Home > Music > Music Review: Judas Priest – Painkiller

Music Review: Judas Priest – Painkiller



So here we have “Painkiller” by Judas Priest. Don’t believe me? Look at the cover.

10 tracks. One of utter destruction, the rest ranging from pretty good to pretty damn stupid. Judas Priest has had problems with consistency for the longest time – Only “Sad Wings of Destiny” seems immune, although the other ’70s albums come very close at times (Just counting the studio albums here). It’s sad, but what are you going to do? I had yet to be born in 1990, so I wasn’t around for whatever reaction this one received – largely positive, I’m told.

Fast forward to April 2009, where I am literally flinging myself into a canyon of heavy metal after only having the then mysterious substance trickle in for a while. When I decide it’s time to check out Judas Priest, this is the first one to get my attention, mainly due to the title track. It’s not the fastest thing they’ve done (even on this album), not the heaviest thing (that’s probably Jugulator), not the most epic thing (Dreamer Deciever), or the most metal-minded thing they’ve done (Never mind, it probably is). But it combines these elements very well – 6 minutes of crushing intensity with guitar solos, huge screams, and so forth. The track alone is probably in the top 5 of all Priest tracks, so it’s a shame that nothing on the album even comes close to touching that level of glory.

It’s incredibly important to realize how violently and prematurely this album blows its load. Track 2, “Hell Patrol”, almost seems like a break after the abuse of Painkiller – it’s a good song for anyone else, but the problems with this album make themselves apparent. Firstly, it’s very monochromatic in its approach – there are differences between the songs on this album, but they seem to be primarily of intensity. Each track tries to be heavy and epic – some of the latter ones succeed in general but fail to come close in context, or land flat on their faces, unable to muster much real strength. As a whole, most of the tracks have some redeeming value, like the wild speed of “Metal Meltdown” or the melodic prowess of “Between the Hammer and the Anvil”.

Compositions are generally fairly simple verse-chorus affairs. Sometimes, there are long bridges with lots of soloing, and the best songs on here tend to have such. Admittedly, most the best tracks on here imitate the structure of Painkiller to some degree, like All Guns Blazing, but since even the tracks that don’t follow its general form almost do so, it’s not much of a statement. It sounds great when it’s fast, but it doesn’t get very fast – “Metal Meltdown” is about as fast as Priest gets. The weaker songs are generally the slower ones, but even that doesn’t set up much of a trend – the worst songs on here aren’t bad because of a lack of speed, of course…

Then, as “Between the Hammer and the Anvil” fades into wind, the bells come in – they are a warning..

On this track the album just falls apart entirely and doesn’t recover. Admittedly, it’s about over at that point, so maybe they were hoping people wouldn’t notice after the rest of the tracks wore them out, or maybe I’m an exception to those who dislike it. But there’s lots of problems – it plods along, occasionally interjecting idiotic synth flourishes (0:36) which were probably intended to sound “evil”. Unfortunately, it ends up sounding far cheesier than the rest of the album (some of the lyrics are completely ridiculous beforehand, but this one just takes the cake), and the riffing isn’t on par with the other tracks. Then, after an instrumental, “One Shot at Glory” partially redeems the album, but doesn’t do much to distinguish itself. A shame. What a way to end an album that could’ve been one of Priest’s best.

I mean, it’s still decent, and it definitely has shining moments. But it’s one hell of an inconsistent album – Priest tends to be that way, especially when they’re popular. Either way, this album leaves you wanting more. You’d either hope for an improvement, or more of the same, or whatever (which you can extrapolate from your own opinions). So when Priest broke up in 1991, I’m sure lots of people were distraught. Jugulator, for sure, ended up about the same as this one qualitywise, maybe slightly better with its cooler album art, better ending, and other similarities. I might get to that one later.

Categories: Music Tags: , , , ,
  1. real gone
    2011/03/20 at 15:06

    While it’s nowhere near as good as ‘British Steel’ or ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ and certainly doesn’t have the enduring charm of ‘Screaming For Vengeance’ or ‘Defenders of the Faith’, ‘Painkiller’ still presents Priest as a mighty force.

    Read my full review of ‘Painkiller’ here: http://realgonerocks.blogspot.com/2011/03/judas-priest-painkiller.html

  1. 2013/11/26 at 01:32

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