Judas PriestScreaming For Vengeance 30th Anniversary Edition
Columbia Records/Legacy
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

There’s no question why Screaming For Vengeance should appear in your music library.  If you’re metal, this album should’ve been one of the first you ever came into contact with.  It’s mandatory.  Like the first Black Sabbath album, like Blue Oyster Cult’s Tyranny and Mutation, like Kiss’ Destroyer, like Maiden’s Number of the Beast and like Metallica’s Master of Puppets, Screaming For Vengeance represents a pivotal moment in heavy metal music.  It’s biblical to this genre and it’s symbolic of metal at its most symbiotic.  It just is.

Judas Priest are the legends they are for a reason and while British Steel is regarded by many as their finest work, Sad Wings of Destiny their most artistic and Point of Entry their most underrated, their esteemed reputation comes down to 1982 and the bombastic Screaming For Vengeance.  Stained Class and Hell Bent For Leather are absolute masterpieces for Priest as well, but all that came before Screaming For Vengeance can be viewed as evolutionary milestones culminating in one of the fiercest and most majestic slabs of all-time.

It’s a case of preaching to the choir if you’re a seasoned metal fan, but is there anything in the entire cosmos of heavy music that summons the outer regions of the unknown into harmony with our own  than “The Hellion?”  There has never been nor will there ever be a more perfect intro to a metal album than this.  The opening shreds of Slayer’s “Angel of Death” come relatively close.  Ditto for the lavish acoustic-meets-electric symposium of Metallica’s “Battery.”  You hear those, you’re pumped up for what comes next, sure.  “The Hellion,” however?  Nothing like it.  It is for metal culture, the equivalent of Beethoven’s Fifth and Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.”  Distasteful as it was to find “The Hellion” pounding within a car commercial, the way that ad was set up with the explosive gala and stacked amplitude to recreate a Priest concert around their product, you had to forgive them.  At least they had the savvy choose the mightiest metal chops there ever was for a disguised glittering testimonial.

Thirty years it’s been since Judas Priest turned Screaming For Vengeance loose upon us and three decades later, it remains one of the heaviest audile experiences you’ll ever hear.  The title track alone set a precedent for metal music by picking up the pace and the aggression.  Remember, most groups weren’t playing this fast in 1982.  “Screaming For Vengeance” and Priest’s “Freewheel Burning” from their subsequent Defenders of the Faith album are the foundation blocks of thrash, alongside Iron Maiden’s “Invaders,” “Gangland” and “Run to the Hills.” 

Thirty years later, “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” is the rare exception of accessibility that hasn’t grown sour.  That cut still kicks and though it’s discomforting to see yuppies toss up horns, “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” is a bonding agent proving why Priest became immediate icons of the arena from this point forward in their careers.

“Devil’s Child” remains one of the meanest-sounding tunes Judas Priest ever recorded, while “Riding On the Wind” and of course the dystopian mini-epic “Electric Eye” remain obligatory for fans and for Priest themselves onstage.  The Orwellian “Electric Eye” propagated paranoia and fantastical fear which still intimidates now in the desensitized, dumb-downed age of Big Brother.  We snarl along with the Metal God, Rob Halford about being perpetual and keeping our country clean, but put into proper context, that was some scary shit Priest had touched on.  If a government took it upon itself to cleanse its borders in Hitler-esque fashion, we’ll one day think back on “Electric Eye” as the grotesque horror story it is.  For now, the song is so much of an ass-kicker, we ride into glory with Judas Priest and go bonkers with it. 

For the thirtieth anniversary of Screaming For Vengeance’s release, Columbia Records remasters this golden nugget with a handful of live tracks and the bonus track “Prisoner of Your Eyes,” plus a DVD featuring Judas Priest’s reknowned performance at the 1983 US Festival in San Bernardino, California.  The remix of Screaming For Vengeance is crisp but the original source was so powerful even the original analog stands up to the current rewash.  The quasi ballad “Prisoner of Your Eyes” should be familiar to diehards as Rob Halford has been known to bring it out in his solo shows.  It previously made an appearance on his Live Insurrection album.

Thus the major selling point to this anniversary edition is the US Festival show.  As rad as the 1982 concert at the Mid South Coliseum contained in Priest’s Metalogy box set is, the US Festival gig shows much of the Screaming For Vengeance selections at full polish.  Playing before 300,000 fans in the four day festival, it’s impressive to see so many people even in 1982 pumping fists and going wild for a heavy metal band.  “Electric Eye” comes off as a slow cooker for the band and Rob Halford skulks onstage from behind the amps and Dave Holland’s massive drum riser to deliver the goods in sinister fashion.  The band picks up with “Riding On the Wind” but hits full stride four songs in with “Metal Gods.”  Halford comes alive with his full vocal range while KK Downing and Glenn Tipton feed off of his energy.  Ian Hill bobs back in forth at amp’s edge as he’s always done (as signature for him as Angus Young’s ceaseless up and down knee jacking), while Dave Holland, a forgotten cog in the Priest machine, looks half frightened and half euphoric from his mount overtop the survey of humanity before him. 

Holland has the best seat in the house and so do you with this DVD.  Though it’s amusing watching the camera operators focus on the wrong guitarists during the first few solos, eventually everything hums and the US Festival performance lives up to its reputation.  Priest whips out their olden year standards, “Victim of Changes,” “Diamonds and Rust” and “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown”) and they rank amongst the highlights of this show.  “Screaming For Vengeance” is just as thunderous here as the studio version, but none of it seems wholly fulfilling until Rob Halford manifests on his Harley during “Hell Bent For Leather.”  Oh, hell to the yes.

So on the wings of a screaming metallic falcon, have another go with an immortal album, if not for your first time.  If this is your first time coming to Screaming For Vengeance, you are to be envied because this is a genuine experience you’re about to confront.  You’ll take the pain and the pleasure from Screaming For Vengeance and chances are, you’ll rank this album deservedly high on your personal meter as the rest of us have.

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