In the late ’70s, Judas Priest were the most innovative and trailblazing metal band alive. Yet, they had very little commercial success to speak of. In the ’80s, Judas Priest were no longer blazing new paths, instead they were constantly tinkering, calculating, and re-calibrating their brand of metal to find favor with a wider audience. (They were also hampered, in my opinion, by less-than-remarkable drumming and cold fish production.) But indeed, and as hoped, Judas Priest reached their commercial peak through these means, becoming one of the most popular metal bands in the world.
1981’s Point Of Entry was a rather lazy and decidedly non-metal album by Judas Priest. It was pretty much a blatant attempt at commercial success, and it backfired a bit (Point Of Entry sold less than its predecessor, British Steel). Screaming For Vengeance attempted to (somewhat) correct the mistake of Point Of Entry by offering up a handful of true “metal” numbers this time around, mixing them in with another batch of mainstream attempts. One of the streamlined, commercial attempts, You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’, hit its mark and became a surprise hit. Screaming For Vengeance became Judas Priest’s best-selling album.
When Judas Priest wanted to bring it, they could bring it. The title cut, Screaming For Vengeance, is Judas Priest at their most vicious, metallic best. This is one of the best songs in Priest’s catalog, and really shows Judas Priest were truly AWESOME when they tried to slay all comers with ear-splitting and face melting METAL! The problem was, they just didn’t do this kind of thing enough on their ’80s records. (Electric Eye and Riding The Wind are also lightning bolts of sonic fury.) But jeesh, then we have (Take These) Chains, Fever, and Pain And Pleasure sitting there on the same album, taking up space, sucking the air out of the room, and plopping a Cleveland steamer on my chest. They even brought in an outside writer for (Take These) Chains. For shame! Who did they think they were, KISS?
I often see Screaming For Vengeance listed as one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time (usually in, or near, the top ten). I wonder how an album this inconsistent garners such accolades? I know it sold well, and came out at a time when heavy metal was starting to gain significant steam here in the United States, but I’ve got to say I just don’t agree with the consensus opinion on this one. Give me Sad Wings Of Destiny or Hell Bent For Leather any day. Screaming For Vengeance is a good album, but frustratingly uncommitted to the one thing Judas Priest did best: HEAVY. F*CKING. METAL. My score: B+