Holy Moley, it's Judas Priest! The heck with air guitars, let's polish up the studs on our denim jeans, douse ourselves in every kind of leather but English, unfurl our chains and borrow a boss motorcycle. The boys in black and blue are back with the kind of hard rock that fans thought they'd forgotten after two albums ("British Steel" and "Point of Entry") aimed at FM, not S&M. No wonder they're "Screaming for Vengeance." Loud, too.

Actually, Judas Priest are among the funnier purveyors of heavy-metal mayhem, with a lot of the comedy coming unwittingly from lead singer Rob Halford, who sounds as if he drank a bottle of vitriol on entering the recording studio. Except for the occasional, probably accidental, solid image ("the tearless retinas" in the Orwellian fantasy "Electric Eye"), most of Priest's litany is of the cruise-booze-lose-snooze variety; it's foot-to-the-floor imagery surrounded by brake music.

Sometimes, the boys bless us with an instrumental (a furious "Hellion" that must have exhausted twin guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing), but mostly it's on with the likes of "Bloodstone," "Devil's Child," "Pain and Pleasure" and "Riding on the Wind" (definitely not to be confused with "Ride Like the Wind," particularly when you notice Dave Holland's depth- charge drumming). And like most metallers, Judas Priest has a problem with girls: There's always some sexual dysfunction at their junction. Maybe that's why they're having such a problem adjusting anything but the volume.--RICHARD HARRINGTON


THE ALBUM JUDAS PRIEST Screaming for Vengeance (Columbia FC38160).

THE CONCERT JUDAS PRIEST, With Iron Maiden and Axe, Monday at 8 at the Capital Center.