Painkiller (Judas Priest song)

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Painkiller (Judas Priest single - cover art).jpg
Single by Judas Priest
from the album Painkiller
Released 1990
Recorded 1990
Genre Speed metal
Length 6:06
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Rob Halford
K.K. Downing
Glenn Tipton
Producer(s) Chris Tsangarides
Judas Priest singles chronology
"Johnny B. Goode"
"A Touch of Evil"
Painkiller track listing
"Hell Patrol"

"Painkiller" is the opening track on British metal band Judas Priest's 1990 album, Painkiller, and was released as the first single off the album later that year.

The first guitar solo in the song, which alternates between the keys of F# minor and C# minor, is played by Glenn Tipton. The second, also in F# minor, is played by KK Downing. The song is noted for Rob Halford's high pitched vocal style and screams throughout the song as well as Scott Travis' complex drumming. Tipton has also stated that the Painkiller solo is his favourite to play. It is also his first recorded solo to heavily feature the technique of sweep picking.

The song was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance during the 33rd Grammy Awards (1991), the second year the award was presented.


The song tells the story of the Painkiller, a metal angel out to save mankind from destruction.

Cover versions[edit]

The song was covered by death metal band Death on their 1998 album The Sound of Perseverance. All the solos were rewritten for this version.

The Brazilian power metal band Angra has covered the song too on the album Freedom Call, released in 1996. This version also appeared on the Judas Priest tribute album Legends Of Metal - A Tribute To Judas Priest Volume II.

In his 2004 tribute album, Mirada Electrica: Tributo A Judas Priest, Arturo Huizar, a prominent pioneer of Mexican heavy metal, covered the song in Spanish with his band Lvzbel. The tribute album also includes other popular Judas Priest songs translated to Spanish.

More recently, the British thrash/power metal band Biomechanical did a cover of the song and was included in the Limited Edition of The Empires of the Worlds, featuring Chris Tsangarides, who produced the Painkiller album. In 2010, a Taiwanese metal band CHTHONIC has also done a cover of the song mixed with oriental elements and digitally released it.

The high-energy drum intro was covered by Mike Wengren of Disturbed, as an intro to their cover of Priest's "Living After Midnight".

In May 2011, 7 students from Aaron O'Keefe's music academy near Cincinnati, Ohio, recorded a cover version of "Painkiller" at Reba McEntire's Starstruck Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. The students ranged in age from 11 to 17. A video of the recording was posted on YouTube.

French industrial metal band Obszön Geschöpf covered Painkiller on their 2013 album Highway of Horrors.

Japanese band Babymetal performed an abridged version of the song at the 2016 Alternative Press Music Awards alongside Rob Halford, with an accompanying performance of popular Judas Priest song "Breaking the Law." The band would perform these songs again later in the year during their tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with singer Su-metal handling all vocals (as opposed to the duet with Halford) and Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith on drums.[1][2]

Korean metal band Mahatma covered Painkiller on their 2007 album Perseverance

In other media[edit]

  • In Rock Band 2 and Rock Band Unplugged, Painkiller appears as the final song to be unlocked and it is to be the hardest overall track for both games due to being the first song in the Rock Band series to have a full "Impossible" difficulty rating for all band members. In addition, the song was also featured in the video games Madden NFL 10, the final boss battle in Brütal Legend, and Guitar Hero: Van Halen, where it omits the drum intro due to licensing reasons.
  • It is also a DLC track in the videogame Rocksmith along with two other Judas Priest songs (Living After Midnight and Breaking the Law).


Judas Priest


External links[edit]