Judas Priest

Screaming for Vengeance [Bonus Tracks] [Expanded Edition]

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Review

Judas Priest rebounded from the shaky Point of Entry with Screaming for Vengeance, arguably the strongest album of their early-'80s commercial period. Having moved a bit too far into simplistic hard rock, Vengeance found the band refocusing on heavy metal, and achieving a greater balance between commercialism and creativity. The results were catchy and accessible, yet harder-hitting, and without the awkwardly apparent calculation that informed the weakest moments of the album's two predecessors. Ultimately, Screaming for Vengeance hangs together better than even the undeniable landmark British Steel, both thematically and musically. There's less of a party-down feel here -- the remaining traces of boogie have been ironed out, and the lyrics return to the darkness and menace that gave the band its mystique. Sure, if you stop to read the lyrics, all the references to demons and devils and monsters can look a little gratuitous, but the music here is so strong that there simply aren't any seams showing. Even the occasional filler is more metallic this time around -- in place of trite teenage rebellion, listeners get the SM-themed "Pain and Pleasure." In fact, "Pain and Pleasure" and "Fever" are the only two songs here that have never shown up on a band retrospective, which ought to tell you that Priest's songwriting here is perhaps the best it's ever been. The midtempo grooves that enlivened British Steel are here in full force on the band's signature tune, "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" (their only American chart single), as well as "Bloodstone," "Devil's Child," and unfairly forgotten single "(Take These) Chains," all uniformly great. But there's a nearly equal emphasis on uptempo headbanging, thanks to the classic "The Hellion/Electric Eye," the terrific album track "Riding on the Wind," and the stupendously high-velocity title cut, which marks the closest they ever came to thrash metal (at least in the '80s). Despite a one-album misstep in between, Screaming for Vengeance managed to capitalize on the commercial breakthrough of British Steel, becoming the first Priest album to be certified double platinum, and reaching the Top 20 in America and the U.K. alike. Along with British Steel, it ranks as one of the best and most important mainstream metal albums of the '80s. [The 2001 Columbia/Legacy reissue adds two bonus tracks: "Prisoner of Your Eyes" and a live version of "Devil's Child."] ~ Steve Huey, Rovi