Judas Priest: Screaming for Vengeance

Nicholas Schlegel

Judas Priest

Screaming for Vengeance

Label: Legacy
US Release Date: 2001-05-29

It was with great nostalgia and a shadow of youthful exuberance that I loaded Screaming for Vengeance into the tray of my old and faithful Sony (the first and only CD player I have ever bought). It occurred to me that I had never heard the album before on compact disc; I had bought the LP when I was 13 years old -- before the days of those shiny lil' metallic wonders. I wondered, would I feel the fillings in my teeth begin to loosen? Would fine crystal everywhere run for cover for fear of Rob Halford's phoenix-like shriek? Would the neighbors, now 20 years older and much less tolerant, call and complain as in the past? Would the magic still be there 20 years later? The answers to these questions are, in order: my fillings are loose to begin with because of poor dental coverage, the crystal emerged unscathed, and the neighbors are substantially harder of hearing as they steadily approach their winter years. But, in spite of this, the magic was indeed still there.

I recall my headbanging days fondly. There was an indescribable joy in unleashing the power that those albums provided. When school was tedious or rough, when spats arose with girlfriends, when you got busted for drinking and coming home two hours past curfew -- there was a way to make all that seem inconsequential. All you had to do was turn the stereo up nearly all the way (didn't want to fry those speakers now) and smite the world with Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, or, for the purpose of this review, Judas Priest.

I adored Priest in those days. I recall The King Biscuit Flower Hour airing a concert from their "British Steel" tour in the summer of -- oh somewhere around 1982 or '83. I remember staying up late to record it, even though I had Driver's Ed. at 6:30 in the bloody morning. That tape didn't leave my deck all summer. Which brings us to a practical point. Priest were an incredible live band. Their stage dynamic and overall sound were a true feast for the senses. They are still the loudest band I have ever seen. Rob Halford's searing dynamic range -- from monstrous lows to eardrum-piercing highs -- stands as his legacy to the band and this whole genre of music. Halford educated the metal scream; his lows rivaled those of his legendary encore Harley Davidson and his highs could crack an ice sculpture.

And yet, Priest could also leave you somewhat hollow. Perhaps ultimately what kept Priest out of the upper echelon of British Metal/Hard Rock (Zeppelin, Sabbath) is that their songs didn't add up to very much in the grand scheme of things. Props are due, of course, for Priest gave us many good-time party rockers, some true metal anthems, and the occasional ballad or two per album. However, upon closer scrutiny, deep structure with regard to the compositions is lacking. One might do better to check out Black Sabbath, Cream, King Crimson, or Led Zeppelin. Additionally, the rhythm section of Judas Priest was generally uninspired. This is not meant to imply that they weren't tight. On the contrary, drummer Dave Holland and bassist Ian Hill were always rock-steady. And, it should be noted that it might simply be by design that Judas Priest had an embalming sort of stiffness. I only mention it because the 1978 release of Sin after Sin (produced by Deep Purple's Roger Glover) -- which featured famed studio percussionist Simon Phillips -- showed us that the band's songs could take on a very impressive dynamic when the rhythm section was stylized rather than straightforward and bland. The band had the talent, no question. Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, and K.K. Downing were a powerful team that produced many memorable melodies: "Living after Midnight" and this album's "You've Got Another Thing Coming" are but two examples. However, this particular phase of Priest's career (early '80s) tended to appeal to angst-ridden teenagers.

Screaming for Vengeance was the second in a trio of watershed releases for the band in the early 1980s. The impressive triumvirate began with 1980's British Steel, 1982's Screaming for Vengeance, and 1984's Defenders of the Faith. This particular era for the band ushered in a new, harder, and particularly distinctive sound as well as a newfound understanding and practice of the A.O.R. four- to five-minute single.

Screaming for Vengeance is a definitive album from a definitive heavy metal band, absolutely necessary for a fan of the genre or the eclectic collector.





The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.