Review of Judas Priest's "Painkiller"
Released in 1990, Painkiller was critically acclaimed for being the heaviest Judas Priest album to date. It was also the last album to see Rob Halford before he left for solo efforts. Nominated for a Grammy, it is one of the most covered Judas Priest albums in their discography. The lead singer of the band, Rob Halford, left shortly after its release.
1. Painkiller 6:06
2. Hell Patrol 3:35
3. All Guns Blazing 3:56
4. Leather Rebel 3:34
5. Metal Meltdown 4:46
6. Night Crawler 5:44
7. Between the Hammer and the Anvil 4:47
8. A Touch of Evil 5:42
9. Battle Hymn 0:56
10. One Shot at Glory 6:46
To start, I must say this is one of the heaviest albums every recorded, and was indeed copied by other "power metal" bands in the 90's. On the cover of this monster of an album is the "Painkiller" himself. One of many of Judas Priest's fictional creations, he came down from the skies to combat evil and save humanity from the Apocalypse. (How metal is that?!?)
The title track of the album, Painkiller is the heaviest and fastest song on the whole CD. With piercing guitars, thundering drums, soaring vocals, and solo's abound, all 6 minutes of this song are impressive feats.
The next two bad boys are also features in Priest's live performance in many cities. Hell Patrol possesses some of the high notes to even challenge the range of the first song. An energetic song that features top notch performances from the guitarists, Halford tells the listeners of some badass warriors that have no real story, unlike the Painkiller. If I had to criticize the album for one thing, it'd be the lyrics. They are, on one hand, pretty hardcore and fitting of what I think of as metal, on the other, they are sometimes pushed to generic or, at worst, corny. All Guns Blazing, thankfully, does not fall victim to this. The drums are notable for their constant presence, and the main riff is solid enough for repeat listens.
Now, we come to the two lesser songs on the album. Leather Rebel and Metal Meltdown. The main thing about Leather Rebel is that it isn't as powerful and impressive as the past three songs. On its own, it's not too bad, but disappoints when placed amongst the rest. Not bad, but not on the same level. Metal Meltdown, however, is the worst song out of all of them. The riff is mediocre, more so than Leather Rebel's, but the lyrics are what makes it unbearable. It almost seems like a parody made by someone who dislikes the genre.
The next song is my favorite mythical monster the band has thought up. Starting with a somewhat haunting tune, Night Crawler is the kind of song that can describe some monstrous beast, without the lyrics sounding laughable. The riffs and solos are all reflective of the kind of music that make this album a classic. Towards the end of the song, there is an interlude that could scare anyone walking alone at night; it details the beast's triumph over some poor individuals who tried, in vain, to hide from his glare. Very creepy, very metal!
Between the Hammer and the Anvil is the title of the song to follow. The introduction is laid out by swaying chords until the main riff and vocals kick in. Not exactly as fast as some other songs, but it has a proper place in the album due to its catchy tunes and well delivered solos. If there were a more haunting song than Night Crawler, it would be the song next up for view, A Touch of Evil. Duh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh. Such a great riff matched with entranced lyrics and emotional chorus guarantee this song as one of their biggest hits. At 4:09, Halford goes into overdrive as the song reaches its climax. THAT is high quality metal.
The only instrumental on the album, and a short one at that, Battle Hymn serves as a nice little bridge to the conclusion of the album, One Shot at Glory. The only problem is that it's about two minutes long for what it is. It does have an exciting feel with Halford's inspiring lyrics and vocal skill and a nice instrumental section near the end. A decent finish for an awesome album.
All in all, Painkiller is an impressive and aggressive album, from one of the best heavy metal bands of all time. Of ten songs, 6 are fantastic. The other three, and the one instrumental, detract from the quality of the album as a whole. The only realm in which you can further criticize them is 1. the production, which is too dominated by the guitars you can hardly hear the bass and 2. the lyrics which can border on the silly occasionally. The album itself is a flawed masterpiece, yet even those flaws don't make the effort any less worthy of a high ranking.
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