Judas Priest - Screaming For Vengeance (Sony)

The iconic album is 30 years old today, and we couldn't let such an auspicious anniversary pass without some sort of tribute, so MaF resident old man Scott Adams has a think about what makes the album so special...

 

If you are reading this on the day Metal as Fuck’s shadowy editorial panel posted it, it’s thirty years to the day since Screaming for Vengeance was unleashed, not just in the East but across the whole of our teeming, febrile globe. In that time it has had some sort of influence over just about every metal musician of note (and an even greater number of us who hold no pretension to musicianship at all, the people known in the trade as ‘fans’) ever to take up an instrument in the name of heavy metal. Listening to the album now, after most of a lifetime in its company, the thing that strikes one most is the sound of the record; it quite literally could have been recorded yesterday, such is the pristine sci-fi precision of Tom Allom’s production.

And then, of course, there are the songs. Not just the headline-grabbing, stadium-munching stars of the show like the title track, You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ or the set-opening duo to end them all that is The Hellion/Electric Eye. No, whilst these were, are and forever will be metal in excelsis, Screaming for Vengeance is literally packed with ‘lesser’ classics like Bloodstone, the furious proto-speed of Riding on the Wind or Devil’s Child. And what about Fever? Most bands would almost certainly indenture themselves to the great horned one to be given the ability to write a song as good as this, and yet, nestling as it does after the knockout combination blows of Screaming For Vengeance and You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ it has spent the last three decades languishing, largely unloved and almost never mentioned in metallic despatches when the bedenimed masses gather to share an ale and a yarn. This is one of those tragedies that litter music history, and if this review does anything it will nudge you over to the stereo to give this fantastic song another listen and a fresh perspective.

Of course these songs don’t write or perform themselves. There would be no Electric Eye without the titanic writing triumvirate that is the Tipton/Halford/Downing collective. They’d touched greatness on previous albums, particularly Killing Machine and British Steel, but for sheer consistency of brilliance …Vengeance is hard to beat and, as ever, the three of them presaged the coming thrash phenomenon on the title track as they had with early efforts like Exciter and Rapid Fire. Rob Halford’s vocal performance on this album is perhaps the best of his recorded work; whether quite literally screaming for vengeance or unleashing his wonderfully powerful mid and lower ranges he’d never sounded better or more in control, whilst Glenn Tipton and KK Downing simply smoke on every track, whether it be anthemic guitar dueling, effortless lick trading or just heads-down (and up again, in unison) riff mayhem, the pair deliver time and time again on Screaming for Vengeance.

Priest have always set the metal agenda rather than adhered to it, and that fact is nowhere better exemplified than on this spine-tingling, epoch-defining album. In an age where the word ‘classic’ prefaces anything over the age of ten, when its very sense as a word has been flogged to death by marketing men and brainless yahoos looking for a one-size fits all nostalgia peg to hang whatever it is they’re selling on, Screaming for Vengeance upholds the very integrity of that single word. It is a classic heavy metal record.