Few bands can have been mocked more than Judas Priest (Bill Hicks did a particularly fine job on Relentless). Hindsight though has proven to be on the side of Rob Halford and friends who, in conjunction with Iron Maiden and the lesser known Venom, have emerged over time as unquestionably one of the most influential British metal bands of the '80s.
Screaming for Vengeance isn't quite the band at their peak - British Steel is still widely regarded as their best work - but it regularly features in metal aficionados Best of. charts and was the release by which the group broke America, going on to sell a staggering five million copies across the continent. In attitude, more of a horns brandishing lifestyle choice than just a record; during the process of its creation, the band established a template that would apply to mainstream heavy metal for years.
Listened to with an open mind and an affectionate heart rather than critical perspective, Screaming For Vengeance proves that in Priest terms what you hear is very much what you get. Compared to the smorgasbord of different noise that spins out of today's assortment of tiny micro niches, it's remarkably unsophisticated, big on the kind of standing back to back riffing and the lead/rhythm guitar interplay between Glenn Tipton and KK Downing and dominated by singer Halford's superbly OTT vocal delivery. I'd forgotten that at times they were prepared to borrow as well - Devil's Eye sounding not unlike post Bon Scott AC/DC - but in reality this is the stuff of a band here for a good time with their tongues stuck permanently in cheek. This probably explains the slightly dubious subject matter of Pain And Pleasure, and also you imagine Electric Eye's laughable satellite paranoia, but the latter still has enough chugging oomph to make dandruff fly right across the planet. Perhaps most surprisingly, however, for a band who dressed on stage like co-workers at an S&M thrift store is their ability to come up with a good power ballad, and you imagine when Halford was squawking his way through (Take These) Chains that David Coverdale was busy taking notes. We shouldn't forget either the signature moment that was You've Got Another Thing Coming, or the proto thrash ubiquity of the title track, underlined since by covers since from the likes of Sepultra, Helloween and As I Lay Dying.
Special Editions of course vary in terms of the qualities of their extra goodies, and here the compilers probably earn themselves 7/10 for effort. Fans whom you assume have long owned the original get six extra audio tracks, five from the original post launch US tour, as well as the lengthy Prisoner Of Your Eyes from the later Turbo sessions. In addition there's a 60 minute live DVD recorded in 1983 which can't be criticised from a performance standpoint - Halford even re-emerges for the encore riding a Harley - but the workmanlike camera angles and some unnecessary post-production audio smoothing lessen the band's renowned live attack.
As with all these exercises dyed in the wool acolytes will need to think hard about coughing up more dough, but for Priest virgins (Sorry) this represents as good a place as any to start. Just don't turn up in your leather 'n' studs outfit down at the Rotarians. Oh, and the cardboard air guitar is a definite no-no, under any circumstances.
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