In 1982, Judas Priest found themselves at a crossroads. Point of Entry had brought criticism from fans who thought the record suffered from commercial leanings. For their next record, the band could either continue to court radio or proudly return to their characteristic heavy sound. With Screaming for Vengeance, Judas Priest chose the latter path and created one of the strongest statements of their career.
To reassure fans that the new album was a return to form, the cover needed to make a bold visual statement. The result was The Hellion, an airborne beast of destruction. One glance at Screaming for Vengeance and it was clear that the Priest was back.
A mere visual representation was not enough. The legend of The Hellion was to be forever etched in metal lore. Flipping to the reverse side, fans are formally introduced to this metal monster.
“From an unknown land and through distant skies came a winged warrior. Nothing remained sacred, no one was safe from the Hellion as it uttered its battle cry…Screaming for Vengeance!”
The Hellion is honored with its own song. Along with “Electric Eye” and “Riding on the Wind,” the album opens with a 1-2-3 punch before the music gets even heavier with “Bloodstone.” The title track was faster than any Priest song before it. Closer “Devil’s Child” ensured that no Judas Priest fan could possibly accuse the band of abandoning their metal roots.
Still, the album was hardly perfect. One look at the hype sticker reveals what were deemed selling points. “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” proved to be an enduring hit. The immortal classic “The Hellion/Electric Eye” remains a source of pride. Yet, “(Take These) Chains” was a misstep. It’s the sound of a band who wanted to rage but were forced to write for radio. The song is awkward in the context of heavier songs. There’s a reason why this song has never been played in concert.
The follow-up needed to be an absolute metal masterpiece without glaring commercial aspirations. Everything about this new album had to be more extreme, including the artwork. A new metal monster was needed. Meet the Metallian!
The Metallian is a monstrous tank of conquest. Red, white and blue armor suggest that Judas Priest had America in their sights. Their brand of British Steel would continue to roll through the American heartland, further solidifying their growing dominance of the U.S. metal scene.
As before, the back cover reveals the origins of a metal monster. Lowercase letters have been banished. All caps usher in the legend of THE METALLIAN.
“RISING FROM DARKNESS WHERE HELL HATH NO MERCY AND THE SCREAMS OF VENGEANCE ECHO ON FOREVER. ONLY THOSE WHO KEEP THE FAITH SHALL ESCAPE THE WRATH OF THE METALLIAN…
MASTER OF ALL METAL”
The reference to Screaming for Vengeance immortalized the album into Judas Priest mythology. The Metallian logo harkens back to Sad Wings of Destiny. A subtle reminder of the band’s incredible body of work, it’s clear that the term “MASTER OF ALL METAL” applies not only to a fantasy beast, but also to Judas Priest.
With two recent albums ensuring their legacy as the embodiment of pure metal, Judas Priest were ready to explore new sonic territory. Turbo was divisive, not only for the use of guitar synths, but also for a blatant attempt at assimilating into the pop metal of the day. Ram It Down was heavier but not enough to redeem them in the eyes of fans that felt betrayed. With the rise of thrash upping the standards for how heavy metal should be, Judas Priest seemed like a watered down version of their former selves.
Once again, Judas Priest needed to reclaim their rightful place as heirs to the heavy metal throne. Like Screaming for Vengeance before it, Painkiller was a return to true metal. Taking a cue from the eighties, a pair of new metal monsters helped Judas Priest enter the new decade.
The Painkiller is not fully human. Rather, he is “half man and half machine.” After an absence from previous albums, the iconic logo reappears. Branded into armor and worn as a badge of honor, the Painkiller proudly displays a symbol synonymous with Judas Priest.
Our new metal warrior rides a fanged serpent/motorcycle hybrid. In place of wheels there are spinning metal blades that destroys as it transports. As The Painkiller “Rides the Metal Monster” he ushers in the next era of Judas Priest.
As always, the rear cover outlines a new chapter in Judas Priest history.
“AS MANKIND HURLED ITSELF FOREVER DOWNWARDS INTO THE BOTTOMLESS PIT OF ETERNAL CHAOS, THE REMNANTS OF CIVILIZATION SCREAMED FOR SALVATION
-REDEMPTION ROARED ACROSS THE BURNING SKY…THE PAINKILLER!”
Painkiller certainly brought redemption. Easily the heaviest record of their career, fans embraced the re-energized band with open arms. The album was so well received that news of Rob Halford leaving Judas Priest sent shockwaves through the metal community. To this day, Painkiller is heralded as one of the best Judas Priest albums in a dizzying sea of masterpieces.
Though Priest and Halford both remained active over the next decade, it was inevitable that they would join forces again. Angel of Retribution was what one expected from a classic Priest reunion but the double-concept album Nostradamus left fans underwhelmed. It had been over 20 years since Painkiller and the arrival of a new metal monster was long overdue. Enter the Redeemer of Souls!
This winged creature of fire wears the mark of Judas Priest around his neck. It is a clear indication that Redeemer of Souls recaptures the vibe of vintage Priest. Keeping with tradition, the back cover elaborates upon the arrival of this supernatural agent of salvation.
Death, doom and destruction rain down upon the Forsaken
One being stands alone to save humanity
A soldier born from the past on sad wings of destiny
Powerful, unflinching and bearing the eternal force
That will proclaim and assert metal’s deliverance
The Redeemer of Souls!
Just the mention of Sad Wings of Destiny sends chills down the spines of long-time fans. Judas Priest have returned, not only to redeem themselves after Nostradamus, but to “assert metal’s deliverance.” It’s almost inconceivable, but after all these years, Judas Priest have crafted a metal masterpiece on par with the classic albums of their prime. It confirms what we have known all along. Judas Priest are the torch-bearers and representatives of a genre they love. Like the Metallian, Judas Priest are the masters of all metal!