even years after its release. The album features the entry of Scott Travis on drums. He replaced Dave Holland who had left the band in 1989. The album also features the production work of Chris Tsangarides. Tom Allom had produced Judas Priest’s albums during the 1980’s. It is a radical change and departure for their hard rock influenced albums of the previous decade. It is not groovy thrash like Cowboys From Hell but it is a more straightforward heavy metal album. But it really works out very well for this band. Painkiller isn’t exactly like thrash metal but it is a heavier style of metal compared to what we have heard from Judas Priest and it may leave some fans with the feeling of “whoa!” The straightforward style that Judas Priest had been using in the 1970s and 1980s was the style that they had been best known for but I guess with Dave Holland’s departure, the band also wanted to get a sort of fresh start even though by this time they had been playing and or performing since the 1960s.

Painkiller: the Review Covering the Songs Painkiller Through Nightcrawler

The album opens with the fast title track Painkiller. It is about a half human half monster like creature that is riding fast on a motorcycle. As the world is being devastated it is only a matter of time before the savior comes to free the world from its pain. The end of the song features the impressive vocal range of Rob Halford as he is able to hold the singing for what seems like an eternity. Some of the songs on this album are on the 2 CD set called Metal Works 73-93. One of them is this song. The other songs on that 2 CD set are Metal Meltdown and a Touch of Evil. However, on that 2 CD set, the lead guitar work by Glenn Tipton in the beginning is not included and it jumps straight into the song. Night Crawler is about trying to prepare for the coming for a black creature that is known for going after its victims and tearing them apart. Is Painkiller the best album musically for Judas Priest? It is tough to say because albums such as Ram It Down and Screaming for Vengeance certainly deserve consideration as well for the musical aspect. One thing is for sure: Painkiller has more than enough to satisfy the avid heavy metal fan.

The second half of the album has the amazing song A Touch of Evil

"A Touch of Evil" starts with the sound of a bell and it has this spooky atmosphere which really sets the tone for the song. It has one of the best guitar solos that you will ever hear! The solo has feeling and passion and it is exciting to listen to. If Brain Dance is an Annihilator song that is a classic no matter how many times you hear it, then "A Touch of Evil" is another example of a song that never loses its greatness. If you only have one Judas Priest album, this would be the one to have in your collection. There are no bad songs on this album and the guitar work will leave guitar players around the world very impressed. Judas Priest would go on a hiatus period following Halford’s departure. They would reform in 1996 and record the album Jugulator in 1997 with Tim “Ripper” Owens on vocals.

The song called "A Touch of Evil"

There is no doubt that Painkiller remains one of the finest albums in the career of Judas Priest even in 2021 more than 30 years after its release. If the intent of this band was to create an album full of raw, intense metal, then they did that. One of the songs that may be overlooked is the awesome “Between the Hammer and the Anvil.” The song slowly builds up, Rob Halford lets out a scream, and the rest is history.

Favorite song on the album Painkiller

What is your favorite song on the album Painkiller?

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"Painkiller" Song Only

Thoughts About the Album Painkiller in 2021

All that said, this is a very musically intense sounding album and this may be the only real con that I can see. The intensity is a challenge for me to handle at times because this album represents such a dramatic musical shift for Judas Priest. For the time period in which Judas Priest recorded and released, Painkiller was the right type of album for them. They even admitted that prior to the arrival and recruitment of Scott Travis as their drummer, this kind of musical intensity was not possible. It is still very hard to say with 100% absolute certainty that this is their finest hour. Painkiller still can be put on a list of the Top 5 Judas Priest albums of all time if reviewers had such a list.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2016 Ara Vahanian


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