Archive for November, 2010

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Screaming For Vengeance

November 14, 2010

One of the better things about Judas Priest, in my opinion, was the width of themes they managed to cover. Being one of the first of the truly “heavy metal” bands to emerge alongside their brothers-in-arms, Black Sabbath, the group stood toe-to-toe with others like Iron Maiden and the Big Four of thrash metal (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax) and still maintained relevance. When you think of the heavy metal genre that was born of that era, you might immediately conjure visions of dragons and frost thrones and satanic shit, et cetera. I do generally agree that some metal had become a parody of itself, repeating the same tired demonic throes while the music becomes a game of “who can play this guitar the fastest?” instead of seeking some kind of melodic balance. Nowadays, we have bands like Between The Buried And Me and Priestess who break off from that imprisonment of the same-old, same-old in a fatigued sect of music.

And then there’s Judas Priest. Depending on time and circumstance, you might have grown up with Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. Though popular opinion usually puts IM over JP, there’s a huge difference in their style and messages. Iron Maiden was more for a literary, epic progressive, dividing songs into certain movements, taking a melody and telling a story with it. Judas Priest was faster, more raw, and less influenced by the more fantastical elements and tales.
And here’s why I loved Judas Priest: Screaming For Vengeance. One of the first albums I heard of theirs in its entirety, this is still one of my all-time favorite music albums and probably is one of the best examples how the band was so diverse–both lyrically and sonically.

Rob Halford and the band were a down-to-earth lot; beyond the 80’s fueled menace of songs like the titular title track and “Electric Eye,” there was political plea for peace in Bloodstone, the oft-revisited element of personal freedom and exploration in Riding On The Wind, and the even more central theme of relationships and white-hot lust in Fever, Pain And Pleasure, and even Take These Chains. One of the most interesting factors in the band’s existence was surely Halford’s homosexuality, which may have been the pained catalyst for so many heavy ballads—something that isn’t really as prevalent or well-done with other bands in the same school. After a few years, the band did adopt a more “radio-friendly” method of writing–whatever that means–though they sacrificed very little. If anything, it seemed like the band was free to express new modes of connection in whatever they composed.

I loved the band for its “normality” in the songs; less tancrid villainy and supernatural occurrence (which I do like, especially if Dio professes it) but more emphasis on personal vindication, being tough enough to withstand the journey, and dealing with the “devil” of love, hate, fury, freedom, and fun. When you’re running through albums like Killing Machine, British Steel, and even Rocka Rolla, you get the feel for a different kind of metal guided by Halford’s unique voice and the twin guitar sound. For anyone who doesn’t really listen to heavier rock or hasn’t had a feel for more theatrical bands like Iron Maiden or the speed metal of Metallica, Judas Priest might be a great halfway point. But even so, they’ve always been a solid sound, and a fan-fucking-tastic choice to put on when you’re cruising off somewhere. In fact, if you want a great JP album for driving, I suggest “Point Of Entry.”

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