"Let me hear the battle cry
Calling on the wind
Let me see the banners fly
Before the storm begins"
One Word Review: Metal
Back in time when I first listened to Painkiller, I was completely blown away by its speed and power. It was the most aggressive thing I had ever heard. From the opening title track to the final, majestic One shot at glory you will not be in doubt that this is Heavy Metal in its purest form. It is my favorite Judas Priest album and as close as you come to a pure metallic masterpiece. There is no way back once the monstrous force that is Judas Priest, has set its eye on you. It is coming to get you!
Rob Halford sounds fiercer than ever and has a great part in making this album a triumph. New on the drums is Scott Travis (Racer X) who adds a special powerful ingredient to the band and almost steals the show. Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing play equal parts as well, releasing a unique dual guitar attack that brings a massive sound to the album. All of them deliver devastating performances that lift the album into the next level of aggression compared to earlier releases. Something is constantly going on in the background and for the 46 minutes the album lasts, you will not find time to draw a regular breath. You will be lost in the intense atmosphere that flows from each song and left breathless, gasping for another go when the time is up.
Only Ian Hill on the bass seems to be strangely absent from the mix most of the time.
Painkiller is a relentless opener. No mercy is shown for those with a weak heart. If the opening drum solo doesn't smack you in the face, leaving you wondering what just hit you, then the electrifying guitar riff that continues will. Rob Halford's vocals bring the intensity level to a boiling point. An intensity level that explodes and goes right of the scale a few very memorable times during the song. Painkiller is a classic song which has often been covered by other bands, but never have I heard anything as intense as it is delivered here.
Another of my favorites is Hell Patrol. The very special atmosphere combined with a drive to be reckoned with keeps me captivated. The guitars lay a thick background and Rob's vocals sound like they are rising from the depth of some otherworldly place. Only Rob Halford can sing a line like "Ripping out hearts" with such a spine tingling conviction. The dual guitar harmonies also add to the enjoyment of this song. There is a sense of something great and powerful at work as Glenn and K.K. play the main melody together.
All guns blazing is one of the simplest songs on the album. The surprising opening is a highlight, as are the brilliant leads by Glenn. Total ear candy. While this song is not so interesting to sit down and listen to as the others, it has a great powerful drive and it is one of those songs that are meant to be played live.
The highlight of Leather rebel is definitely the dual guitar solo. Other than that this song about being an outcast is ruled by a great rhythm guitar. Rob sings in the lower regions of his voice and it suits the song well.
Metal meltdown opens with a little guitar duel between K.K. and Glenn (which I think K.K. wins) and continues into another Metallic hymn. A long split guitar solo is again the highlight of the song. These kind of solos have become one of the trademarks of Judas Priest and it is always entertaining to see what the two maestros come up with. Glenn's solos feel wild and crazy and a little improvised while K.K.'s tend to feel a little more melodic and controlled. While they complement each other in a fantastic way, it also feels like they are edging each other on all the time and this adds another level of intensity.
Night Crawler is a horror story perfectly captured in one song. It will no doubt haunt the first time listener with frail nerves for many nights. Right from the start a creepy atmosphere is set, an intense riff follows and Rob's haunting voice starts telling the story of the Night Crawler. Everything culminates in an evil spoken part that rises in intensity as a background heartbeat goes out of control. Again a great dual guitar solo is the perfect dessert after this very unique and interesting meal.
Between the hammer and the anvil has a slow but exhilarating opening that sets the perfect atmosphere. No one makes as great an opening scream as Rob. While his vocals may seem very raw and aggressive the first time you hear them, they also hold an incredible amount of emotion and melody that shows itself on repeated listens. This man seems able to bend his vocal chords around just about anything. Again the guitarwork is inventive and keeps the listener on the edge all the time. One of the slower songs which rules with its thick atmosphere.
A touch of evil is the closest thing this album has to a ballad. Again it has a unique atmosphere that pervades the entire song. Very catchy and still powerful, it is built on a simple, but always changing riff that rises and falls and gives a great intensity to the song. Glenn completely nails the melodic guitar solo leading up to the intense climax. The solo gives just the right amount of emotion to the song and makes it unforgetable. A chilling moment.
Battle hymn is a short intro leading up to what I think is the pinnacle of the album, One shot at glory. This song perfectly captures the feel of the album and it is also an inspiring call to the warrior inside. The opening of the song is on the same level as the magical beginning to Savatage's "Hall of the mountain king". A heavy riff opens the song, drums join the rythm while Glenn adds a splintering solo and Rob's soaring vocals enter the sound. This is one of those songs that is able enter your consciousness and take you away to another realm, leaving you exhausted after the song, but in a state of pure energized joy. The guitar work in this song is beyond words. It has to be heard. This is what I call a perfect song.
Conclusion: This is Heavy Metal at a nerve wrecking intensity. Hard, heavy, powerful, fast, intense and aggressive with a touch of emotion. You need a definition of Heavy Metal? Painkiller is the answer.
01. Painkiller [6:09] (Video) 02. Hell Patrol [3:39] 03. All Guns Blazing [3:59] 04. Leather Rebel [3:37] 05. Metal Meltdown [4:51] 06. Night Crawler [5:47] 07. Between The Hammer & The Anvil [4:52] 08. A Touch Of Evil [5:47] 09. Battle Hymn [0:59] 10. One Shot At Glory [6:49] (Video)