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"Before the Dawn" is the long-forgotten ballad off Killing Machine. It’s strange nobody seems to know this one; its sharp contrast with the rest of the album seems to me like it would cause people to remember it. Alas, this isn’t so, and the song has unfairly dropped under the horizon.
What is immediately noticeable is the lack of drums. It’s not often Priest scraps the drums (actually, I don’t recall any other such songs) and so this is a unique song in itself. “Before the Dawn” also makes use of soulful acoustic guitar that mostly replaces the usual electric fare used on similar songs like “Beyond the Realms of Death,” though a nice electric brooder of a solo permeates through the darkness. The bass is nothing to write home about, but it wouldn’t be the same song if Ian Hill hadn’t contributed his part.
Of special impressiveness are Halford’s vocals. Again comparable to “Beyond the Realms of Death,” he employs a sad, mournful moan throughout the song. The way he sings the title is absolutely spectacular. The lyrics remind of “Here Come the Tears” and fit well in the song – as usual, great songwriting in the lyric aspect. Overall, this is one of Priest’s late ‘70s gems that unjustly slipped under the radar.
Side B contains the more upbeat “Rock Forever.” Incredibly funky like most of the album, the song begs the listener to sing along. But that just happens to be near impossible, as Halford shines with his inimitable falsetto and awesome grunts. The bass is very noticeable here, and this time contributes a large amount to the song’s backbone. The main riff is gold and perfect for such a great Priest rocker.
Killing Machine was definitely Priest’s weakest ‘70s effort, but considering the grand majesty that era represents for the band, that just means it isn’t quite as awesome. These two songs are some of the better off the album, just behind the better-known “Green Manalishi” and “Delivering the Goods.” Priest fans, I beg of you, overlook this no longer.