finding new soul

New Threshold single “Watchtower on the Moon” from the forthcoming record For the Journey. Damian Wilson could sing the phonebook and I’d love it: one of my favorite vocalists in music. High hopes for this one!

Metallica - “The Thing That Should Not Be”, from Master of Puppets

Most days, I chase the newest music in metal and try to shine a light on it for others. But today, I woke up with an old friend in my head. Sometimes you need Cliff Burton, a searing Hammett solo, and Hetfield without “yeah, yeah.”

Make it three killer records in a row for Overkill. Ron Lipnicki remains the most underrated drummer in thrash with a monster performance. Seriously, if you’re even remotely into thrash and aren’t on board with Ironbound on, you lose all credibility.

Judas Priest Sorted

3. Painkiller. After the abomination of Turbo and the phoned-in Ram it Down, Priest seemed dead and buried. Imagine the surprise when they dropped the full-on assault of Painkiller, which was their heaviest record by miles. Released in 1990, Painkiller completely abandoned any hint of the 80’s and the glam movement and replaced it with punishing riffs and blistering solos. Perhaps the biggest change is the addition of new drummer Scott Travis, who introduces himself in the title track with double bass that Dave Holland couldn’t pull off in his dreams. 

Though I’d heard the radio hits in the 80’s and liked them, by the time 1990 rolled around, I was into thrash and death metal and found Priest too tame. But, Painkiller earned a permanent spot in my car’s cassette deck and cemented their position as one of my favorite bands. Not long after, Halford left, Ripper was in, and it seemed like Priest as we knew it was finished. Although that turned out to not be the case, Painkiller would have made the perfect swansong. The place in the catalogue to start for metalheads, but mandatory listening for all.

Representative Track: “All Guns Blazing”

Judas Priest Sorted

4. Screaming for Vengeance. The highlight of 80’s Priest which spawned the radio hit “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’”, Screaming catapulted the band to mega-stardom. Fortunately, the music justified the fame, as the record is nearly flawless from top to bottom. Some of it sounds a touch dated, but as much as “(Take These) Chains” seems a little worn, “Devil’s Child” is clearly a product of its time that is still brilliant 30 years later. That Honda used instrumental “The Hellion” in a van commercial 4 years ago proves that Screaming remains a classic that is mandatory listening for all metal fans.

Representative Track: “Devil’s Child”

Judas Priest Sorted

5. Sin After Sin. Sin After Sin is Sad Wings on overdrive: heavier, faster, and more energetic, with all of the good bits left intact. “Sinner”, “Diamonds and Rust”, and “Starbreaker” are monster tracks, and “Dissident Aggressor” is a pure metal classic. The only thing that drags it down a notch is “Last Rose of Summer”, but fortunately “Call for the Priest” shows up right after to redeem.  The sound of this era is perfected soon after, but Sin After Sin stands the test of time as mandatory listening.

Representative Track: “Dissident Aggressor”

Judas Priest Sorted

6. Defenders of the Faith. Falling on the heels of the monster Screaming for Vengeance, Priest went with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy and released a similar record in Defenders of the Faith that is almost as good. The one-two punch of “Freewheel Burning” and “Jawbreaker” are as formidable as any other in their catalogue, and if you aren’t fist-pumping and putting your fist in the air along with “Heavy Duty” and the title track, then your metal heart simply isn’t beating anymore. The only knock is that a couple of tracks, namely “Rock Hard Ride Free” and “Some Heads are Gonna Roll” seem a little stale and stuck in the 80’s when heard with modern ears. Aside from that, Defenders is a classic of the 80’s era, and the last essential record until Painkiller arrived.

Representative Track: “Freewheel Burning”

Judas Priest Sorted

7. Sad Wings of Destiny. Yet another bit of blasphemy, as many fans consider this one of the best, if not the best Priest record. “Victim of Changes” and “The Ripper” alone are enough to cement Sad Wings as a classic. However, after those two tracks, I find that the record slows down a bit too much for my taste. An essential record in the catalogue, and one that any Priest fan absolutely must hear, but it’s one that just fails to meet the highs of their other records.

Representative Track: “The Ripper”

Judas Priest Sorted

8. Hell Bent for Leather / Killing Machine. Many Priest fans will consider this blasphemy, as Hell Bent for Leather is frequently sited as one of the band’s best. But aside from the hits, I find most of the rest of the record fairly bland. As a bridge between the harder rock of Stained Class and the metal assault of British Steel, Hell Bent for Leather manages to do neither style as well. Still, it’s a valuable addition to the catalogue if for no other reason than establishing the band’s visual image.

Representative Track: “The Green Manalishi (with the Two-Pronged Crown)”

Judas Priest Sorted

9. Angel of Retribution. The comeback album, Halford’s triumphant return, the light after the dark days of the Ripper years… call Angel of Retribution what you will, but I call it underrated. Take a listen back with fresh ears, and you’ll find that any disappointment you felt because it wasn’t Painkiller II has waned with time, and you’ll find a solid record that fits easily in the Priest catalogue. Sure, “Revolution” is pretty much Jane’s Addiction’s “Mountain Song”, and “Lochness” is a bit longer than need be. However, “Judas Rising” is easily among the best songs they’ve ever written, and I won’t back down from that. Priest is flying the metal flag with pride, and doing it well.

Representative Track: “Judas Rising”