Painkiller - 30 Years Of Riding The Metal Monster


Written by: nikarg
Published: 03.09.2020


Music has a very important role in my life. There is music playing through most hours of the day during the time I am awake. In that sense, it wouldn't be an exaggeration if I said that Painkiller changed my life forever. Those of you who are regular around here know that I'm not the youngest of the bunch. I just turned 44 (even though I look way younger and am still sexy af), which means two things: a) I am old enough to be the father of many of you (but, as far as I know, I am not), and b) I was there when Painkiller came out (which is way more important than the slight possibility of me being your long-lost dad). Today is the 30th anniversary of my favourite album of all time and, instead of a review, I decided to write about how I experienced it when it was released and how it feels to listen to it regularly up until this day.

1990 was a very good year for metal. Some of the biggest thrash bands released some of their most iconic albums before they all turned to shit. Personally, I was very much into thrash, having been introduced firstly to classic heavy metal by a friend at school. My friend Gregory taught me the basics; he introduced me to Iron Maiden, Helloween, Manowar and the other essential bands back in 1988, when the heaviest thing I had listened till then was Def Leppard's Hysteria (and I did listen to that vinyl a lot). By 1989 I was deep into thrash and death metal, looking for brutal and more brutal stuff because... you know… adolescence. We both used to listen to a couple of radio shows with that mate of mine and we recorded them on tape (yeah, cassettes) so that we could relisten and absorb everything. So, two two-hour radio shows, once a week was our metal fix. And Headbangers Ball, a show on MTV (when MTV still played music), also once a week. So, if we heard a song we liked and saw at the record store that the cover art was good, we just bought the album. Back in the day there was no free music; if you wanted to listen to an album, you had to buy it. In some other European countries, you could actually listen with headphones some of the new releases at record stores before making a choice to buy or not, but in Greece we didn't have it yet. At the time, my weekly allowance was used mainly to buy music; dating girls came a bit later.

It may sound romantic and olde, but to be honest I miss this era. Don't get me wrong, I embraced mp3s from the very beginning (yes, Lars, Napster too) and I absolutely love the fact that I now have YouTube and Spotify and can stream anything I want, but the magic of 'discovering' new music is partly gone. Also, with so much music around - and with unlimited access to it - it is impossible to actually give albums the same amount of attention and spins the way I used to. I have noticed that the 'playlist plague' has hit bands as well, in the sense that they are content to release an album with three or four good songs that they will use as 'singles' (another obsolete word) with the rest of the material being filler. But all this belongs to another article, because this one is about Painkiller.

When "Painkiller" was played on the radio in the summer of 1990, before the album's release I was flabbergasted. Luckily, my mate Gregory had recorded the radio show (and the song) because I hadn't. He lent me the tape to make a copy and I listened to the track incessantly until the album came out. However, I did record on a VHS tape the Headbangers Ball episode that played the video of it. I quite liked all the leather, the metal and the black eyeliner, but it was the actual song that was out of this world.

"Painkiller" was on a level of its own and it floored me immediately; it was love from the very beginning. The insane drum intro, the guitars that rip the air, Rob's possessed vocals, the fact that at about 4'30'' you think it's over but no, there is one more round of pummelling before the end; this song had nothing to do with what I knew about Judas Priest. Over the years, it became my most played track and the album is the one I have listened to the most, regardless of music style. I have bought it twice because my original CD became unplayable (yes, I had just bought a CD player). I don't know the exact number of spins I've given it but it is definitely a four-digit number. It was - and still is - the fastest, most aggressive, and in-your-face album they have ever recorded. And they made it when everyone least expected it.

Four years before Painkiller, Judas Priest had released the very tame, uninspired and commercial Turbo. Ram It Down, which succeeded it, was slightly better but still featured those ridiculous guitar synthesizers and even some songs that were left out from Turbo. The title track of this album, as well as "Hard As Iron" hinted at what Judas Priest were still capable of but, frankly, no one anticipated the explosive energy and unrelenting power of Painkiller. The band also had to deal with the trial regarding "Better By You, Better Than Me", which started in July 1990 and pushed back the release of Painkiller. You can understand that under these circumstances it wasn't easy to make such a glorious comeback. In order to achieve that, Judas Priest had to do everything right.

And they did do everything right. They hired Chris Tsangarides to produce it, marking the first time since 1978's Killing Machine that they recorded without Tom Allom and the first time since 1976's Sad Wings Of Destiny that Judas Priest and Tsangarides worked together. The result was a crisp and full sound that finally had the bite that the two albums before it didn't. Even today Painkiller doesn't need a remaster. They also recruited Scott Travis to take the place of longtime drummer Dave Holland, who had left the previous year. Travis's heavy use of double kicks rendered their sound more aggressive and perfectly complemented Tipton's and Downing's constant attack of riffs and solos. Once again, Rob's versatile vocals are extraordinary, but Painkiller is the album on which he uses everything he's got and it is his greatest performance. Finally, Judas Priest ditched the synthesizers almost completely, with the exception of Don Airey's dark and brooding contribution on the album's second single, "A Touch Of Evil".

Painkiller is pure fucking metal. It has ridiculous lyrics about 'chrome monsters' and 'steel warriors' that I know every word of and can recite perfectly even without the music playing in the background. It has astounding musicianship and songwriting with everything about it turned to 11. Just before the quality of heavy metal and thrash metal took a nosedive, Judas Priest released the absolute heavy metal banger, boosting it with speed and power and thrash steroids, and thus making it an album that - to me - remains unsurpassable to this day. Its influence was immense; iconic bands like Death would cover its songs and other bands like Primal Fear would build an entire career because of this record.

Judas Priest never managed to release anything quite like this again. Halford left in 1992, a decision that was actually one of the main reasons why I abstained from metal almost entirely through the '90s. His solo album, Resurrection, is what could have been a commendable follow-up to Painkiller but it is not a Judas Priest album. The three records after the reunion with Halford are not bad, but not that special either. Thankfully, in 2018 they did release what would have been a worthy successor of Painkiller. With Rob Halford and Ian Hill just before their 70s, and with Glenn Tipton fighting Parkinson's disease, Firepower is an achievement almost as superb as Painkiller.

I guess that much of what I have written here has already been said about Painkiller. It has been lauded by so many people all these years and it deserves every praise. I tried to present a more personal view of it and I hope I have succeeded because this album is a really important part of my life. I remember listening to it back to back all day after returning from school, singing the lyrics word by word, air-guitaring, air-drumming, air-everything. All these years and even during the times when I have taken a break from metal altogether, Painkiller is still the album I go back to regardless of my mood or the situation I am in. I listen to it when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am angry and it always fills me with energy and joy. I have ran a whole marathon wearing headphones and playing just this album on repeat (this is quite a few repeats). 30 years since its release, I still get the feeling that anything is possible whenever I play it and my heart becomes 14 again.

In the words of Rob Halford himself: "The music that touches you in your youth is magnified as you get older. Each record can be a virtual time machine - all you need is to hear a second or two and you go back to that place and time when you first heard it. It's a brilliant feeling when music touches you so profoundly and stays with you through time". This sums up exactly what Painkiller does to me.

Happy birthday Painkiller. Music made by the Metal Gods.

"Faster then a laser bullet
Louder than an atom bomb
Chromium plated boiling metal
Brighter than a thousand suns"



 



Written on 03.09.2020 by Only way to feel the noise is when it's good and loud!


Comments

Comments: 19   Visited by: 81 users
03.09.2020 - 01:20
el_grego
A wonderful memory trip way back to one of the best moments of metal who coincided with (or helped bring out) some of the best moments of our lives.Indeed ,in Heavy Metal there's the Before Painkiller and the After Painkiller Era.Thank you Judas Priest !!!
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03.09.2020 - 02:04
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
What a way to come back from vacation. I loved reading this; even for a band like Judas Priest, about whom all that can be said has already been said, you can still get something from hearing about people's personal experiences. I had a similar reaction when I heard "Painkiller" for the first time - I was a couple of years younger than you (some years apart, obviously), and it was the heaviest thing I'd ever heard. The only Priest album I had was British Steel and that was still very early into my relationship with metal (I mean, it was early into my life), so, needless to say, I was stunned by this song that completely defied all precedent. I did not spend enough time on the internet at that point to avail myself of the various channels for finding music, so it was actually a while before I heard the album in full, but that one song quickly became and has remained an important benchmark for me, and I couldn't tell you how many times I watched that video just to see all the black-and-white shredding and listen to those incredible drums and screams. Those songs were my "heaviest ever" playlist for a while, and they've become my driving music, my stereo-testing music, my casual background music, my happy music, my sad music, and my super-action-power playlist for the one or two times a year when I actually do something cool.

I'm a couple of generations behind you, so I've missed out completely on some of those ancient rituals, and the fatigue of having so much music thrown at you from every angle now is unfortunately real; I couldn't tell you how many times I raced through the MSAs just to hit everything and thought, "Boy, if I could listen to this twice at my own pace I'd probably like it a lot, but I have 50 more albums this week." Of course there's still a lot of stuff that stands out and I love having all of this great music around, but I do wonder quite often how many potential favorites I'm letting pass me by just because I don't have the time to let them develop.

I have to say, though, I really felt those last couple of paragraphs. Reading this article actually made me excited to get older just so I can deepen my relationship with the albums (and other works of art) that have personal meaning to me. Getting excited about the prospect of turning 44 for any reason at all is kind of bonkers to me because I can't get excited about surviving into next week, so, seriously, thank you for sharing this (and that great quote from Rob). Even though I'm only 26, Judas Priest has already become one of those time capsules for me, so I look forward to finding out just what it will be like to listen to them years and years from now.

And Firepower is so, so good.
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Umaku naritai umaku naritai umaku naritai umaku naritai

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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03.09.2020 - 04:07
Darkside Momo
Retired
Written by ScreamingSteelUS on 03.09.2020 at 02:04

one of those time capsules

You don't have to be in a hurry to reach 40-something (I'm the age of THE answer, btw), but be sure that as long as you'll listen to music, you'll be creating some of those time capsules. Hell, the latest I can recognize features Disillusion's The Liberation, which, well, still isn't a year old.

But yeah, team "Iron Maiden at high school" here, with loads of Nirvana and Sepultura too. Never knew MTV even existed back then, but we had a radio show on one of the mainstream stations here in France that had a mostly metal show for (on sundays from midnight to 1AM, so I often had to pretend I went to sleep... you know the drill ). I discovered Therapy? ("Nowhere", of course) and Faith No More ("Digging The Grave") thanks to them, but I'm not sure I heard any Judas Priest. But I still remember discovering the cover while inschool anyway
Ah... High School, good times indeed. Even if I don't share your link with Painkiller (I guess the first time I listened to it in full was in Uni), thanks for the trip down memory lane
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"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you"

"I've lost too many years now
I'm stealing back my soul
I am awake"
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03.09.2020 - 08:36
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
You mean you could just buy music back in the day without having to smuggle the good ones through Yugoslavia? You had it easy.

I probably would have even closer of a connection to this album instead of Screaming For Vengeance if it wasn't for two songs from the latter being in the V-Rock radio station in GTA Vice City and its prequel, which I've played to death in my early teens and were pretty much my introduction to metal.
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- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
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03.09.2020 - 12:08
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
As you say, now it makes sense why boat of you and radu are good writers. Communism is fallen (@Radu Where Were You When The Red Star Fell) , borders are free, young romanian woman crossed Ro-Bul, Bul-Gre border and hang up whit young greek metalhead, then went home. This is hos Radu was born, nja Nik is Radu father.

@Nik have you been in Bolivia?

I am 35 so I miss a bit, but I did listen radio and make such tapes as well, I did watch BnB and headbangers ball on MTV. I did listen hacked satellite radio and and watched TV. (even Hellenic football in barbaric days), but I am happy we have i net. YT, BC, what ever, you can find good demo band, and so on, in that days we had a less bands but 80% were good, today we have 1000% more bands but less and harder find good bands what can be 50% of JP or Maiden.

I discovered most of bands thanks goth metal.net, doom metal.org, BNR pages. Then MS and MA; I am happy we have internet today.

I think this is most heavyset JP album , Ripper era was heavy but its better. 70's Priest was more bluesy rock n roll influenced, then British era short songs, fast songs, same motorbeat rythe, late 80's radio pop orianated same as Saxon, boat JP and Im firts 90's album was hevay but this is killer, good piece.
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Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

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03.09.2020 - 13:02
musclassia
Written by RaduP on 03.09.2020 at 08:36

You mean you could just buy music back in the day without having to smuggle the good ones through Yugoslavia? You had it easy.

I probably would have even closer of a connection to this album instead of Screaming For Vengeance if it wasn't for two songs from the latter being in the V-Rock radio station in GTA Vice City and its prequel, which I've played to death in my early teens and were pretty much my introduction to metal.


Yeah, You Got Another Thing Coming on Vice City was my introduction to the band. I think Painkiller was on Rock Band 2; I think for anyone who gets into metal mainly via 80s bands rather than 2000s bands, the first time you hear Painkiller the song is a watershed moment.
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03.09.2020 - 15:26
SageBlackMetal
I have always thought that this album embodied the genre of heavy metal. It's just straight forward and good. I listened to "Hell Patrol" while I cut the grass yesterday.
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Check out my one-man, atmospheric black metal project below:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdEEl0_hWvGgCtmuwfZjUmA?view_as=subscriber
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03.09.2020 - 16:14
qlacs
"The Quaker"
Written by musclassia on 03.09.2020 at 13:02

Yeah, You Got Another Thing Coming on Vice City was my introduction to the band.

Same thing here, but very soon after I got the vinyl of Point of Entry which I enjoyed very much at like age 13 or something. 'Screaming' and 'Priest...Live!' followed, the former had impact but did not make me a fan. I heard Painkiller much later, and only a few songs besides the title track.. it took years somehow to sit down and check out all of it (and it was way into the internet age). Kind of felt dumb for not doing it earlier, it's massive. It's been with me ever since.
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03.09.2020 - 20:23
Apothecary
PsyCHEdelic
Great return from your break and a rather nice, concise article in terms of length!

Honestly I'm more partial to 70s era Priest.... Sad Wings, Sin After Sin, and Stained Class are forever the cream of the crop for me. The later 80s - 90s material, while a little more radio and music video friendly and verse - chorus - verse oriented, is still definitely quite fun and great for what it is though, and Pankiller ended that chapter of the band on a fairly high note. I don't revisit this one quite as much as some of the other Priest albums I mentioned but Painkiller and Hell Patrol still get frequent plays on my iPhone when I'm speeding down the Interstate, for sure
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Go tell that long tongue liar
Go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter
You tell em that God's gonna cut em down
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04.09.2020 - 11:50
nikarg
Mod
@SSUS: I actually wrote part of it while on vacation Don't hurry too much to get older, I can tell you that I would give almost anything to be 26 again. Momo is right, as long as you listen to music you keep creating time capsules, however I find that the capsules of your youth are the ones that are more deeply engraved.

@BE: Nope, haven't been to Bolivia (yet). And I am definitely not Radu's dad, although I'd be proud if I were.

@Che: I totally get where you are coming from, I absolutely adore '70s Priest too.

Thanks for the input, you all! I was hoping that this article would give the incentive to people to give their own accounts on how they are connected with this album.

Yesterday this friend of mine who is mentioned in the article looked for and found the tape that has the radio recording of that "Painkiller" song premiere and played it to me over the phone. It's insane, he still has this tape with the 30 year-old recording and it's playable...
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04.09.2020 - 13:45
Valentin B
Iconoclast
Every once in a while I come back to MS to check if there is something interesting and what do you know? there I see an ode to possibly my favorite album from my favorite band!

pretty simply put, this album slams, and I struggle to come up with an album that comes close to its ferocity and quality - from JP's discography I guess it would be Firepower if omitting the last 2 tracks. I even wrote a super enthusiastic review for Painkiller here on MS, waaay back

Long live the inventors of heavy fucking metal, Judas Priest.
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Sing me a song, you're a singer
Do me a wrong, you're a bringer of evil.
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05.09.2020 - 11:36
Nejde
I'm turning 40 in a week and I remember the first metal song I ever heard was actually Enter Sandman back in '91. A kid in school brought it recorded on a cassette and played it during recess. From there on I quickly discovered Pantera (still my favourite band) and of course Maiden and Priest. Even though Painkiller was released the year prior it was British Steel and Turbo that were the first two albums I heard from Priest.
These days the much hated Turbo is my favourite album (together with Painkiller) simply because it was the first I heard from Priest. And I absolutely love the severly underrated solo on Hot For Love. Although I know Painkiller is the far better, more metal album of the two I slightly more often find myself listening to Hot For Love, Reckless and Turbo Lover rather than Painkiller, Hell Patrol and Nightcrawler. And finally, the highlight on Painkiller for me is One Shot At Glory. Probably the most epic song Priest has made.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Great writing.
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"When you are dead, you do not know you are dead. It's only painful for others. The same applies when you are stupid." - Ricky Gervais
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05.09.2020 - 11:46
Ansercanagicus
The production is really good, and Tipton's lead are jaw-dropping, but I always thought the lyrics were insanely lame and superficial. I kinda miss Priest from the 70s in this department
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2019
2020
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06.09.2020 - 11:01
nikarg
Mod
Written by Nejde on 05.09.2020 at 11:36

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Great writing.

You're welcome and thanks for reading! I remember us having a similar discussion in the comments of my Turbo review. I agree 100% on the "Hot For Love" solo and you have chosen to mention the three tracks from that album that are listenable for me (along with "Out In The Cold"). "One Shot At Glory" is godlike indeed, I cannot explain why they have never played it live. It also took me many years and hundreds of replays to realize that its main riff is similar to the one of "Between The Hammer & The Anvil"
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06.09.2020 - 16:29
Nejde
Written by nikarg on 06.09.2020 at 11:01


"One Shot At Glory" is godlike indeed, I cannot explain why they have never played it live. It also took me many years and hundreds of replays to realize that its main riff is similar to the one of "Between The Hammer & The Anvil"


Sadly I've never seen Judas live. Living in northern Sweden makes concert going quite expensive because you need to travel down to Stockholm or Gothenburg to see the biggest bands. But hey, at least I get to see Meshuggah and Cult of Luna on their (and my) home turf. And I've never thought about the similarities between the two songs. This calls for immediate investigation. Cheers!
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"When you are dead, you do not know you are dead. It's only painful for others. The same applies when you are stupid." - Ricky Gervais
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07.09.2020 - 15:20
Daniell
_爱情_
Nice read "Leather Rebel" still blows me away with its double bass drumming and is my second favourite song from the album. "One Shot At Glory" is the best song on the album, and I have no idea why it's not legendary. It's far better than, (oh, blasphemy!) the title track which is just one awesome solo too long. By the way, the last time I saw Priest live was in June 2018, I was floored by how well Richie Faulkner played all solos in "Painkiller". If I closed my eyes, I could imagine it was one of the original guitartists. The whole concert was just magnificent, as were their other live performances that I saw (only 3, sadly).

Surprisingly, this is only my 4th favourite Priest album, after "Sad Wings of Destiny", "Stained Class", and "Hell Bent for Leather".
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07.09.2020 - 15:43
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Written by Valentin B on 04.09.2020 at 13:45

Every once in a while I come back to MS to check if there is something interesting and what do you know? there I see an ode to possibly my favorite album from my favorite band!

pretty simply put, this album slams, and I struggle to come up with an album that comes close to its ferocity and quality - from JP's discography I guess it would be Firepower if omitting the last 2 tracks. I even wrote a super enthusiastic review for Painkiller here on MS, waaay back

Long live the inventors of heavy fucking metal, Judas Priest.




Do tok youre back. You never should leave, same VenoMBM as well. How is life.

Nik so you never have datet Latinamerikan girl. So youre not Maco dad.
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Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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07.09.2020 - 17:35
nikarg
Mod
Written by Daniell on 07.09.2020 at 15:20

Nice read

Thanks
I also saw them live for the last time in July 2018, it was bizarre watching them on stage with Richie and Andy instead of Glenn and KK. They did alright though and I do believe that Richie actually saved Priest in the final years of their career. He is very talented, flashy, energetic and confident on stage and I think he is to be credited for Firepower being such a great record. However, I was not so happy with the band's overall performance, it felt too "clinical" and sort of "let's just do the show and go back to the hotel". I guess it happens after more than four decades on the road, there will be times when you won't be in the mood for yet another show. The fact that Saxon who played before them had already blown everyone's mind didn't help JP stand out either.
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08.09.2020 - 09:42
Enemy of Reality
Painkiller had an huge influence on me during my adolescent years. Wearing leather and having that mean biker attitude was a direct influence from this album, and their past discography, even Turbo Lover. Despite the fact that i prefer other albums like Sad Wings, Stained Class and Defenders, i would listen to Painkiller all day long on my walkman for weeks on end. It's definetly one of my fav metal albums ever. Painkiller finally showed to the world what JP could do in terms of intensity and "firepower". Heavy metal reached with Painkiller the peak of intensity and aggression, the band was intelligent in reading the signs in terms of what the heavy metal audience was digging. Fat meaty productions, high intensity, intrincate musician skill and a f¨*cking fast drummers. The album quickly became a 10/10, no weak songs, at least 5 obligatory best of metal songs of all time and one considered the definitive metal anthem. Unfortunately it stands as the ultimate metal album reminscent of the 80s. Together with Rust in Peace, both from 1990, are the tombstones for both 80's thrash and heavy metal. The reckless, limitless aggressive metal ended here and paved way to Metallica's black album, Megadeth's Youthanasia and Iron Maiden's Fear of the Dark. Metal was turning mainstream and Rob Halford left Priest.
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