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Painkiller (Judas Priest single - cover art).jpg
Single by Judas Priest
from the album Painkiller
Released3 September 1990 [1]
Label Columbia
Producer(s) Chris Tsangarides
Judas Priest singles chronology
" Johnny B. Goode"
" A Touch of Evil"
Music video
"Painkiller" on YouTube
Lyric video
"Painkiller" on YouTube

"Painkiller" is a song by English heavy metal band Judas Priest, released in 1990; it was later released as a single on Columbia Records. [2] It is off the band's twelfth album of the same name as the opening track. The lyrics tell the story of the Painkiller, the character featured on the cover of the album, who is a cyborg superhero who saves mankind from destruction.

The song has since-then remained one of the band's signature songs. [3] [4]


The song is written in E minor, but the key signature changes during the guitar solos. 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 K. K. Downing. The song is noted for Rob Halford's high pitched screeching 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.[ citation needed]

PopMatters said, "Nobody saw this song coming. Featuring a thunderous intro by new drummer Scott Travis – a colossal improvement over the technically limited Dave Holland – and highlighted by Halford’s maniacal performance, this was Priest embracing extremity without pandering, and sounding once again vital, relevant, and best of all, more powerful than ever." [5]

In 2012, Loudwire ranked the song number two on its list of the 10 greatest Judas Priest songs. [6] In 2019, Louder Sound ranked the song number one on its list of the 50 greatest Judas Priest songs. [7]

Cover versions

Death metal band Death covered the song on their album The Sound of Perseverance.

Power metal band Angra covered the song on their EP Freedom Call.

Japanese band Babymetal performed an abridged version of the song at the 2016 Alternative Press Music Awards alongside Rob Halford, which led into another Judas Priest song, " Breaking the Law." Babymetal performed these songs later in the year during their tour supporting Red Hot Chili Peppers, with singer Su-metal performing all vocals and RHCP's Chad Smith playing drums. [8] [9]


Judas Priest

Additional musicians


Chart (1990) Peak
UK Singles ( OCC) [11] 74


  1. ^ "Judas Priest singles".
  2. ^ Painkiller - Judas Priest | Credits | AllMusic, retrieved 21 January 2022
  3. ^ Swanson, Dave. "Top 10 Judas Priest Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 21 January 2022.
  4. ^ Hartmann, Graham. "10 Best Judas Priest Songs". Loudwire. Retrieved 21 January 2022.
  5. ^ Adrien Begrand. "THE 15 BEST JUDAS PRIEST SONGS". PopMatters.
  6. ^ Hartmann, Graham (24 August 2012). "10 Best Judas Priest Songs". Loudwire. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  7. ^ Chantler, Christ; Lawson, Dom (8 October 2019). "The 50 Greatest Judas Priest songs EVER". Louder Sound. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  8. ^ "Watch Rob Halford Cover Judas Priest Classics With Babymetal". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 19 August 2017. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  9. ^ "Babymetal Perform With Judas Priest's Rob Halford at Alternative Press Music Awards". Loudwire. Archived from the original on 20 July 2016. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  10. ^ a b Kennelty, Greg (7 November 2020). "DEEP PURPLE's Keyboardist Reveals He Played Bass On JUDAS PRIEST's Painkiller". Metal Injection. Retrieved 3 March 2023.
  11. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 20 September 2022.