Judas Priest had been a band seeking path because the 80s drew to a detailed. 1986’s Turbo was a giant success within the US, however its reliance on synth-guitars and pop sheen alienated many followers. Observe-up Ram It Down, launched two years later, was as charmless because it was forgettable, which is why nobody ever talks about it at present. After which they launched Painkiller.
Priest’s 12th album, launched on September 3, 1990, was the sound of a band rejuvanated. And its brilliance was embodied by its exhilarating title monitor.
This molten masterpiece was blown open by a showcase drum barrage from new boy Scott Travis. A subsequent volley of strafing Glenn Tipton/Okay.Okay. Downing riffs is quickly adopted by the shrieking depth of Rob Halford’s opening salvo: ‘Sooner than a bullet, terrifying scream / Enraged and filled with anger, he’s half-man and half-machiiine!’ In six-and-a-half hair-raising minutes, it immediately returned Priest to the reducing fringe of heavy steel as a brand new decade dawned.
The Brummies had been themselves eager admirers of the aggressive new breed, taking Slayer out on 1988’s Mercenaries Of Metallic Tour, and Painkiller sounds solid within the spirit of exhibiting the brand new children who’s boss.
“Our ambition is to fly the flag for steel and we really feel that thrash and heavy steel is one and the identical,” Glenn Tipton informed Hammer in December 1990, including: “We’re into thrash… We’re very conscious of all of the younger bands and guitar gamers.”
“We all the time attempt to do one thing totally different, to not relaxation on our laurels,” affirms Ian Hill in 2019, when requested if Painkiller felt like a radical rebirth music.
“We’d achieved the experimental Turbo album, which had combined critiques… that was a one-way road actually, we weren’t going wherever with heavy guitar synthesisers. [1988 LP] Ram It Down was the place we obtained again the tougher edge, so Painkiller was a follow-up to that, however extra refined, very aggressive, very sturdy music.”
It was a baptism of fireplace for 28-year-old ex-Racer X drummer Scott Travis, who joined the band only a few months previous to recording Painkiller and ended up centre-stage on the album’s curtain-raiser, unprecedentedly unaccompanied for the primary 15 seconds.
“Scott introduced a hell of quite a bit,” enthuses Ian. “Dave Holland was a superb drummer however he couldn’t deal with double bass drums like that. If we’d nonetheless had Dave within the band, he wouldn’t have been in a position to do something prefer it, so Scott’s enter was super. He enabled us to do this music in any respect.”
One other think about Painkiller’s influence is the sheer energy of the manufacturing, gifted by knob-twiddler extraordinaire Chris Tsangarides. Chris had been tape op/teaboy on 1976’s Unhappy Wings Of Future, happening to helm data for Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Bruce Dickinson, Anvil, King Diamond and lots of extra.
Tom Allom had dealt with Priest studio duties since 1980’s British Metal, serving to cement the band’s success that decade, however now a brand new method was wanted: “Occasions change, and also you’ve obtained to vary with them,” Glenn contemplated to Metallic Hammer. “It’s 1990 now and we’ve up to date our music.”
The change was immediately felt in Painkiller’s brash and radical atmosphere. “Chris got here with nice accolades,” remembers Ian of the much-missed maestro, who handed away in 2018.
“He was then an upcoming producer who’d been working with a few of the newer bands of the time; his data of steel was immense, so we gave him a go. He had good concepts about easy methods to get numerous sounds, and labored out very well.”
Almost 30 years on, Painkiller stays an electrifying expertise, filled with white-knuckle twists and turns, vigorous shifting tempos and haywire power; everybody can have their favorite bit, however there’s one thing so scintillating about the way in which the motion pauses to cue the sweep-picked arpeggio into Glenn’s magnificent solo – seemingly the guitarist’s private favorite.
With all its chopping and altering, constructing and racing, sparks flying off drumsticks and fretboards, you may surprise if Painkiller took longer to nail than different Priest songs, however as ever, Ian took it in his stride.
“We spent about two weeks in Spain on this outdated finca we’d rented, the place we may play it reside and polish it up,” remembers the bassist, “so the recording was comparatively straightforward, as all of us had a good suggestion of what we had been doing.”
The music’s video – their fourth lower directed by Wayne Isham, contemporary from working with Pink Floyd, the Stones, Ozzy, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard – was filmed in austere monochrome, in what regarded like an iron foundry.
The strobing, fast reducing and washes of vibrant gentle emphasise the music’s insistent harshness, maybe correctly opting to not play out the lyrical narrative of the cybernetic superhero resurrecting mankind after Armageddon, which sounds very costly.
In Hammer’s 2003 Xmas situation, Rob summed up Painkiller: “An archetypal steel second,” he declared, “a few incredible creature that personifies steel. The evil, the power and the destruction.”