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Judas Priest - "Painkiller, 1990 (re-release)"
CBS Records 2002

This is one of those very special records in heavy metal. When it comes to it, everybody speaks out its title with great respect and thankfulness that it exists, being proud to share the tunes of magic that found a place on this record. This is album that happens once in a lifetime. When mood, creative inspiration, working conditions... clap perfectly together. When primal ideas fully achieves its goal.

"Painkiller" thrillingly opens with its title track. Why would "Painkiller" thrill after all? Well, sound is most damaging since band's ever existence and what's more, title track is based on a half tuned main theme, which wasn't something metal heads were used to get from Priest. It captures throughout a strong evil feel and incredible charge of metallic destruction that is possible to develop in studio (Maiden, please go home with No Prayer!). Piercing and ripping all the way. This song is assembled on a quite complex way, but on the other hand, it is amazing while you listen to it, how this song is easy digestible. Halford's vocals are adding a nice portion of melody and not only the title song, but entire album lies in fantastic balance between melody meets brutal zone. As band strikes little more brutal, Rob's melodic yet ferocious merely high soaring vocals serves as a brilliant counter point to it.

What was other news? Band's got new drummer of course! Scott Travis who played till then and still does for band Racer X. Double bass drum enters into band's songwriting for the first time and effectively contributes to overall highly bruising new sound.

After highly damaging opening title track, follows an excellent ultra melodic Hell Patrol. Atmosphere becomes again more heavily charged with sharp speedy striker All Guns Blazing, what a singing from Rob here, he simply kills. Probably one of the most touching riff on a record is captured inside Leather Rebel. None of that shivering effect would be achieved without thundering double bass drum torpedoing throughout the song. It gives especially stark contrast to a song. After all we can't imagine the entire sound on "Painkiller" without this input of new drum technique that was brought into new face of Judas Priest by Scott Travis.

Actually this album crackles from power voltage intensity and high dynamics all the way. With fifth song we got correct confirmation that K.K. and Glenn fully accepted all knowledge about guitar synthesizers (if not earlier, A Touch Of Evil will confirm that to you). The addition of synthesizer brings great mood where intro soloing in Metal Meltdown of Glenn and K.K. in song is pivotal.

Priests are roaring as never before. This album is their monument, among their entire albums most shining jewel in the crown. It is actually a breaking moment for them. There is no feel of rock and roll from seventies that was always present on all previous records. They left it all behind. So this album was very successful and of course, still is highly successful, 'cause it gathers all metal-heads under the same flag. Newly born die-hards, younger metal fans maturing through thrash metal who always request sharp quick shot of brutal murdering into their jugular veins and who were never specially enthusiastic over band's seventies legacy, yet on the other hand all old fans who always adored band's great sense for combining straight rawness with fantastic melody making. Painkiller has it all. Evil raw, brutal face that kicks with no remorse (merely caught in these songs: title track, All Guns Blazing and Metal Meltdown with once again "not from this world" middle section full of fantastic lead breaks), but in the same vein it captures on a fantastic way ultra-melodic touches of spine tingling effects like in Night Crawler, A Touch Of Evil with great keyboard arrangements or Between The Hammer & The Anvil. Last mentioned songs are both epic and atmospheric peaks of the record.

First bonus track on this remaster is never issued Living Bad Dreams, a fantastic mid tempo metal ballad full of emotive charge. Just let yourselves go!!! The other song is live version of Leather Rebel. I must admit, that it radiates vibes from Rob, which prove that he was no longer on the same page with the rest of a band. He's singing can't fully convince, while the rest of a band is shining in all it's usual on stage glory.

This is an album that is still so much inspiring after all these years. Be it thrash, speed or power metal (power metal especially on German territory). It is unbelievable from where this band started and what it accomplished with "Painkiller", a record full of strong adrenalin rush and a heavy metal bible. Sadly it was last record to feature metal icon Rob Halford. Judas Priest would never sound the same.

Generally speaking, it was never their intention to copy themselves. They were always seeking for perpetual change. And it was always towards different, new and better. This is their ace of spades, and so they carried on, being always on their unique and right path. Deep Purple would say: "Listen, Learn And Read On!" And in case of Judas Priest it makes no difference. "Fighting on with dignity, in life and death we deal, the power and the majesty, amidst the blood and steel." Some verses from One Shot Of Glory can be understood as Rob's requiem to Judas Priest, especially that one: "Fate stands before me, words have all been said!" or "Destiny calls me (new challenges that are coming into life), one night of fire (all his burning faith he invested in band), One Shot At Glory (all work that got materialized while he was Priest)". While the brand new day for the band slowly began to rise, one episode victoriously ended (era of "classic" Judas Priest).

Author:   Aleš

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