Monday, 8 April 2013

#267 Judas Priest - Screaming for Vengeance

I've never done a Judas Priest review before, which is one of my more large-scale oversights, when it comes to my fairly unreconcilable quest to review all of the bands. In the name of remedying this, I've decided that today is the day. The album in particular I'm going to take a look at is Screaming for Vengeance; firstly because I regard it as one of my favourite Judas Priest albums, and secondly because I found it on vinyl for £1, which is far less than one should be willing to pay for a hefty slab of enjoyable early-eighties metal.

In 1982, I think I can safely assume that there was nothing quite like Judas Priest, in a time when Iron Maiden were only huge, and not quite enormous, and there weren't yet a dozen vocalists trying to sound like Rob Halford. What's also worth bearing in mind is that the band had already released seven albums before this one. You can think what you like about the band, but you have to concede they've got more mileage than a second hand space-probe - there are very few artists indeed to whom I can appeal to their seventh studio album with any real reverence. Another thing which is worth conceding is that, for an album which is more or less half way through the band's career, Screaming for Vengeance is unapologetically solid. While we're on the subject, it's probably worth mentioning, by way of a brief aside in the same context, that Painkiller exists. Vagueness over, Screaming For Vengeance is a very solid album indeed, albeit a hugely varied one. The energetic, frantic and extremely epic sounding, in the truest sense, music which is displayed in The Hellion/Electric Eye and to an equal extent on Riding on the Wind give way to the quintessentially 1980s sound of the album's cover song, (Take These) Chains, which the band give very much the sort of slightly cheesy, absurdly catchy quasi-metal track one might enjoy whilst playing Vice City, a game which many among my generation regard not so much as a digital experience, but as a bona fide time-machine to base our image of the 1980s upon. Likewise, tracks such as Pain and Pleasure very much combine swaggering rock with a touch of industrial, particularly with regard to the drums - a sound which you can certainly hear more strongly on records like Ram it Down, which really went to town with produced, electronic drum sound, and angular Lego-brick guitar parts.

It's sometimes a wonder, considering that no two songs on the record feel particularly like they belong together, that Screaming for Vengeance is enjoyable to listen to at all. Confusingly enough, however, it is. It very, very profoundly is. I'd go as far as saying there are few albums which are more enjoyable to listen to than Screaming for Vengeance. The fact is, the album is a very nice encapsulation of what makes me very strongly enjoy the music of the eighties in general; as a friend of mine once remarked; even the pop-music was secretly metal. The direct consequences of this is that even the songs which might be a bit of a concession to the main-stream sound really enjoyable, and while nothing quite soars through the air the way Electric Eye, Screaming for Vengeance, or indeed the album artwork itself does, the entire album manages, at a bare minimum, to be extremely catchy, and well-written at that, even when what was being written was not keen eyed, sharp taloned heavy metal. Of course, one can cast the variety of the album in a much more positive light too, not as something to overcome, but something to enjoy - there is literally nothing which this doesn't offer, in just about every level of mood and persuasion, and shining through the diverse record, the solid and enjoyably tangy guitar tone and unbelievably distinct and powerful vocals of Rob Halford. The vocals dominate every track, coping well with the albums variety of musical environments, and beyond that, stamping a very pronounced Judas Priest signature on every track. The drumming is reasonable too, but as time would show, the drummer wasn't a very nice fellow. 

Ultimately, Screaming for Vengeance is a fantastic buffet of what 1982 had to offer both in terms of metal, and musically in general. It would be foolish, however, to assume that this buffet was one which was arranged with no great care - it couldn't be further from the truth - Screaming for Vengeance is enjoyably cohesive, and a rewarding listen indeed. It comes as no surprise that the album is the favourite of many of the band's fans.

Fantastic Stuff - 9/10.

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