Greetings, Glancers! Well looky here, my first ever official ever listen to a Judas Priest album ever – ever! For the longest time I’ve always named Priest as the largest single blind-spot in my metal knowledge. They are undoubtedly one of the biggest selling and most important metal bands of all time, with output stretching back to the 1970s and I know a lot of their songs. I just never cared enough to give them full attention. Back in my formative metal days in the late 80s and early 90s they were one of the bands I was most aware of – part of the biggest of the big along with Metallica, Maiden, G’n’R, Megadeth, Pantera, Slayer, Anthrax etc. For whatever reason I didn’t have as easy access to their stuff as I did the aforementioned bands, and by the time I started buying my own music I wasn’t interested in spending on them. Maybe it was Halford’s voice, maybe it was that all the leather just looked silly, but from that point on I’ve never bothered checking them out further. So join me as I react to Screaming For Vengeance for the first time. Before we get to the songs, lets check out the artwork:
That’s respectable, right? There’s no nudity or leather or immediately cringeworthy ingredients, unless you have something against birds of prey zooming through a radioactive sun while toothpaste oozes form their flange? I have no idea why, but the first word to come into my mind when I see this image is ‘Lego’. It doesn’t even look like Lego, but that’s what I’m thinking. The image presents a sense of speed, the metallic gleam is very 80s – almost to the point that the body looks like it’s sweating rather than simply shiny. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s striking or depicts anything beyond an almost stereotypical depiction of what metalheads think is cool, but it was probably eye-catching enough back then to moisten the pits of many adolescents. Maybe there’s some connection to the album content. Lets find out.
The Hellion: Gets off to a curiously familiar start – nice atmosphere, dual guitars, simple and introductory. I think it sounds familiar because I’ve heard so much metal from this era. There’s some comforting, confirmation bias stuff going on when you here something you’re familiar with or from your youth, a soothing blanket of nostalgia even if the individual piece is completely new to you.
Electric Eye: This joins with the first song and gets off to a ripping start. It feels quite Maiden. It’s not hugely heavy or aggressive – that nice middle ground between inviting the uninitiated and not pissing off the experienced. The vocals aren’t the ear-shredding highs I was expecting. Melodies and production quite good, I don’t need the effects on the vocals, mandatory solo. Gets you pumped up.
Riding On The Wind: More comforting sounds, more fast paced fun. There isn’t a lot of complexity so far, but a lot of energy. There’s the vocals I was expecting. Halford sounds so young. A tasty solo maintains the frenetic pace. This is fun without being overly cheesy.
Bloodstone: A slower start with a lone guitar. Has that 80s stomp to it, visions of hard lads strutting the streets looking for trouble. Melodies aren’t amazing, but the authority and conviction of the delivery smooths over any cracks. I believe this was around their 8th album so they must have been fairly confident by this point. The songs are each short, driving rock songs so far with as much in debt to punk as earlier metal albums.
Take These Chains: Where did this come from. It feels very different. I had to flick back to Youtube to check it wasn’t one of those wonderful mid-album adverts they throw in. This is quite unusual, the melodies going to unexpected places, the vocals deeper again, and more complexity in the structure than before. The vocals almost sound out of tune at various points – I assume this was on purpose. It’s quite poppy in the chorus, even the lyrics are what you would expect from a pop rock band, but they pull it off.
Pain And Pleasure: A slower song. It was the 80s so we have to expect some effects on the vocals, but Halford is a good enough singer that we don’t need any of that shite. Some S&M stuff going on here, combined with the effects and the general sauntering rhythm and some of the backing vocal shouts makes this the first truly cheesy song. We can forgive them, as long as it’s a one off. The chorus isn’t bad.
Screaming For Vengeance: A hellish scream and a chaotic clashing of drums and guitars gets us back on track. Lots of nifty blues riffs played with caterpillar fingers before Halford starts howling. Now this feels just like the 80s metal I know so well – fast, brazen, high-pitched, noisy. It’s certainly not subtle, but a hatchet in the lip isn’t supposed to be. It doesn’t have the finesse of a Maiden or Metallica, but it’s one song and it’s lightening fast fun designed to bust you neck and your mother’s best sofa. I may have heard this before, can’t quite put my finger on it.
You’ve Got Another Thing Coming: I do know this one. I don’t have a specific memory or relationship with it but it’s one of that handful of Priest songs that always seemed to be around. The vocals always felt very rap adjacent – they’re almost spoken in places and the steady beat almost demands you start spitting rhymes. I think the rhythm feels like Lost In America, though this is faster. It does feel like an unusual hit – there isn’t an obvious hook, but the overall tone and rhythm combines to create this driving, free-wheeling force which is compelling.
Fever: Going for a ballad? Nice, swirling atmospheric guitar intro which plays havoc with my orientation as it switches from left to right in my headphones. This absolutely nails that 80s rock vibe I love – everything from the pounding bass matching the rhythm of the drums to the sustain on the guitars. It takes me back even though I don’t believe I’ve heard it before. It fits in with a lot of other songs from the era, but is pretty great on its own. I think they missed a trick with the solo, but it doesn’t take too much away.
Devil Child: Big chords to open the closer. It’s another stomper, but it replaces the atmosphere of the previous ones I’ve liked with a balls-out confidence which can be irksome. That’s just me. It feels closer to the more middle of the road, one-hit wonder metal bands of the era, rather than an act that blazed trails. It has a big crowd-pleasing chorus and a crazy solo, Halford goes full Halford, and I imagine most fans will see it as an appropriate closer.
Well, that was far from the cheese-fest I was expecting. There’s definitely enough here for me to want to listen to it all again and get me hyped for the next Priest album on the list – which is. I won’t go as far as shouting ‘where have you been all my life’, but it does make me feel bad that I didn’t listen earlier. I would have loved this when I was young. It’s the best album I’ve heard so far on this metal journey and while it’s not perfect and I wouldn’t rank it alongside some of the others listed in Popoff’s Top Twenty, it’s one I’ll gladly catch up to again.
Let us know your thoughts on Screaming For Vengeance in the comments!
Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Take These Chains. Riding The Wind. Screaming For Vengeance. You’ve Got Another Thing Coming. Fever.
Ahhh Nightman! You’ve started in exactly the right place. This album was my first Priest record and it’s still the one I love the most. The Maiden comparisons are all fair and their lean into pop is what made them great (for me). I love this album for all its 80’s metal fun. This Blizzard Of Ozz and Live After Death form a trinity of ‘Devil Horned’ 80’s Metalness! All in good fun
Man, it’s about a year since I wrote this. Speaking of Blizzard Of Ozz, has that post been published yet? I think I saw it in my auto-scheduled section. But I remember not enjoying that one much. Live After Death is epic though