As 1981 morphed into 1982, Judas Priest arrived Ibiza Sound studios in Spain with both sun and pressure on their side, beginning to record their eighth studio LP. The reception to group’s latest album 1981’s “Point Of Entry” had been lukewarm, not everyone applauding its more commercial tunes and different approach. With new writing sessions underway, Priest looked at once again returning to faster, meaner sounding heavy metal without simply revisiting familiar waters.
As well as making up for the commercial set back of previous year’s “Point Of Entry,” the feeling was Priest needed to put out a studio album that would be as strong as their live performance. The first version of the album was initially written but subsequently scrapped in 1981 with the band basically starting afresh.
Producer Tom Allom once again at the reins, the band returned to Ibiza Sound studios, which had provided a great working atmosphere during the earlier “Point Of Entry”- sessions. To paraphrase “Rock Forever,” the surroundings offered “a brilliant sunshine” and inspired band to lay down a storming set of classic heavy metal. Recording went smoothly and within a window of just few months Priest came up with an album full of metal classics again taking the band into new territory musically.
The results were finally presented to the public when “Screaming For Vengeance;” was released in the summer of 1982. Heavier than its predecessor and inevitably more complex than “British Steel,” the album showcased its different dimensions within the first three songs. “The Hellion/Electric Eye” was the classic metal anthem destined to become band’s most famous set opener. Following “Riding On The Wind” scorched in vein of a fast ripping number not too far from previous decade’s hard biting “Exciter” but a notch sharper and deadlier in delivery. Meanwhile songs like third cut “Bloodstone” and ultra-melodic “Fever” once again too the group’s sound further than before. “Screaming For Vengeance” was really the 1980’s Judas Priest record where the band explored various themes, emotions and musical landscapes the most. Incredible to say, the LP enjoys its 30th anniversary in 2012. Time flies too fast, and it’s definitely in order for any metal fan to sit down and reassess these ground breaking records from time to time.
Most people nowadays recall the album from either the aforementioned “Electric Eye” or group’s biggest hit single “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin” which essentially broke them through in the United States. However, the power of lesser known cuts like “Fever” and “Riding On The Wind” are vital ingredients to the whole picture.
As one flipped the long player over (after draining him or herself out with side A’s turbulent power) quite possibly the most blistering and malicious track in band’s catalogue so far blasted upon the positively shocked Priest fan. The album’s title track was and still is something else – a song that featured one of the best individual performances from all band members and yet is pure and grandiose in joint effort. And on a CD version contrast is even sharper, the song following immediately after slower, lurching “Pain & Pleasure.”
“Screaming For Vengeance” is off the gates with a shower of crushing chords aided with fast paced cymbal hits. This quickly evaporates as Rob delivers a stunning opening scream. The music gathers up energy behind him soon introducing a fiery guitar riff, one of the fastest Priest had done up to that point. It recalls some of the 1970’s best efforts like “Exciter,” “Sinner” and even “Call For The Priest.” Also in many ways it acts out as the sister song to “Riding on The Wind.” The pace and riff certainly have the same pattern going through them. Rob Halford starts singing with a sharp, higher voice, nothing like this can be found on two previous studio efforts. Vocalist sounds evil and threating, carrying the message of the song across with ease. The first verse shoots itself out into a chorus quickly – barely giving a listener time to catch a breath. Tempo backs down a notch here with emphasis more on the power chords but the energy level is so high, it doesn’t really register. The arrangement is pure perfection, it’s carefully constructed yet seems like the song is spinning out of control at any second.
Halford sings the chorus again reaching towards the top of his register. At 1:12 a screaming echo backs up the singer, hitting the mark for a hellhound approaching from the depths. Chorus is over as soon as it begun with second verse taking over aided by impressive drum fills. This song is one of Dave Holland’s best performances in Judas Priest’s back catalogue. The way he transforms verses into chorus with a series of attacking fills and then returns the song into grooving verse part after looser chorus is a work well done. These moments in “Screaming For Vengeance” are plenty in abundance. Drums carry the song forward and act out as another character beside the vocalist, in this song even more so than guitars which usually take a hold of this very important role. Listen how Holland plays during the second verses “all you’re praying for’s to stop your body breaking up” and few seconds after that (effectively from 1:40 to 1:45).
After second chorus, drums explode and move the song into another groove setting up the guitar solos. Lead break follows and is split into two parts, K.K. taking the first round at 2:19. This lead is a series of scales fired off effectively. Glenn follows it with similar burst of notes. Solos reflect the players own styles but still retain the same framework. It’s not the most well-known Downing/Tipton trade-off but one of the definite best when one looks at the role playing has in the overall arrangement and getting the song’s message across. The whole solo section is relatively brief lasting roughly 18 seconds and segues effortlessly into harmony part.
The double guitar harmony on the other hand, is without a doubt one of Priest’s greatest and let’s face it, there’s some serious competition in this area. In a song like this it also contrasts fittingly the message of aggression. After this melody part we return to faster rhythm (played by Glenn) with drums and guitars signalling the switch with a full stop again. Before this K.K. punishes the whammy bar with his trademark licks that fit perfectly into a ripping arrangement.
It is also fascinating to listen how other instruments build the song up throughout the lead break section. The bass line is relatively complex and furthermore proves Ian Hill’s importance to Priest’s core sound. Take a listen to song’s groove during guitar solos and the harmony part. These instrumental chapters would not sound half as good as they do without the drums and bass providing interesting musical bedrock. Ian himself described the song in depth later on: “It’s funny because that is one of the tracks that Priest will be known for. “Screaming For Vengeance” almost epitomises Judas Priest with the speed and aggression. And that was very, very much worked on. It was the key track on the album.”
Drums also continue to suss out fills and cymbal hits through the guitar solos, most effectively at 2:23 and 2:31. Third verse kicks in with more power as Halford spits out the lyric “so you wait it out and bide your time.” His voice has a sense of sneer and contempt, which makes one respect the vocalist even more. As often is the case with Rob, he is living out the role, not just singing the song but performing it in true fashion. When Rob announces he “If it takes forever babe, I tell ya I can wait!” at the end he sounds very English – an effective touch of old world coming through here. Similar traces can be found on 1978’s “Running Wild” (“I laugh and I defy”) and later on couple of “Nostradamus”-songs such as “Future Of Mankind” and “Pestilence And Plague.”
Howling background sounds push the song forward effectively as Rob sings: “rip off that straight jacket gonna break the line.” Drums must be mentioned again during the “revenge in sight” -part as they move along with the singer firing off rounds beside him. Last chorus has the screaming background character come in with more aggression, almost growling at 3:55. It would be easy to just loop the same back-ups during every chorus, but Priest never went the easy way. The track is a living, breathing entity, telling a story in less than five minutes and nuances such as this are essential to whole picture.
Moreover pay attention as gears are switched during the last chorus’ “world is defiled with disgrace.” At 4:02 the music comes to a full stop and Rob unleashes a scream which is one of his greatest, it’s a moment of pure emotion with a threat of violence lingering beneath, singer becoming one with the character and literally screaming for vengeance. The pace of the track becomes slightly tighter at this point, forging ahead with growing intensity – if that’s possible in a song such as frenetic as this one.
Final lines again raise the stakes with even fiercer delivery. Priest’s trademark, shift in arrangement originating from bass and drum work is audible here as well. Rob repeats the final “screaming for vengeance!” three times with increasing venom and his voice reaching incredible heights. The last cry for vengeance is stretched out to almost ten seconds before rhythm slows down to chaotic sounds of guitars screeching for a brief moment. This is an effect used often in Priest’s music and is essentially enhancing the thread composition has created. One gets a definite sense the final retribution has arrived and is now upon everyone.
After this the song comes to a full stop and immediately after it the mid paced riff of “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” starts. Still after hearing this cut-off for decades it is exhilarating experience, the dynamics of the Priest machine in full effect! Incidentally, this was also the way Priest performed the two songs back to back during the “World Vengeance” 1982 tour.
“Screaming For Vengeance” within both its music and content reflected Priest’s previous decade well but also clearly brought forward something new. 1980’s with more dynamic, punching sound and overall Rob Halford’s more aggressive delivery all presented new way of bringing the band’s music onwards. Rob Halford described the song’s content in “Metal Works'” liner notes:
“Anger is a very honest human emotion and if you can channel it into music, so much the better.”
The song’s message is poignant in the line of Priest’s themes throughout the 1980’s. Starting with “British Steel,” the band focused on the strength of individual and one’s rebellion under oppression and tyranny. In fact these themes had been present ever since “Sad Wings Of Destiny” – albeit in a more subdued form – but possibly left in the shadows behind more expressional tracks such as “Beyond The Realms Of Death” and “Victim Of Changes.”
However, while “British Steel” focused more on the individual’s fight and rise, “Screaming For Vengeance” turned focus on the powerful, nameless force lurking in the shadows and then striking the oppressed lethally. Mainly we are talking about heavy political overtones, whether it is the government or other similar movement participating in the power play. Both “Screaming For Vengeance” and “Defenders Of The Faith” are albums which deal with tyranny and regression from a much larger and frightening aspect. How one person – despite the efforts he makes through songs on earlier records – is merely a pawn in a game of chess.
The band seemed to embrace these thoughts around the time of “Screaming For Vengeance’s” release: “It’s like the establishment thing, which sounds so like a very old ‘ploy’. But when I talk about ‘them’ I’m talking about this element of control and power that can be taken on and when I say ‘they’, or it’s ‘them’, it’s that side of what you want to try and do that is against you – that is opposing you. I suppose it’s authority to a certain extent, although I think authority has its rightful place to prevent bad situations. I wouldn’t decry that we do need that sort of control, because there are crazy people in the world and somebody’s got to keep them in place…”
Lyrics on the song “Screaming For Vengeance” – despite having an angry overtone – work in multi-layered ways. The character in the song is not immediately the one being under oppression. Rather he’s shouting out clarion call to someone else, and one gets the feeling this not simply a person to person dialogue. When you replace the “you” in the song with a “nation,” the message suddenly has a whole different impact.
At the beginning the set-up is obvious: the singer is angry as hell delivering a warning for another entity. It is already clear he’s not just messing about, and has first-hand experience of the events that are bound to take place unless the other side takes action quickly. Some might say the song is a string of metaphor’s rolled into one, that is probably true but at the same time as often is the case with Judas Priest, one must look deeper to find another view.
The first two verses have the protagonist making his point abundantly clear and then for the final verse it is suddenly him who has “revenge in sight.” And chorus of course announces all parties together are screaming for vengeance. In the beginning of the song they are getting into someone’s mind and filling one’s brains with orders. Who “they” are, is never made clear. Mind you, it’s just a guess work we do here but when thinking about the oppression faced by third world countries at the time, pieces of the puzzle do start to fit together.
Second verse opens with heavy imaginary about someone’s sight taken away, then pushed around and finally slaughtered. First impression is again that an individual is being stripped off his pride and shoved back in line. But consider the meaning, when you move the individual out and take a country in, the metaphor’s start to make sense in an intriguing way. During 1982 the Falklands war was of course happening and very much in everyone’s mind. In the UK the Thatcher government was heavily criticized for it, although they went to sweep the election next year. The Falklands war caught many by a surprise and while it took place far away, the political climate instilled stronger fear into people: that the fight might move closer to home. This fear is definitely something one can adapt from songs like “Bloodstone” and “Screaming For Vengeance.” In the latter fear turns into anger and retaliation literally through the four plus minutes the track lasts.
Ultimately no matter what the true motivation and interpretation of the lyrics in “Screaming For Vengeance” are, the feelings they generate are plain in sight. During the second verse the emotion turns very physical with main character sweating, his heart is pumping and is about to explode. This person (if it is one) suffering from a mental load becoming unbearable to take. Third and final verse is all about redemption. The hints of a nation I agony are there with one escaping and leaving thousand more to suffer behind. The last four lines deliver the imminent payback. Tables have been turned and protagonist will “send them screaming back through their hell’s own gate.” One of the strongest metaphor’s in Priest’s rich history of storytelling.
Although the official lyrics don’t make a note of this, during the final chorus Rob actually sings “they’ll be screaming for vengeance” instead of earlier “we.” This implying the tables have turned again, and those oppressed in their vengeance have turned into oppressors themselves. Another twist in the tale; Priest excelled in this through the years.
While not obvious at first, the theme of “Screaming For Vengeance” is one that Priest did heavily put forward during this era. In fact this song acts almost as an evil prequel to following album’s “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll.” Both carry serious political undertones in the midst of cold war and nuclear fear, albeit latter song in heavier and more direct way. And similar themes echo throughout its counterparts from the same record, “Bloodstone” and “Electric Eye.” The former stating bleakly: “I’ve been trying, there’s no denying, it’s sending me out of my mind” and one of the verses even mentioning “being scared of the game that’s being played.” And of course in “Electric Eye,” the political overtones of ever watching government are brought into view with classic line: “you think you’ve private lives, think nothing of the kind.” These sentiments still ring true to this day, which only goes to prove the timeless quality of the original compositions.
“Screaming For Vengeance” live
For their new tour – as accustomed to during the 1980’s – Priest included almost all of their new release for the live set list. The album translated itself well into live setting thus no wonder some of those tracks have since become well deserved live favourites. Especially “Electric Eye” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” are still regulars in band’s set list. Also powerful “Riding On The Wind” since first reappearing during the 1990-1991 “Painkiller”- tour as another showcase for new drummer Scott Travis, has been aired occasionally in both Priest and Halford’s solo concerts.
During the U.S. tour to support the album in 1982, Priest were supported by bands such as Iron Maiden, Krokus, and Uriah Heep. American tour was eventually extended to 110 dates with album pushing itself into top-20 in progress. The original run of concerts ended in October 1982, but the group decided to follow it with another four months of relentless stateside touring. Much of the album’s success was down to its leadoff single “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” which became Priest’s biggest hit in America. The mammoth US tour meant the audiences in Europe and especially band’s home country England were left waiting in the wings for Judas Priest concert experience. However, after many years of struggling, Priest’s breakthrough in America was long overdue and the band certainly needed to strike when the iron was hot. Plus events such as headlining sold out Madison Square Garden in New York during the fall of 1982 were cornerstones in the history of Judas Priest. Supporting Priest at the Garden and on few other selected dates were the rising NWOBHM outfit Iron Maiden, who had just released their milestone “The Number Of The Beast.” Back then few knew it would go down as the last time (up to this point) Priest and Maiden would tour together.
The live versions of “Screaming For Vengeance” from the “World Vengeance” tour always brought audience to its knees with fire and intensity. Then again these were Priest’s qualities throughout the whole set in the 1980’s. Rob’s vocals would go up to inhuman highs and if possible were even more fierce on these cuts, although on the first dates he cut the opening scream from the song altogether. The tempo of the song was even faster than on the original studio version. This was normal with Priest throughout the early eighties; the band would scale down the tempos gradually during later tours.
The band (with the exception of ever solid Ian Hill) would prowl across the stage and Halford at the centre would belt out those famous screams with ease. An officially released live take can be found on the Live In Memphis DVD shot in December 1982. Originally issued on VHS “Judas Priest Live” it was first released on DVD as part of the “Metalogy” box set in 2003 and later as a stand-alone DVD “Live Vengeance ’82.” It’s an essential live document and somehow it’s a shame Priest didn’t issue a full blown live album from this tour as originally planned. “Screaming For Vengeance” appears mid-way during the show and it’s a great experience both sonically and visually. A track like this one wasn’t an easy task to reproduce live and embellish all its peaks and valleys. Audio track was released in 2001’s remaster-series as a bonus cut on “Priest Live” album. Somewhat bizarre as the song was not performed during the original “Fuel For Life”- tour; this is a great version nonetheless and makes one wish for a full blown audio of the Memphis show.
The song did last beyond the “World Vengeance” tour with Priest starting off their long awaited European tour in December 1983 over a month before their next record “Defenders Of The Faith” was due to be released. Set list was identical to previous tour with the exception of “Grinder” replacing “Heading Out To The Highway” and “Freewheel Burning” from the forthcoming album was slotted into set list in place of “Diamonds And Rust”, ironically just before “Screaming For Vengeance” as both two tracks carried a similar fast rip roaring status.
The set list remained the same when the next leg of tour began in late January 1984. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly the show where “Screaming For Vengeance” was played the last time. What is known is that it was in the set list in Stockholm 21.1.1984 and replaced by another “Defenders”-track “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” at the start of French shows nine days later. The change occurred somewhere between these dates.
Halford dusted it off during his “Crucible” summer festival dates in 2002. These renditions were somewhat problematic for the singer as he decided to perform “Exciter,” “Sinner” “Riding On The Wind,” “Freewheel Burning” and “Screaming For Vengeance” all during the middle/late part of the set. This resulted in some difficulties in all aforementioned songs. By fall that year, all these songs were gone from the show. Interestingly also Halford reused the sequence of the original album by following “Screaming For Vengeance” immediately with “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’.” Surprisingly the latter song also got its first airing by Rob since his departure from Priest.
Priest returned to the song over 30 years later during the “Redeemer Of Souls” tour’s last leg in fall 2015. Tempo was slightly slowed down, and Scott Travis’ hard and heavy drum style always separates these arrangements from the original cuts anyway. Famous lead break is there and intact with Halford delivering surprisingly solid rendition as you can witness from above. Final screams sound excellent even if the overall vocal approach is rougher. It’s a demanding song to play live but as fast rippers seem to have let space to more epic numbers in band’s recent set-lists, it has been nice to notice there was still room to once again scream for vengeance with the Priest.
“Screaming For Vengeance” broke Judas Priest in America but it was also extremely successful all over the world. The album reached No. 11 in the UK and No. 17 on Billboard 200 Pop Albums and made the band much more popular than they were after previous records. It went gold (RIAA) on 29th of October 1982, platinum on 18th of April 1983 and double platinum on 16th of October 2001.
The album came 15th on IGN’s 25 most influential metal albums. “Screaming for Vengeance” also came 10th on Metal-Rules.com’s 100 greatest metal albums. Kerrang! Magazine listed the album at No. 46 among the “100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time”. The accolades received throughout the years from various musicians within the metal and rock field have further established its position as one the most legendary records of all time.
The album lasts barely 38 minutes and like most of the best releases from the era, it is more than enough. Nowadays the tendency of overfilling the albums to their digital breaking point has directly resulted in oversaturation and quality has inevitably suffered. Unless you tackle a concept with gargantuan prospects such as Priest did later with “Nostradamus,” it seems useless to extend the record beyond its natural length.
Songs like “Screaming For Vengeance” paved the way both for Priest themselves, but also for new era of heavy metal taking place 20 years later. It was essentially a template for speed metal already starting to spin off the gates at the time with bands such as Slayer and Metallica honing their craft in the Bay area and other important scenes. Thrash metal dovetailed bands like Priest onto a success of its own and took their influences further – as any surviving genre would.
Quite a few artists have also paid tribute to this number both in writing and via cover takes. Priest themselves also released the song on two of their compilations; double album “Metal Works” 20 years (amazing I know!) ago and more recent “Chosen Few.” On the latter some of metal’s most famous artists got to choose their favourite Priest numbers. Guitar legend Slash picked “Screaming For Vengeance” and wrote in the liner notes: “Judas Priest have put out their fair share of great albums to be sure. But my all time favourite is “Screaming For Vengeance.” It was and still is, one of the best metal records ever produced and the title track is in my humble opinion, still ahead of its time.”
Most known cover versions originate from two power metal giants from the USA: Iced Earth and Virgin Steele. Virgin Steele covered the song on the official “Legends Of Metal – A Tribute To Judas Priest”- album released back in 1996. Vocalist David DeFeis commented on the process of laying the track down: “Because we were asked to participate in this project at the last minute, we decided to record this track 90% live in the studio. We really enjoyed the fast paced – frantic spontaneity of recording this way.”
Unfortunately this cut leaves a lot to be desired, as the punch and production simply do not match the original. DeFeis sings with his personal style wisely not trying to copycat Halford, thus it’s down to taste whether one finds it worth their while or not. Towards the end of lead break, they cannot resist the temptation and slow things down with a drastically different interlude lasting roughly half a minute. Typical to Virgin Steele’s own music, but totally steals the momentum here. Not to be so grim, the bass player really shines in this version, bass being clearly audible and throwing in impressive licks throughout. This one is interesting, if not essential take on the classic.
Much better staple comes via courtesy of Iced Earth, who released their take on the cover album “Tribute To The Gods” (2002), which also included stabs at such metal giants as Kiss, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult. Vocalist Matthew Barlow puts in faithful performance and crushing guitars retain Priest’s intensity while being in line with band’s original material. Of note, Iced Earth also recorded a good version of “The Ripper” around the same time.
Brazilian thrashers Sepultura performed a cover of “Screaming For Vengeance” on their “Dante XXI” album in 2006. Although this number was exclusive on the Japanese market, it’s worth checking out if one has a chance. Arrangement is not too dissimilar compared to Priest and is charging along with punkish attitude. The band is offering a heavier outlook and in its own way, it’s getting under your skin after repeated plays. The track is also available on the 2008 tribute album “Hell Bent Forever – A Tribute To Judas Priest.”
Modern heavy metal acts such as White Wizzard, Gamma Ray, Primal Fear and Wolf have definitely taken their fair share of ammunition from the title track of “Screaming For Vengeance” and its neighbours from the same album. 35 years after its release “Screaming For Vengeance” and the title track are still a rousing call to arms for metal heads around the world. The album is one of the benchmarks of heavy metal and a release we Priest fans should be rightfully proud of.
With acknowledgements: Judas Priest Info Pages
“Screaming For Vengeance” stats
• Written by Glenn Tipton, K.K.Downing & Rob Halford
• Recorded at Ibiza Sound Studios, Ibiza, Spain and Beejay Recording Studios, Orlando, Florida, January – May 1982
• Produced by Tom Allom
• First released on “Screaming For Vengeance” album in July 1982
• Also released on “Metal Works” in 1993
• Also released on “Chosen Few” in 2012
“Screaming For Vengeance” lyrics
Hey listen don’t you let ’em get your mind
Fill your brain with orders, and that’s not right
They’re playing at a game that draws you closer
Till you’re living in a world that’s ruled by fear
Always takin’ baby out that’s OK
What they’re givin’ maybe it’s out of phase with me
Told you once you’re never gonna win the race
Same old no tomorrow – kicked in the face!
We are screaming for vengeance
The world is a manacled place!
Screaming, screaming for vengeance
The world is defiled in disgrace!
Tie a blindfold all around your head
Spin you round in the torture before the dread
And then you’re pushed and shoved into every corner
Then they lead you out into the final slaughter.
As the sweat is running down your neck
All your praying for’s to stop your body breakin’ up
Oh your heart is pumping, gonna soon explode
Got to fight the horror of this mental load.
We are screaming for vengeance
The world is a manacled place!
Screaming, screaming for vengeance
The world is defiled in disgrace!
So you wait it out and bide your time
Rip off that straight jacket gotta break that line
Everyone who wins in the great escape
Leaves a thousand more who suffer in their wake
I don’t talk about it but that’s alright
Table’s turned now there’s a revenge in sight
If it takes forever babe I tell ya I can wait
Send them screaming back through their hell’s own gate
We are screaming for vengeance
The world is a manacled place
Screaming, screaming for vengeance
The world is defiled in disgrace