Painkiller (Judas Priest album)

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Studio album by Judas Priest
Released 3 September 1990 (1990-09-03)
Recorded January – March 1990, Miraval Studios, France and Wisseloord Studios, Holland
Genre Power metal, heavy metal, speed metal[1]
Length 54:38
Label Columbia[2]
Producer Judas Priest and Chris Tsangarides
Judas Priest chronology
Ram It Down
Singles from Painkiller
  1. "Painkiller"
    Released: 1990
  2. "A Touch of Evil"
    Released: 1991
  3. "Night Crawler"
    Released: 1992
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[2]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars[citation needed]
Sputnikmusic 5.0/5[3]

Painkiller is the twelfth studio album by British heavy metal band Judas Priest.


The album was recorded at Miraval Studios, Brignoles, France in early 1990, and mixed at Wisseloord Studios, Hilversum, the Netherlands later that year. This is the first album to feature drummer Scott Travis who replaced long-time drummer Dave Holland in 1989. Travis was recruited from another band, Racer X.

In 1989, Judas Priest had just come off of two less-than-successful albums with Turbo and Ram It Down, both of which attempted to incorporate synthesizers and glam rock, and the band was widely dismissed as passe and unable to compete with the younger generation of metal groups such as Metallica, Anthrax, and Slayer. In response, Priest adopted a more contemporary speed metal sound on Painkiller. The effort paid off and the album became one of their most successful efforts, its songs becoming staples of the live setlist. The title track has become one of Judas Priest's signature songs, with songs like "Metal Meltdown", "Leather Rebel", "A Touch of Evil", "Night Crawler" and "All Guns Blazing" becoming fan favorites. Rob Halford claimed in an interview that the song "Hell Patrol" is about US Air Force pilots flying missions in the Gulf War which started a few months before the release of the album.

The Painkiller itself is one of a series of fictional messiahs created by Judas Priest. The Painkiller is described as a metal messiah sent to the world to destroy evil and rescue mankind from destruction.


Despite the album being finished in March 1990, the album's release was delayed due to the pending much-publicized subliminal message trial that began on July 16, 1990. The band were the subject of a civil lawsuit alleging their recording was responsible for the suicide attempts of two young men in Reno, Nevada on December 23, 1985. The case was eventually dismissed on August 24, 1990. With the trial behind them, the band finally released the album on September 3, 1990.


The Painkiller is believed to be inspired by the fallen angel from the Sad Wings of Destiny album cover that Judas Priest recorded early in their career. He also makes an appearance along with the Hellion (from Screaming for Vengeance), the goggled face from Killing Machine (Hell Bent for Leather in the US) and the Metallian (from Defenders of the Faith) on the cover of Metal Works '73-'93.

A very similar character is on the cover of Angel of Retribution, also a metal angel, but with a slightly less smooth appearance and with the Judas Priest cross on his chest rather than on his shoulders.

The most noticeable feature of the Painkiller, besides his metal body is that he 'rides the metal monster'; a motorcycle with a dragon for the chassis and two circular saw blades for wheels.


The original LP, cassette and CD versions were released on 3 September 1990. The album was certified Gold by RIAA in January 1991. A re-mastered CD was released in May 2001. The album received a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance at the 20 February 1991 33rd Annual Grammy Awards.

Halford's departure[edit]

Following the tour for this album, singer Rob Halford left the band in May 1992 and maintained little contact with his former bandmates throughout the 1990s. The reason for this was growing tensions within the band, as well as Halford's desire to explore new musical territory by creating a new band of his own, Fight, which forced him to legally leave Judas Priest to allow this creation to be sold. Judas Priest remained inactive for several years after Halford had left. However, the band would eventually re-vamp, record, and tour, recruiting new singer Tim 'Ripper' Owens in 1996, who would perform on the studio albums Jugulator and Demolition.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Glenn Tipton, Rob Halford and K. K. Downing, except where noted. 

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Painkiller"     6:06
2. "Hell Patrol"     3:35
3. "All Guns Blazing"     3:56
4. "Leather Rebel"     3:34
5. "Metal Meltdown"     4:46
6. "Night Crawler"     5:44
7. "Between the Hammer & the Anvil"     4:47
8. "A Touch of Evil"   Tipton, Halford, Downing, Chris Tsangarides 5:42
9. "Battle Hymn" (Instrumental)   0:56
10. "One Shot at Glory"     6:46
2001 Bonus tracks
No. Title Length
11. "Living Bad Dreams" (Recorded during the 1990 Painkiller sessions) 5:20
12. "Leather Rebel" (Live at Foundation's Forum, Los Angeles, California; 13 September 1990) 3:38


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Canada (Music Canada)[4] Gold 50,000^
United States (RIAA)[5] Gold 500,000^
Worldwide sales: 2,000,000

^shipments figures based on certification alone




  1. ^ Huey, Steve (4 August 2006). "Judas Priest – Painkiller". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ Stagno, Mike (4 August 2006). "Judas Priest – Painkiller". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 8 May 2012. 
  4. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Judas Priest – Screaming for Vengeance". Music Canada. 
  5. ^ "American album certifications – Judas Priest – Screaming for Vengeance". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH