Monday, September 10, 2012

The World Is A Manacled Place

Judas Priest – Screaming For Vengeance Special 30th Anniversary Edition

Sony Records – 2012

Hellions, 30 years ago the mighty Judas Priest released one of the defining albums of their career - Screaming For Vengeance.  To celebrate this momentous occasion the LP has been re-released in a special edition package that includes the remastered album with 6 bonus tracks and a DVD.  Today the album is considered a classic of the genre but it must be remembered that Screaming For Vengeance represented a course correction for Priest after the failure of the previous album, Point Of Entry. The band had attempted a more commercial direction on Point Of Entry, but the result was lackluster, with half the cuts being good and the other half being crap.  It would be considered Priest’s worst album if not for the execrable Turbo from 1986.  

Screaming managed to both solidify the band’s reputation as Metal royalty and also firmly established the leather and studs visual imagery for every other Metal band to follow.  Many a cow regretted the inner sleeve of the album which featured a picture of the band in full leather regalia bedazzled with a zillion studs.  All hail the glorious days before irony ruined music! 

Fully half of the songs from the album are still featured in the live set today with “The Hellion” and “Electric Eye” being the eternal openers on almost every tour.  The title track was a Speed Metal assault before Speed Metal even existed and was the band’s heaviest song to that point.  It’s a searing blast of shrieking awesomeness that is the sonic equivalent of the Hellion featured on the legendary album cover.  “Riding On The Wind” is another classic that both Priest and the Halford band play with regularity.  The most popular song of Priest’s career, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” is a masterpiece of anthemic Metal that espouses the perfect Heavy Metal ethos of success at all costs.  Some may say that the song is too simple and played out but they are fucking idiots.  You know you want to pump your fist and bang your head every time you hear it.  

There are some forgotten gems on the album as well, such as the excellent “Bloodstone,” the brooding “Fever,” and the tongue-firmly-in-cheek ode to bondage “Pain and Pleasure.”  “(Take These) Chains" was an example of the band using an outside songwriter to try and capture a larger audience with a power ballad.  It’s a decent song and worth a listen if you want to explore some deeper Judas Priest cuts.  The album closer, “Devil’s Child,” is a swaggering and pulsing treat that became a live favorite for years to come.

In addition to the album proper, there are 6 bonus tracks, 5 of which are live.  In fact, 60% of the album is represented in live cuts and they are all excellent. There is also the unreleased track, “Prisoner Of Your Eyes,” which was initially released as a bonus track on the 2001 remastered version of Screaming.  A quick note for audiophiles: the album is the same as the 2001 remaster and as such some will find it to sound very compressed.  Most people won’t notice the difference, but if you are a discerning listener with a nice stereo you can tell that the bottom end is overly loud. If you are hoping that this is a new remaster, you are shit out of luck.

The DVD is the real highlight of this package as it is the first official release of Priest’s US Festival performance from May 29, 1983.  The DVD is of decent quality, but the source tape does have the usual limitations considering its age.  Also, this is not a modern production with multiple HD cameras, cranes and jump cuts.  It’s a simple affair with mostly band shots, but that actually helps the presentation, as it really feels like a spontaneous live show and not some choreographed and soulless modern production.  If you weren’t one of the lucky 350,000 headbangers that saw the band that day you can now get the full experience on an official release and not a crappy 60th generation bootleg.  Check out the promo video below to get a taste of the DVD:


The Bottom Line:  Screaming For Vengeance is an all time Heavy Metal classic that must be in your collection.  If you already have it, the live tracks are a nice addition, but the DVD pushes this into must buy territory.  Snap this up and take a trip back to the days when Judas Priest were at the pinnacle of the Metal world.


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