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Judas Priest - Screaming For Vengeance 30th Anniversary Edition (Album Review)

Wednesday, 12 September 2012 Written by Simon Ramsay
Judas Priest - Screaming For Vengeance 30th Anniversary Edition (Album Review)

It's easy to be cynical about record labels continually re-releasing albums. Whilst remastered versions of vintage material are appreciated, especially when augmented with rare gems, how many times can the same album be updated before fans cry rip-off? With that in mind – what does the 'Special 30th Anniversary Edition' of Judas Priest's metal masterpiece 'Screaming For Vengeance' deliver when compared with the remastered version released in 2001? And is it really worth buying again?

ImageFormed in Birmingham in 1969, Judas Priest's role in the development of heavy metal is colossal. Characterised by Rob Halford's scorching vocals and the twin guitar attack of KK Downing and Glenn Tipton they've sold over 50 million albums worldwide, pioneering not just the genres sound but also the leather and studs look that's become the de facto uniform for generations of metal heads. Originally released in 1982, 'Screaming For Vengeance' is Judas Priest's eighth studio album and the best selling record of their career, thanks in no small part to the hit single 'You've Got Another Thing Coming', which received regular airplay on MTV and saw them enjoy unprecedented commercial success in North America. Since it's release 'Screaming For Vengeance' has been lauded as a hugely important and influential recording, with Kerrang! magazine listing it at Number 46 on their “100 Greatest Heavy Metal albums of all time”.

This 'Special 30th Anniversary Edition' is essentially the same excellent remaster as the 2001 version, again overseen by Jon Astley. It sounds whip-sharp crisp and packs a hearty punch when blasting out the speakers at higher volumes, unlike the original's tinny texture and harsh resonance when played too loudly. From the scene setting apocalyptic unison guitar motif on 'The Hellion' to the closing AC/DC if-they-were-metal brilliance of 'Devil's Child' this album fires out classic after classic. 'Electric Eye's paranoid lyrical take on George Orwell's 1984 is full of pummeling intent, thundering riffs and thrilling guitar histrionics from Downing and Tipton, shredding screeching notes with such frenetic energy it sounds like someone's spiked a beehive with an ecstasy tab. It's a blueprint for all things Priest and is immediately followed by 'Riding On The Wind', where an onslaught of power chords combine with a stratosphere spanking chorus courtesy of the operatic side of Halford's four-and-a-half octave vocal range. The ineffably cool, almost funky riff on 'Bloodstone' drives one of THE great metal anthems, whilst the title track's militaristic power and screaming vocal delivery created the template for thrash metal titans Metallica, Slayer and Sepultura to follow. 'You've Got Another Thing Coming's' prowling menace stalks like a panther whilst the punchy S&M flavoured 'Pain And Pleasure' highlights Priest's ability to knock out catchy hooks amidst the distorted mayhem. If you're a metal fan – owning this record is about as essential as breathing.

So – what of the extras? There's five live versions of tracks from the album – 'Electric Eye', 'Riding On The Wind', 'You've Got Another Thing Coming', 'Screaming For Vengeance' and 'Devil's Child' – which were recorded at the San Antonio Civic Centre in 1982. The sound quality is impressive and the material played with fitting aggression, but it's unnecessary for anyone except die hard completists. In addition, an extra studio track 'Prisoner Of Your eyes' is also included. Whilst a great song – think seven minute bleak metal ballad reminiscent of the Scorpions – it's actually an outtake from 1985's 'Turbo' album, making it's inclusion somewhat baffling. It was also – you guessed it – featured on the 2001 remaster, highlighting the fact that for a supposed special release there's not a whole lot of extra audio bang for your buck.

However, the big incentive for fans is a superb live DVD recorded at the 1983 US festival show in San Bernadino in front of a staggeringly large crowd of 375 000 people. Once you get over the surreal sight of seeing Judas Priest playing in blistering sunshine it's thoroughly enjoyable to watch them tear through classic cuts backed by a humongous wall of Marshall stacks, with Dave Holland's drum kit perched 12 foot high on top of them! Rob Halford's imperious stage presence is suitably mesmeric. Clad in standard black and silver 'Metal God' apparel with whips, chains and handcuffs attached to his belt, he works the crowd with his macho theatrical superhero persona. All the while grinning and pulling shapes with a look that suggests he knows this is completely ridiculous, but still bloody brilliant! The sympatico headbanging of Glenn, KK and Rob is an iconic image as they belt out 'Screaming For Vengeance' numbers alongside fan favourites 'Metal Gods', 'Breaking The Law', 'Hell Bent For Leather' and cover versions of Joan Baez's 'Diamonds and Rust' and Fleetwood Mac's 'The Green Manalishi'. The camera work is as formulaically anachronistic as you'd expect from thirty year old footage but it's still a first rate performance and the band sounds fantastic.

Apart from some short sleeve notes by American rock television presenter Eddie Trunks about what 'Screaming For Vengeance' means to him that's all you get. For Priest fanatics the DVD is definitely worth checking out, but from a packaging point of view the musical extras are decidedly lacking for a so-called special edition. The album deserves it's lofty reputation, but for those who've yet to hear it and aren't too bothered about live DVD's stick with the cheaper 2001 remaster.

Judas Priest's 'Screaming For Vengeance' Special 30th Anniversary Edition is available now.

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