THE MEMBERS of Judas Priest claim to have been rejuvenated by their recent victory in the "backward masking" suit against them, and advertise their new album as their best in years.

These metal perennials should know, but from the two-seconds-thought titles ("Hell Patrol," "Leather Rebel," "Metal Meltdown") to the customary thump 'n' squeal, "Painkiller" sounds perfunctory. If the apocalypse is really going to be this predictable, it probably won't even drive the New Kids off MTV.

Where Judas Priest's cryptic lyrics intentionally obscure its position on the death and destruction it belabors, Megadeth and Testament are against death and destruction. The opening track on the former's "Rust in Peace" takes a stand on religious war (it's no good), while the final track on the latter's "Souls of Black" addresses mainland China's government (no good either). But Megadeth's social comment soon yields to songs about UFOs ("Hanger 18") and necromancy ("Five Magics"), while Testament sings about armies of ghouls ("Face in the Sky"). In other words, the same old horror-movie shtick that Judas Priest has been grinding out since these kids were singing along with Big Bird.

All three bands, by the way, have lead guitarists who play really fast.

JUDAS PRIEST -- "Painkiller" (Columbia).

MEGADETH -- "Rust in Peace" (Combat/Capitol).

TESTAMENT -- "Souls of Black" (Megaforce/Atlantic). Appearing together Sunday at Capital Centre.