The album opens with the title track, one of Priest's best known songs. It begins with a brief but brutal drum solo, as if to introduce Travis to skeptical listeners. A shriek of guitar feedback leads into the main riff, over which Halford sings about the coming of a metal messiah in his upper range for almost the entire song. To top it all off, Tipton performs one of his most memorable and technically advanced solos, replete with sweep picking, tapping, false harmonics, and the like. "Hell Patrol" is a slower but equally heavy track. The aptly-titled "All Guns Blazing" opens with a startling screech from Halford. "Leather Rebel" is the only song on the album where Halford does almost no high-pitched singing, yet it too triumphs. "Metal Meltdown" is the fastest song on the album, and sports a really cool, almost dissonant dual guitar harmony from Tipton and Downing. "Night Crawler" is an epic lyrically dealing with yet another imaginary, hellish beast, a common lyrical theme in the Priest canon. "Between the Hammer & the Anvil" is one of the most underrated songs on the album, being sandwiched between two of the album's singles. "A Touch of Evil" is vaguely reminiscent of '70s Priest in its approach, and is the closest thing to a ballad to be found on 'Painkiller'. It was co-written by esteemed producer Chris Tsangarides and features synthesizers courtesy of veteran rock and metal keyboardist Don Airey. The interlude "Battle Hymn" segues into closing track "One Shot at Glory". More power metal-tinged than the other songs both lyrically and musically, it is perhaps the weakest track on the album but is still quite good. On the 2001 remastered edition, a song from the 'Painkiller' sessions called "Living Bad Dreams" was added as a bonus track (in addition to a rather low-fi live reading of "Leather Rebel".) While decent, it is clearly more pop-oriented than the rest if material on 'Painkiller', and its lyrics are very similar to "A Touch of Evil", making it clear why it was originally left off.
With 'Painkiller', Judas Priest proved to the world that they were still at the forefront of heavy metal. By leaving behind the poppy trappings of 1986's 'Turbo' and the lackluster songwriting of 1988's 'Ram It Down', Priest showed that they could successfully adapt to current musical trends without selling out. While probably not the definitive Judas Priest album, one can make a strong case that 'Painkiller' is their best album in terms of song quality, musicianship, and all-out heaviness. Essential to any fan of Priest or metal in general.