JUDAS PRIEST — Painkiller

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JUDAS PRIEST - Painkiller cover
4.46 | 149 ratings | 14 reviews
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Album · 1990

Filed under Power Metal


1. Painkiller (6:08)
2. Hell Patrol (3:39)
3. All Guns Blazing (3:59)
4. Leather Rebel (3:37)
5. Metal Meltdown (4:50)
6. Night Crawler (5:47)
7. Between The Hammer & The Anvil (4:51)
8. A Touch Of Evil (5:46)
9. Battle Hymn (0:58)
10. One Shot At Glory (6:48)

Total Time 46:28


- Rob Halford / Vocals
- K.K. Downing / Guitars
- Glenn Tipton / Guitars
- Ian Hill / Bass
- Scott Travis / Drums


- Don Airey / Keyboards

About this release

Released by Columbia, September 3rd, 1990.

Reissued in 2001 with the following bonus tracks:

11. Living Bad Dreams (recorded during the 1990 Painkiller sessions) (5:20)
12. Leather Rebel (live at Foundation's Forum, Los Angeles, 13 September 1990) (3:38)

Thanks to Pekka, Raff, Lynx33, adg211288, Time Signature, Unitron for the updates


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Painkiller. I don’t think anyone saw this coming from Judas Priest, one of the tamer metal bands, some 20 years into their career. I can’t imagine the insanity this caused when it dropped in 1990.

I can only look at it now. And now even now, it remains an absolute beast of melodic Speed Metal with more than a few of the genre’s most memorable riffs ever put to record. Halford’s iconic voice becomes a shredding cry here on a much different level than he had ever done before. The drumming flows into Power Metal territory with its constant double bass pummeling, and the guitars weave intense melodies that flirt with Thrash but lean more towards epic stylings rather than dark. And yet, the music and vocals are very aggressive, but almost upliftingly so. Perhaps triumphantly is a better word, as this album is a remarkable triumph of metal and indisputably Judas Priest’s finest hour.
siLLy puPPy
There are a few certainties in life and one of those certainties is that if you are lucky enough to achieve enough life to be considered an elder that the whippersnappers who follow will always be nipping at your heel and even more so in the adrenaline and testosterone fueled world of heavy metal. JUDAS PRIEST is a metal band that needs no introduction. This band took the world by storm in the 70s by finally pulling the plug on blues based riffing and launched a heavier and more extreme version of hard rock that became known as heavy metal. While the band technically formed all the way back in 1970, it wasn’t until 1976’s “Sad Wings Of Destiny” that the PRIEST got a firm grip on its own idiosyncratic sound and once self-recognition was activated, there was no looking back.

These gods of thunder are virtually patron saints in the metal universe with one classic album after another ranking high on best metal albums of all time but after the one two punch of “Screaming For Vengeance” and “Defenders Of The Faith” which mesmerized a head banging public, the mighty PRIEST started to lose ground as younger, faster and more ferocious metal bands were gestating in the cauldron of caustic Promethean fire which fueled darker, faster and ever louder musical expressions. Bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Celtic Frost and Bathory were clearly breaking new grounds and the mighty PRIEST was looking more and more washed up with albums like “Turbo” and “Ram It Down” which were rich in creative experimentalism but lagged in execution. The lackluster performances of those two albums required a serious soul search and necessitated a methodology to reenergize and become relevant once again.

The weakest link turned out to be drummer Dave Holland who just didn’t have the magic mojo to keep up in an ever more demanding world of extreme metal and after a ten year stint as percussionist-in-chief of one of metal’s most revered bands Dave got the boot and in was a new skin abuser by the name of Scott Travis. Travis had worked with Thin Lizzy but seriously honed his chops in the Los Angeles based Racer X. He was exactly what a tired and weary JUDAS PRIEST needed in order to rekindle the magic that would kick the old JP in the arse. With Travis, long time members Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing and Ian Hill did something nobody even dared consider and that was craft one of their heaviest and most consistent albums of the band’s entire career. PAINKILLER arrived in the fall of 1990 and was the band’s 12th studio album. For those who expected another curse of mediocrity, man they must’ve been completely caught off guard with this one!

PAINKILLER took the classic style of PRIEST to the next level and made them relevant in the world of Helloween inspired power metal, lightning fast thrash metal and darkened doom-ridden death metal. Along with long time producer Tom Allom, PAINKILLER was dropped onto the metal world like an atomic bomb and still reverberates into the present as one of the crowning achievements of not only PRIEST itself as a band but as a masterpiece of metal for all time. Given Travis’ bombastic technical percussive wizardry, he forced the long time members to up their game and to their credit pulled it off with an unabashed victory. Tipton and Downing went back to guitar school to keep up with the neoclassical shredders whereas Rob Halford screamed his lungs out with amazing proficiency and vocal control. At the metaphorical eleventh hour of the band’s fading career, the gods of thunder ignited a new cauldron of creativity and raised the bar in the sound wars of the music’s world’s loudest and raucous descendent of rock.

PAINKILLER opens with the ferocious title track which immediately leaves little doubt that a new PRIEST has been resurrected from the ashes of the old and like a phoenix arising from the dying embers begins with Scott Travis pounding the living shit out of his drum set like a possessed griot narrating tales of the living dead with sounds so unruly and bombastic that the recording studio must’ve barely survived the impetuous torture that it endured. Yes, JUDAS PRIEST was back with Rob Halford shrieking like he never did before and twin guitar attacks that were on par with the fastest and most ferocious thrash and power metal of the era. If the opening track wasn’t enough to give you goosebumps, the album jets forth and never lets up for its 46 minute run. Generally speaking the first five tracks that culminate with “Metal Meltdown” display an aggressive fury characterized by ridiculously strong hooks, bombastic double guitar axe-man-ship, double bass drumming extravaganzas and a complementary bass line fury that offers a menagerie of molten metal madness.

As if an angel whispered in their ear telling them to tamp down the aggressive fury beginning with “Night Crawler” the band incorporates an atmospheric keyboard intro that sets a tone for the tale of a flesh eating monster that comes out at night and attacks with a vengeance. The keyboards played by Don Airey are fully implemented on the classic “Touch Of Evil” which offers a creepy atmospheric intro with chimes as the slower than usual track displays a completely different side of the PRIEST and unlike “Turbo” found a way to incorporate the keys appropriately into their classic heavy metal sound. The short instrumental “Battle Hymn” follows as an anthemic intro to the closing “One Shot At Glory” which finds JP in a classic 80s epic metal state of mind in the vein of Manilla Road and perhaps the most authentically sounding track of the band’s pre-PAINKILLER days although the musicianship has expanded severalfold since those days of yore and the great gods of thunder end one of their few albums of perfection. This “One Shot Of Glory” experience for the band without a doubt revitalized the sagging PRIEST like Cher’s facelift and in the process left one of metal’s most enduring albums.

Igniting the Promethean fire turned up the flames so high that so did the long suppressed tensions within the band begin to surface. After all, these guys had been playing together for well over a decade at this point with endless touring and unthinkable success. Rob Halford departed two years down the road an embarked on a successful solo career while the band morphed into the much loathed RIpper years as the alternative 90s spawned many surprises and heartbreak for long established 80s bands. But the great JUDAS PRIEST was not dead as fifteen years later Halford would return with “Angel Of Vengeance” however the momentum to follow the metal perfection of PAINKILLER would never be revived leaving this sole album as the zenith of the band’s musical prowess. It’s also well worth having the later remastered version of PAINKILLER. The bonus track “Living Bad Dreams” was recorded during the PAINKILLER sessions and presumably nixed due to lack of real estate on a 90s album but fits in perfectly with the album albeit on the slower side in the vein of “A Touch Of Evil.” The album cover depicts a secret desire we all have for some divine force to intervene and end the suffering and reign of evil that planet Earth has endured for millennia. While not exactly resurrecting the Christ consciousness, this album for a brief moment in time achieves this through the ultimate escapism. M-m-m-masterpiece!
The twelfth Judas Priest album Painkiller, released in 1990, marked the end of an era (at least for a time) for the band. It was the last album they'd put out for seven years and afterwards singer Rob Halford left the band. In hindsight this could well have been the last Judas Priest album. In my opinion even though they've managed to put out a further five albums in the years since (two with replacement singer Tim Ripper Owens), this is also the last truly great Judas Priest record. Painkiller is a fan favourite, something not many artists can say about their twelfth album. Yet the oddest thing about Painkiller is that it's actually one of the oddities of Judas Priest's seventeen album discography. Judas Priest are a heavy metal band, but Painkiller is Judas Priest's only power metal album. Some (or perhaps most) might like to refute that statement (it's Judas Priest so it's got to be heavy metal right? - wrong) and I have to admit, this is very old school sounding power metal (but consider this, (Euro) power metal technically wasn't that old in 1990), and maybe it wasn't called power metal at the time (I couldn't tell you either way, as I was 4 in 1990) but I like to think that I've heard enough power metal bands of all shapes and sizes in my 28 years to recognise a power metal album when I hear one. And I certainly hear one when I listen to Painkiller.

Of course Ram it Down did offer a sneak peek of what was about to be unleashed on Painkiller, notably with the song Hard as Iron, but I don't think anyone could have expected the band to produce such a career defining album that even eclipsed early favourites like Sad Wings of Destiny and Stained Class in 1990. K. K. Downing and Glenn Tipton deliver fast riffs against new drummer Scott Travis's impressive drumming while Rob Halford delivers what is, in my opinion, the vocal performance of his career. Lyrically Painkiller is actually a bit, well, silly if you know what I mean, but man Rob is in his element screaming his head off on the title track. It's a Judas Priest album with no bad track (there are usually one or two on even their best albums are aren't quite as good in my opinion) and it's also their most in your face metal release. While the title track will always be the absolute must hear from the album, Leather Rebel, All Guns Blazing, Metal Meltdown, Night Crawler and One Shot at Glory are all equally good, with the rest of the album only a marginal step behind.

Should twelfth albums really be this good? Should band's best records really be so different to their established style? Probably not on both counts, but these leather rebels did it, giving fans a metal meltdown with all guitars blazing. You can't stop the Painkiller. An oddity in their discography for sure, but also the best Judas Priest album, easily.

Attribution: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/judas-priest-painkiller-t3832.html
It is a very rare occurence that a band will release an album long after their supposed prime and hit one out of the park. This is my favourite JUDAS PRIEST record. When I think of this band I think of Halford's incredible vocals and the twin lead guitars of Tipton and Downing, but for the first time in my opinion they have a drummer who matches the skills of the three I just mentioned. Scott Travis the former drummer for RACER X is fantastic and the band is the complete package here. Intense and powerful are two words that keep coming to mind while listening to this beast. I still remember seeing the video for the title track back in the early nineties and being blown away by the sheer intensity. In my opinion this was the best album released in 1990, and obviously a must for Metal fans out there.
Phonebook Eater

The shape of Heavy Metal to come.

Judas Priest are one of the great Heavy Metal bands of all time, and they were so even before 1990. “Painkiller” then was the icing on the cake. One of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed albums by the band, this album represents a milestone in Heavy Metal music because of it’s broad influence it had on bands that followed.

“Painkiller” is definitely the heaviest, fastest, ground shaking album of the band: the drums are of a pounding nature, the guitars are beastly heavy and don’t hesitate in delivering chaotic, messy solos, for the most time perfectly executed. Halford’s screams have never sounded so sincere and ideal for the moment. The resulting music is a sort of Speed Metal sound, because of how relatively faster this album is compared to the other Judas Priest albums, where there was much more of a NWOBHM influence, especially the albums of the eighties.

With ten tracks Judas Priest bring together an amazingly solid album, full of fast moments; but they never sound the same one another, and there is a lot of variety between the melodies, and each song sounds different. Starting from the opening song, the title track: there is the perfect handful of potent rhythms, amazing drum section, chaotic guitars, and a perfect pitched Rob Halford; this track is now a milestone for Judas Priest fans and an immense Heavy Metal classic. The other tracks are not of lesser quality: “Metal Meltdown” is extremely catchy, yet strong and powerful in terms of sound, “All Guns Blazing” is probably the fiercest, most alarming track, while “Hell Patrol” and “Leather Rebel” have more traditionally paced rhythms and less shouted vocals. The second half of the album too presents great gems, like the emotionally daring “Touch Of Evil”, and “Night Crawler” and “Between The Hammer and The Anvil” are catchier, more melodic songs that still don’t loose the punch.

With such a bunch of tracks, “Painkiller” cannot be less than a masterpiece: a landmark album for Heavy Metal music, in particularly because of the shaping it did to a lot of the music to come.
An excellent comeback album for Judas Priest after the twinned disappointments of Turbo and Ram It Down, Painkiller is also a great close to Rob Halford's first tenure in the band, with his singing reaching heights of shrieking and wailing exceeding anything he'd done before. But the real star of this show is Scott Travis, who in replacing the frankly not enormously talented Dave Holland enabled the band to kick up the tempo and start competing with the speed metal whippersnappers on their own terms. It's by no means a perfect album - in particular, Metal Meltdown gets rather repetitive and irritating - but it's the best they've done since Stained Class.
Judas Priest’s Painkiller album was released in 1990 and has since went on to become a classic album, hugely respected and often included in lists of ‘best-ever-metal-albums.’

For a Judas Priest record, Painkiller is very fast and heavy. Drummer Scott Travis brought a new injection of energy to the band and the material is very hard, fast and Thrash Metal influenced. Painkiller as an album is full of thundering double kicks, buzzsaw riffs and of course the highest standard of guitar solos.

Along with the renewed energy from the band, singer Rob Halford pushes himself to his very limits on this album. At points it seems as if he is trying to win some sort of world record with his high-pitched screams.

The quality of songwriting is excellent and there is no filler or weaker tracks. Songs like ‘Metal Meltdown,’ ‘One Shot At Glory,’ and ‘All Guns Blazing,’ are all furiously energetic; Priest really delivered a supremely strong and exciting record with Painkiller.

‘A Touch Of Evil,’ slows the pace a little and adds some variety to the proceedings, with keyboards from Dio/Ozzy/Deep Purple’s Don Airey. The track is really powerful and when all the music climaxes and Rob delivers the line ‘You’re Possessing Me,’ I never fail to break out in a big grin.

Overall, Painkiller is a fantastic album from start to finish. Atypical of the usual Judas Priest style, but utterly essential to anyone who likes metal nonetheless.
This was the final Judas Priest album with Rob Halford behind the microphone. It would be 7 years until another Priest album, with a new singer and a thrashier sound. Yet 7 years later, in 2004, Halford will return but by then the Priest were just a distant nostalgic memory for me. This album has a bit of everything and I suppose may be their first progressive "metal" album, although it is more metal than progressive. And the Priest still know how to start off an album with the heavy drum beat of Painkiller. Other highlights include Metal Meltdown, All Guns Blazing and Night Crawler, but again all of the songs are worth the listen. This one falls just short of masterpiece status for me but is still great enough to rate 4 and 1/2 stars from me.

Time Signature
All guitars blazing...

Genre: heavy metal / speed metal

This is another one of those albums that were part of the soundtrack of my youth. I distinctly remember listening to this on my walkman while bicycling 10 kilometers to school, the fast pace of many of the songs ensuring that I pedalled fast enough to alway make it on time.

Personally, I think this is the best release by Judas Priest ever. I like the crisp production. I like the songs. I like the atmosphere. I like the cover art.

And I think it's an unflawed record. From the drum intro of the opener "Painkiller" over the dark "Metal Meltdown" and "Nightcrawler" to the doomy "Touch of Evil" to the final track "One Shot at Glory" there are hardly any weak moments at all. Oh, and, "Painkiller" is my favorite Priest track ever, too. I love Halford's high-pitched screechy screaming and the speed metal drumming, which I honestly don't think former drummer Dave Holland would ever be able to paly. And my all time favorite guitar solo is also found in this song.

One of the best metal records ever, for my money, and I recommend it to anyone who calls themselves a metal fan.
It’s amazing to think about the pace at which bands released albums back in the day. With Painkiller, Judas Priest unleashed their twelfth studio album within a sixteen-year span. With vocalist Rob Halford’s departure following the touring of this release, it puts to an end the band’s string of pumping out albums on a regular basis.

Compared with some of their 80’s work, the first thing that is noticeably different is the drumming. Scott Travis makes Painkiller the most stimulating album from a drumming perspective since Les Binks left the band around a decade earlier. The drums are very dominant in the sound, and his playing is very forceful.

To keep pace with their new drummer, guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing go into full shred mode. The title track is the most obvious source to witness their twin soloing, but they pretty much run wild throughout the album. Despite the above-mentioned positives, I’m not overly impressed with many of the songs themselves. The strongest songs of the lot are “Painkiller”, “A Touch of Evil” (even though it’s a bit too synth-heavy for my tastes), and “Metal Meltdown”, all of which have made regular appearances in their live set list throughout the years. I’m pretty much underwhelmed with the remaining tracks. There’s no one song in particular that I dislike, but pretty much every track seems to put forth the same vibe (“A Touch Of Evil” aside). Overall, the songs could use a bit more variety, although the 2001 remaster bonus track, “Living Bad Dreams”, helps to some extent.

Although the album was released in 1990, I’d say this album is one of the most dated sounding albums in their discography. I’m also not as keen on Halford’s high pitched screaming delivery as I am with his more natural singing style, but it does work in the context of this album for the most part.

It may sound like I don’t like Painkiller, but that’s not the case. It’s a fun album to listen to every now and then, but still not a Priest album I highly recommend.

Members reviews

This is my favorite Judas Priest album if I don't count the compilation "Metal Works '73-'93" which is the best representation of the band and one of the only three compilation albums that I own!

After completely alienating their Heavy Metal fans with the disastrous "Turbo" and the very generic sounding "Ram It Down", Judas Priest got their act together and delivered one of their best, if not the best, albums with "Painkiller". Gone were the '80s-sounding anthems and instead we got some of the heaviest metal albums, boosted by the heavy-hitting drums courtesy of the newly recruited Scott Travis.

I really like the fact that the band decided not to include a single ballad on "Painkiller", even though "A Touch Of Evil" is pretty close to being one. This is one of the two Judas Priest albums, together with "British Steel", that I played to death in my teens. This might explain why I don't really enjoy any of the bigger hits from either of these releases. Although unlike "British Steel", "Painkiller" has a very exquisite array of hidden gems to compliment the hits. Songs like "Hell Patrol", "Between The Hammer & The Anvil" and "One Shot At Glory" are in my opinion just as great as any of the other classics that have been penned by the trio of Halford/Downing/Tipton over the years!

The album also features my all time favorite Judas Priest composition "Night Crawler" with its killer-riffs and top notch vocal delivery from Rob Halford. I used to get goosebumps whenever I heard the guitar riff that's performed in the chorus section, wonder why I don't get the same reaction from it today?

Whichever way you twist and turn it there's just no denying that "Painkiller" is a landmark release and will remain an important part of the Judas Priest legacy!

***** star songs: Painkiller (6:06) Hell Patrol (3:37) Night Crawler (5:45) Between The Hammer & The Anvil (4:49) Battle Hymn (0:58)

**** star songs: All Guns Blazing (3:58) Leather Rebel (3:35) Metal Meltdown (4:48) A Touch Of Evil (5:45) One Shot At Glory (6:49)
"Faster than a laser bullet, louder than an atom bomb"

In some ways, Painkiller was a return to what the band were doing on Stained Class in 1978 - twelve years and some eight albums earlier! But at the same time, it is not so much a return to something old as something brand new. After six studio albums with Dave Holland, Judas Priest finally re-discovered the drums here with Holland being replaced by Scott Travis. The line from the title track that I have chosen as the headline for this review perfectly describes Travis' drumming on this album. In hearing Painkiller, it suddenly became so obvious that the previous drummer held the band back and this lack in the drum department was a large part of what made most of those 80's albums less than impressive. Drums are a very important part of Metal music and here they finally remembered that again! Compare the drums on Living After Midnight with those on Painkiller and you will see that the difference is about as big as it could possibly be. It is very interesting to think about what earlier albums would have sounded like with Scott Travis behind the kit.

The material on Painkiller is uniformly stronger than on most of the 80’s albums and they seem to have a newfound energy and passion that they haven’t had since the 70’s. Indeed, there is not one weak moment on this album with the title track, Between The Hammer & The Anvil, A Touch Of Evil and Battle Hymn/One Shot At Glory being my personal favourites. A Touch Of Evil features keyboards by Don Airey who previously added keyboards to albums by Black Sabbath, Rainbow and Ozzy Osbourne and many others. Whatever keyboards can be found of the rest of the album are by Glenn Tipton.

The only problem I have with this album is that the songs are rather similar to each other. This is especially so during the first half, but it remains highly enjoyable throughout. The reissued version features the bonus track Living Bad Dreams which is a nice ballad that would have added some more diversity to the album.

Rob Halford left the band shortly after this album (but he returned many years later).

One of Judas Priest's better albums!
The leather, the motorcycles...Ah, yes, it could only be Judas Priest. Sadly this would be Rob Halford's last outing with Priest, and damned if it weren't a good one. After a successful commercial run in the 80s, what were Priest up to as the new decade emerged? One thing is for sure: This is the heaviest sound they have achieved up to this point!

The sound has intensified quite a bit, and there are a number of songs to show you just that. The vocals are less straight-forward than before and they carry more of a sinister, raspy tone. The guitars blaze in full fury with no holding back. Just listen to the crunching opener "Painkiller" and you can sense the bitterness. Rob's vocals are haunting, the twin-guitar guitar act is near flawless--frightening solo, that deserves a bang of the head or two. "Hell Patrol," "All Guns Blazing," and "Leather Rebel" continute right where "Painkiller" left off, and contain speedy, precise riffage throughout, accompained by high, melodic choruses that are worth checking out. Check out the intro to "Metal Meltdown" : thoughts of Van Halen come to mind..but the song kicks in, and it could be none other than Priest! A metal meltdown indeed! The spoken vocals in "Night Crawler" are creepy and worth checking out. Be sure not to miss "Battle Hymn," an instrumental that leads into the final track. The first half of this disc is raw Priest at their finest. Rob left in good fashion, if I must say so. ..And Priest only begins to get heavier. Get the leather clothes out of the closet, start up your motorcycle, and let's take a trip to Hell together.

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