Painkiller (Judas Priest album)

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Studio album by
Released3 September 1990 (1990-09-03)
RecordedJanuary–March 1990
StudioMiraval Studios, Correns, France and Wisseloord Studios, Hilversum, Netherlands
ProducerChris Tsangarides
Judas Priest chronology
Ram It Down
Singles from Painkiller
  1. "Painkiller"
    Released: September 1990
  2. "A Touch of Evil"
    Released: March 1991

Painkiller is the twelfth studio album by English heavy metal band Judas Priest, released in September 1990. It is the last Judas Priest album to feature lead singer Rob Halford until his return for the 2005 album Angel of Retribution and the first to feature drummer Scott Travis.


Painkiller is the first Judas Priest album to feature drummer Scott Travis, who replaced long-time drummer Dave Holland in 1989. Travis was previously a member of Los Angeles band Racer X and with his heavy use of double kicks Travis gave Judas Priest a new sound and heavier edge.

The album was recorded at Miraval Studios, Brignoles, France in early 1990 and mixed at Wisseloord Studios, Hilversum, the Netherlands later that year. It was produced by the band and Chris Tsangarides, marking the first time since 1978's Killing Machine that Judas Priest had not worked with Tom Allom and the first time since 1976's Sad Wings of Destiny that Judas Priest and Tsangarides worked together.

Don Airey was brought in to play keyboards on one song; however, in a 2020 interview, he claimed he also provided the bass parts through a Moog synthesizer, as Ian Hill was ill during the time of recording.[5] In fact, as early as 2012, Don told a Hungarian metal portal. ("Szóval a Painkiller minden dalában van billentyű. Mivel Ian Hill beteg volt a felvételekkor, én nyomtam fel a basszustémákat minden dalban, méghozzá szintetizátorral.") [6]


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 16 July 1990. The band was the subject of a civil lawsuit alleging their recording was responsible for the suicide attempts of two young men in Reno, Nevada on 23 December 1985. The case was eventually dismissed on 24 August 1990. With the trial behind them, the band finally released the album on 3 September 1990 on LP, cassette and CD.

The album was certified Gold by RIAA in January 1991. A remastered CD was released in May 2001, including a live recording of "Leather Rebel" and a previously unreleased song, "Living Bad Dreams". The album received a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance at the 33rd Annual Grammy Awards, losing to Metallica's cover of the Queen song "Stone Cold Crazy".


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[8]
Record Collector4/5 stars[9]
The Great Rock Discography8/10[10]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music3/5 stars[11]

Critical reaction to Painkiller has been overwhelmingly positive, especially from the metal community. Steve Huey of Allmusic, praised the album, saying that it was one of Judas Priest's best albums in years adding that "Travis' thunderous (and crisp-sounding) percussive maelstrom lights an immediate fire under the bandmembers' asses; Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing tear through a crushing, diabolical riff; and Rob Halford starts shrieking like a wicked witch, giving perhaps the most malevolent-sounding performance of his career. It's a startling statement of musical purpose that arrived seemingly out of nowhere, heralding a comeback that rivals George Foreman's." Mikesn of Sputnikmusic gave the album a 5 out of 5, stating that "Painkiller is full of many memorable riffs and leads from Glenn and K.K. Among the finest moments of the album come from the intense riffing combined with Halford's wailing vocals. The songs found on Painkiller are very energetic from start to finish, and each member seems to feed off each other's performances." On, the album holds an average score of 92% based on 26 reviews.[12]

Most of the album's tracks were performed live on the Painkiller World Tour, with the title track becoming one of the band's concert staples. "Hell Patrol", "All Guns Blazing", "A Touch of Evil", "Night Crawler" and "Between the Hammer and the Anvil" have all returned to the setlist on later tours, while "Metal Meltdown" and "Leather Rebel" were retired after only a few performances in 1990. "One Shot at Glory" and the intro "Battle Hymn" are the only tracks not yet performed live from the album.

Rob 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, along with Halford's desire to explore new musical territory by creating a new band of his own, Fight. Contractually, Halford was required to leave Judas Priest to allow sales of any Fight material. Judas Priest remained inactive for several years after Halford had gone; 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 tracks are written by Glenn Tipton, Rob Halford and K. K. Downing, except where noted.

Side one
2."Hell Patrol"3:35
3."All Guns Blazing"3:56
4."Leather Rebel"3:34
5."Metal Meltdown"4:46
Side two
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
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



Chart (1990) Peak
Australian Albums (ARIA)[13] 60
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[14] 22
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[15] 7
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[16] 27
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[17] 19
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[18] 19
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[19] 14
UK Albums (OCC)[20] 26
US Billboard 200[21] 26


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[22] Gold 50,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[23]
1996 release
Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[24] Gold 500,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ a b c Stagno, Mike (4 August 2006). "Judas Priest – Painkiller". Sputnikmusic. Archived from the original on 28 February 2012. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  2. ^ Sharpe-Young, Garry (2007). Metal: The Definitive Guide. Jawbone Press. pp. 39–40. ISBN 9781906002015. All in all, Painkiller put Judas Priest back at the top of the heavy metal pile.
  3. ^ Popoff, Martin (2004). The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums of All Time. ECW Press. pp. 63–4. ISBN 9781554902453.
  4. ^ Huey, Steve (4 August 2006). "Judas Priest – Painkiller". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 8 June 2018. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  5. ^ Greg Kennelty (7 November 2020). "Shocking Revelations: Deep Purple's Keyboardist Reveals He Played Bass On Judas Priest's Painkiller". Metal Injection.
  6. ^ Administrator. "Don Airey: "Profiként csak egy bizonyos összegért mész el játszani" - Shock!". Shockmagazin (in Hungarian). Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  7. ^ Huey, Steve. "Judas Priest - Painkiller". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  8. ^ "Judas Priest: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
  9. ^ Davenport, Rich. "Painkiller - Record Collector Magazine". Record Collector. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  10. ^ C. Strong, Martin. The Great Rock Discography (7th Edition). Canongate. ISBN 1841955515.
  11. ^ C. Strong, Martin. Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Canongate. ISBN 1841955515.
  12. ^ "Judas Priest - Painkiller - Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives". 8 June 2018. Archived from the original on 8 June 2018. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  13. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  14. ^ " – Judas Priest – Painkiller" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  15. ^ " – Judas Priest – Painkiller". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  16. ^ " – Judas Priest – Painkiller". Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  17. ^ " – Judas Priest – Painkiller". Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  18. ^ " – Judas Priest – Painkiller". Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  19. ^ " – Judas Priest – Painkiller". Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  20. ^ "Judas Priest | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  21. ^ "Judas Priest Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  22. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Judas Priest – Painkiller". Music Canada. Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  23. ^ "Japanese album certifications – Judas Priest – Painkiller" (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. Retrieved 27 December 2020. Select 1996年6月 on the drop-down menu
  24. ^ "American album certifications – Judas Priest – Painkiller". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 27 December 2020. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH.