If Black Sabbath are the grandfathers of heavy metal, then Judas Priest is the father that outdid them in almost every way. If you ask me to show someone what heavy metal is, I won’t hand them a copy of Paranoid or Master of Reality. I’ll instead hand them a copy of Screaming For Vengeance, British Steel, or Painkiller. That’s what Judas Priest means to the heavy metal community. Without them we wouldn’t have a classic look for heavy metal with studs and leather.
Thin Lizzy and Wishbone Ash might have been the first to use the twin-guitar attack, but Judas Priest was the one that solidified it in the heavy metal sphere. K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton were and still are probably the best twin guitarists for any band. It was set to be the 50th anniversary celebration for Judas Priest this year. To make up for those shows being postponed, it’s high time for Judas Priest-A-Thon. The brother to the album by album reviews, Iron Maiden-A-Thon and the cousin to our series of Rush album reviews. You’re going to be getting a Judas Priest album review, every business day, until we’re all through.
Judas Priest missed the mark, big-time, with Point of Entry. That album took the commercial sound of British Steel and stripped away most of the heavy metal elements that made it a perfect album. The band was gobsmacked by the reaction to it. After some time, though, the reports of CBS Records intervention and pressure came out. That album spawned some classics but failed to live up to the lofty expectations. Luckily for Judas Priest, they had another gear to hit with Screaming For Vengeance.
Background On Screaming For Vengeance
To start off, Point of Entry is a terrible name for an album. It sounds like the worst of the KISS 80’s albums to me. So to go from that, to Screaming For Vengeance is like a breath of fresh air. The album was recorded in the same studio as Point Of Entry, Ibiza Studios. The mixing and overdubs were recorded at Beejay Studios in Miami, Florida. Like I’ve said previously, the band had one of it’s most stable lineups during this time period. Also the songwriting process for Screaming For Vengeance was changed back to the normal agenda for the band. The spontaneous writing for Point Of Entry didn’t work.
The album was produced with Tom Allom again, who continued the band’s streak of at least selling Gold in the United States. Screaming For Vengeance would blast sales records out of the sky. Going double-Platinum and selling over five million copies around the world. It was safe to say that Judas Priest were on the map for the entire world now. The album was recorded from January to May of 1982 and released July 17th, 1982 around the world.
As for the album cover it would start a new trend for the band, having drawn covers that better reflected their heavy metal tendencies. The cover art was done by John Berg. It was based on a idea from the band and it shows the Hellion from the first song on the album. It’s one of the most iconic heavy metal covers ever. It accurately describes the feeling and power of the album perfectly.
1. The Hellion/Electric Eye
This is my favorite Judas Priest song ever. From the opening power, majesty, and harmony of the metallic guitar riff to the song that accompanies it. Whatever bad taste might have been left in people’s mouths from Point Of Entry is blasted away with technical precision and heavy metal thunder by “Electric Eye”. If I was going to be a professional wrestler, this would be my entrance music. “The Hellion” is Judas Priest awakening into the metal beast that the band always should have been. “Electric Eye” is about a satellite or network that spies on people for security reasons. Anything that you do can be seen by this network.
The tradeoff and debate of national security for personal freedom is one that remains to this day. Judas Priest were very prescient with their writing of this song. At the end of the day, it’s the perfect way they could have started this album off and a true Judas Priest classic.
2. Riding On The Wind
If you take the commercial sound of British Steel and actually improve upon that and make it even heavier you get a track like “Riding On The Wind”. I keep going back to what changed for the band between these two albums, but that’s really what the story is. Screaming For Vengeance is actually a change-up of the sound for the band. They innovated their sound on this album and did it for the better. Instead of caving in to CBS Records demands of hits and covers, they did what they do best.
“Riding On The Wind” can be seen as a song about motorcycles, flying, or just the first-person account of The Hellion. Either way, the song is in your face and contains some of the most heavy and powerful screams that Rob Halford can manage.
Continuing with the reinvention of Judas Priest as we know it, “Bloodstone” is another of the half heavy metal/half commercial sounding songs that we get on Screaming For Vengeance. An air guitarists dream, the song has a catchy chorus that you can scream along with the band. As soon as you hear that opening riff, it’s over with, you’re taken in by the band.
The song is about how we don’t see the violence and bloodshed around us. I used to think it was about diamonds or something like that, but the bloodstone being referenced is actually the Earth. Violence is a cycle that can’t be stopped unless we all take a stand. The guitar work here is top notch and it’s one of my favorite songs. I was incredulous when I heard them play it live during the Firepower World Tour. It’s an experience that I will never forget.
4. (Take These) Chains
“(Take These) Chains” is a seemingly forgotten song off Screaming For Vengeance. It was the second single released for the album in October 1982. Judas Priest waited a long time to bust this one out. It took them up until 2019 to ever play it live, and boy, was it worth the wait. The song is about a lost love or somewhere where you are so into them, but they don’t reciprocate. Because of this, you start going a bit mad. The song is heavy and hard but it has a soft message that works well.
Unlike many of these songs that are about losing love and all that, “(Take These) Chains” doesn’t drag you down into a pit of despair. The song takes you on the roller coaster ride of love and attraction. It’s a powerful one that I love.
5. Pain And Pleasure
When this is one of the weakest songs on the album, you know you’ve got a hit on your hands. “Pain And Pleasure” can be seen as being about two things. It’s either a song about a jilted lover that just wants someone to leave their life because they do so much emotional damage to them. Or it can be about S&M acts. Either way, it’s a strong song that unfortunately doesn’t stand out against the rest of the songs. It’s a fantastic song, but the rest of the album shine brighter than it.
6. Screaming For Vengeance
The award for hardest song on the album could either go to “Electric Eye”, “Riding On The Wind”, “Bloodstone”, or “Screaming for Vengeance”. It starts off with an ear-piercing shriek from Rob Halford, and continues with some of the best riffing the world has ever seen. “Screaming for Vengeance” is about being unjustly attacked or kicked while you’r down. You get back up and you go get some revenge against the people who screwed you. The world is a messed up place. Sending the evil back screaming through Hell’s gate is the best kind of medicine.
7. You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
Now, we get to the main event. This very well could have been a completely empty spot on the tracklist though. The story goes, that Judas Priest was fine with where the album was. They decided late in the recording process that they could add one more song to the record. K.K. Downing and the rest of the band finished the song during the mixing process in Miami. The track was buried on the record though. Normally the radio friendly or single worthy tracks get put near the top of the list. “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” was different. The band, nearly overnight, became a smash hit in the United States because of this song.
Halford Speaks About The Song
Rob Halford had this to say about the song.
It’s got all the elements of driving song. We hadn’t been aware of that intangible ingredient when we wrote it, of course. But there’s no doubt that it had the kind of beat and tempo that, even if you were driving and going just thirty miles per hour, when you heard that duh-duh-duh-duh intro, you’d be simply compelled to accelerate. On top of that it gave you a happy, carefree feeling that was just so undeniable. Better still, everything about America at that time seemed to revolve around the ethos of “get in the car, turn up the stereo, and drive. It was the ideal song for the time.
“You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” Continued
He was 100 percent right about it. Anytime I hear this song, whether it’s on the radio or on shuffle from my iPod, I lose control of my foot on the gas pedal. You can say that there might be better Judas Priest songs in their catalog, but this song is 100% their quintessential song. This song is Judas Priest. Without it, they might be a big metal band, but they owe their careers to this song that could have been thrown away because they missed it.
It encapsulates the ideals, the image, and the attitude of the band. There might be jaded or seasoned Judas Priest fans that come out and say this song is played out, or overdone, but just think about that first time you heard it. Think about the roar of the crowd when that opening riff starts. I particularly like the lengthy version of the song that they brought out with Richie Faulkner’s introduction to the band.
Just listen to the guitar solo that Faulkner busts out on this video. It’s mindblowing. If you don’t love “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” you might need to get your fandom checked.
What a song to come after “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'”. Following up that track on the record is a mighty tall task. It’s another of the ballad type songs that doesn’t actually sound like a ballad. It tells the tale of a lost love or some sort of feeling that drives the person mad. Two lovers meet after time away and the sparks fly. It’s a slower song compared to the rest of the album but it fits right in. It also has the distinction of being the longest song on the album at 5:22. It’s an underrated track that they only played live on the first two dates of the World Vengeance Tour and haven’t brought out since.
9. Devil’s Child
The closing song on Screaming For Vengeance happens to be one with a pretty silly, but fun, subject matter. “Devil’s Child” is about a relationship or love that is harmful and dangerous. This other person has you so wrapped up in them that they can hurt you physically and you’ll keep coming back for more. This is so bad that the narrator refers to them as the Devil’s child.
It’s a great, and fun way to end this album. The track is a great one that is always a treat when they play it live. It’s not the best track, but it makes the cut for greatness.
Score, Legacy, and Conclusion to Screaming For Vengeance
To get a bit personal here, Screaming For Vengeance was the first Judas Priest album I (illegally) downloaded when I got into the band. I saw them on the Metal Masters Tour in 2008 and was hooked. So naturally the album cover with the heavy metal bird and bright yellow background caught my attention. After all this time, Screaming For Vengeance, like British Steel, has it all. If has a song for every range of emotion out there. Judas Priest is firing on all cylinders by this point in their career. They owe their longevity and success back to this album. It was what allowed them to break through in the US and around the world.
The title of the album is apt. It’s Judas Priest breaking out and Screaming For Vengeance among their peers in the heavy metal world. The next couple years would see the rise of heavy metal music around the world. Judas Priest led the way among these bands alongside Iron Maiden, Metallica, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, and countless other bands. For everything with Judas Priest, it always comes back to this album for me. It never gets old and it’s probably the album by them that I’ve listened to the most. Before I knew what a Painkiller was, I knew about The Hellion.
So for a score, anything other than a perfect 10/10 would be a joke. Screaming For Vengeance is a landmark achievement for the band. It’s one of the most influential heavy metal albums of all-time. The band would ride this tide of popularity with the World Vengeance Tour that started in the United States and continued into Europe. As with British Steel, would the band be able to follow-up on this classic? You’re going to have to check back next time to hear about Defenders of the Faith.
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