Painkiller is a heavy metal classic song. It belongs to the homonymous album released by Judas Priest in 1990. Painkiller is not only a title: Rob Halford defined it as “a fantastic creature that personifies metal: evilness, energy, and destruction”.

Painkiller is a fantastic creature that personifies metal: evilness, energy, and destruction.-Rob Halford

Evilness, energy and destruction

Halford made a perfect synthesis of what the song suggests. When choreographing, it is worth taking into account the idea of ​​the group itself about their art.

Making a musical analysis and studying the lyrics of the song, we find some elements that help us to face the composition:

  • “Anger, rage and pain”: they are cited both implicitly and explicitly in the lyrics, in addition to being transmitted through the nuances of the voice.
  • Long screams: they will involve long movements as well. Simulating the singer’s scream is also a good resource for these moments of the song.
  • Speed: the tempo is 103 BPM. Although it is not excessive from the point of view of a dancer´s physical capacity, especially the verses do transmit speed, so one way of highlighting that speed is to increase the density of movements.
  • Block “Faster than a lazer bullet …”: this block is presented as a differentiated part of the song, with a more monotonous tone of the voice with a certain military style. That´s the reason why I looked for inspiration in military sequences for its visual representation.

Painkiller: half woman, half machine

The aesthetics of the choreography is mostly inspired by the lyrics of the song:

“Enraged and full of anger
He’s half man and half machine

Rides the Metal Monster
Breathing smoke and fire
Closing in with vengeance soaring high.”

The references to a creature “half human, half machine” and to the Metal Monster that (s)he rides suggest to create a costume that includes metallic elements. Although Judas Priest has never quoted this idea in relation to Painkiller, the creature recalls Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Therefore, I chose a mask inspired by this character. Some steampunk accessories that can be found in specialized stores provided me with the “half machine” nature referred to by the song. However, the choreography is not a representation of the literary character of Frankenstein, but it has served in this case as inspiration for the design of the dance costume.

Another option, which I have discarded this time, is to use for your design the representation that Judas Priest makes on its Painkiller cover, both the creature itself and the Metal Monster.

With its sleeve of a winged robot flying above a burnt-out city skyline on a motorcycle – complete with chainsaw blades as wheels.-Metal Hammer

Guitar solo? No, thanks.

Painkiller has a guitar solo with a duration of almost two minutes, so I decided to delete it for two reasons:

  • The guitar solos are little interesting from the point of view of the dancer.
  • Th song, including the guitar solo, lasts six minutes. In general, 6 minutes of pure choreography are excessive to maintain the interest of the audience in case of a solo choreography.

If the original song is used, I recommend to be used in a group choreography to make group figures, travelling steps through space or, my favourite, to include a theatrical part.

In the case of maintaining it for an individual choreography, a good option is to use an element (wings, chains, bars, fire cariocas …) which introduce a visual hiatus in these two minutes.

Photography: Nat Enemede


Choreography for specialized audiences

At present there is a great shortage of events to dance exclusively to Rock & Metal, so it is necessary to consider where we are going to present our Painkiller choreography and if it will be well received.

Painkiller is a track with a hard and heavy sound that quite possibly goes along the edge of stridency for an audience not accustomed to metal music. That´s the reason why I would not usually dance it in an event that is not specifically related to the subculture of heavy metal.

Photography: Nat Enemede