Not guilty. That, in effect, was the judge's verdict last month on Judas Priest, the veteran heavy metal band sued in Reno, Nev., for allegedly driving two young guys to suicide with subliminal messages buried deep in its songs.
And now how timely can you get? Judas Priest has a new album out, entitled Painkiller. It shouldn't scare anyone; this, after all, is a band famous offstage because its members love to play golf. The record is nothing worse than a PG-13 horror movie set to music. Scenario, as set forth in songs with titles like ''Hell Patrol'': Trouble's coming to town, and you better watch out.
Sometimes, for instance in ''Leather Rebel,'' the troublemaker is a hero, ''living,'' as the lyrics unsurprisingly put it, ''on the edge.'' Judas Priest has as fine an ear for cliché as Jon Bon Jovi. Its music, though, is dependably fiery, even if the songs sound mostly interchangeable. The band's new drummer, Scott Travis, blasts things off with a furious (and at the same time strangely tidy) solo; the two guitarists sound like the spawn of a banshee and a machine gun. Did Travis inspire them, or have they been listening to speed metal bands like Metallica?
Singer Rob Halford, meanwhile, screams and shrieks, quite audibly loving every moment of the show. Judas Priest delivers reliable heavy metal product. You'd be wasting your time if you looked here for anything else. C+