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In 1976, there were many big bands that were classified as "heavy metal", yet there were only a few that actually were, the biggest one being Black Sabbath. It would be a band that at the time, was somewhat overlooked, that would bring help bring forth the NWOBHM, and with it, the rejuvenation of metal as we know it. That band was Judas Priest, and while many bands that the public put into the heavy metal category didn't quite fit the credentials of most of us, Priest was the band that would. Their first album, "Rocka Rolla", isn't quite what we expected from them, as they just started out at the time, but it would be "Sad Wings of Destiny" that would predict the band's destiny as one destined for heaviness.
Judas Priest was still experimenting with their style, even at this stage, so you'd expect to hear some songs that aren't quite at the same level as "Painkiller". Even so, they still managed to inspire quite a few people, including the young Dave Mustaine, who mentioned its significance in his autobiography. From the hard and driving power of "Tyrant" to the slow and menacing "The Ripper", this album totally fits into everything that would qualify as true metal. When experimenting, Priest has made quite a few promising results, even when they aren't quite fast. Such is the case for "Victim of Changes". Despite its slow tempo, it would be the heaviness and the raunchiness of the guitar power that would help make it stick. An even better song is "The Ripper", which also has a slow tempo. A fast tempo isn't needed in order to fulfill its status as a Priest classic, all it needed was sinister-sounding riffing with lyrics that conveyed the even more sinister nature of the titular Ripper, and everything was in place. It might not have been the most headbangable of a song, but bear in mind that this was the 70's, and songs at this pace were perfectly acceptable at the time.
Oh yes, there will be power...a lot of power. "Deceiver", for example has a crunching and chugging main riff, but that would be nothing compared to the fast and driving aggression of "Tyrant". Not only does that one have that driving pace that would be a stepping stone for Priest to get into "Painkiller" mode, but it's also got that crunch that defines heavy metal. Its main riff also consists of the power chords that many other bands at the time would never even dare to use, due to their aggressive nature. Those groups have only one goal in mind; to sell as much records as possible so that they could live the rock n' roll dream. Judas Priest sort of had the same goal, except they were willing to innovate. A dual guitar attack wouldn't be uncommon today, and that's mainly 'cos of Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing being the pioneers of this phenomena. During the 70's, nobody could ever expect the dueling guitar solos of "Tyrant" and "Genocide" to come out of any band.
Even when the band is at its softest, there seems to be something to like. Take for instance the gloom of "Epitaph". At first glance, it might seem like a bit of a cheesy barbershop quartet song about love and whatnot, due to the backing vocals ooing and aahing, but the lyrics convey something much more serious; the inevitability of death. The piano, along with the somber vocal delivery of Rob Halford, only adds to the dark and sad nature of the song. It's sort of a memento mori for anyone of any age, from the time of its release to today and beyond. "Dreamer Deceiver" actually has some guitar power, but it's mainly acoustic guitar power, making it very soft. It has a more mysterious and eerie tone to it, so it's perfectly acceptable to enjoy it. "The Ripper" has a mysterious vibe to it as well, but it's much more aggressive to fit the more abrasive, bloodthirsty nature of the song's subject matter. "Dreamer Deceiver", however, appeals more to fantasy and thus it doesn't need to be as hard as "The Ripper".
"Rocka Rolla" may be the first full-length effort by Judas Priest, but it would be "Sad Wings of Destiny" that would truly define Priest as a metal band. It would lay the cornerstone to the band's career, as well as set the standards for the millions of metal bands to come in the future. Everything has to begin somewhere, and the fastness and aggression of the metal that we're familiar with began here. If Black Sabbath invented the heaviness, it would be Priest who would invent the aggression, and songs like "Tyrant" are proof of what musicians can truly be capable of.
As a bridge between early heavy metal and the NWOBHM, Judas Priest are looked so highly upon by metalheads and music critics for how they pushed the boundaries of heavy metal, by taking the best elements of hard rock, heavy metal, progressive rock and mixing the elements together to create one behemoth that forced the genre to grow and evolve from it's late 60s blues rock roots. I mention this because I consider this crucial to understanding not only the improvements Judas Priest made on their sound on "Sad Wings of Destiny", but how this album stands out from its contemporaries.
One major improvement from "Rocka Rolla" is the composition of the songs, as the songs here function as more focused machines with guitar riffs that instantly make your head move and surprise you not only with the heaviness of the guitars themselves, but with the variety injected. The opener, "Victim of Changes" opens with a riff that comes out at you, moves to its shrieking solo, makes a transition into a calm, clean sound. This section gives you only a slight breath for the closer, where only Rob Halford's high note could compete with the guitar. Though not to what today's standards of "speed" might be. K.K Downing and Glen Tipton increase the tempo of the songs beyond the simple mid tempo of their first release, giving the songs an added sense of edge and urgency. The "twin guitar attack" that they have become known for is also beginning to show signs of emergence. Where they particular show themselves as efficient composers is in songs such as "Tyrants" and "Islands of Domination", which have the heaviness you want from the genre, while remaining exciting and throwing in the necessary variety.
The influences of the band themselves, while held together a little more seamlessly than in the conservative hard rock of "Rocka Rolla", still show clearly. In the case of "Epitaph", we are treated to a song that is almost piano driven, and sounds as if it could have come from a Queen album of the era. The progressive elements of the previous album are also to be found in "Sad Wings of Destiny", but are incorporated more intelligently, such as the soft sections of "Victim of Changes", "Dreamer Deceiver", and the acoustic part at the end of "Deceiver". Really, the only track that seems out of place on the whole album is "Epitaph". Fitting as tribute to Queen it may be, it does not quite match the musical tone of the rest of the album, and if it were to be placed anywhere, it should be at the end, where the melancholy ballad eases us out of the half hour of otherwise solid heavy metal we just endured.
Perhaps the final word goes to Rob Halford, who as we expect him to, is at the top of his game, wailing and shrieking his way through the album in a way few vocalists have managed to replicate (try as they might). Sad Wings of Destiny is an essential album for any fan of heavy metal, and though I consider it to be neither the definitive Judas Priest album, nor my absolute favorite, it's importance is unmistakable, as we see Judas Priest begin to develop the sound that would ensure heavy metal's survival into the 80s, and beyond.
Like skilled snipers sharpening in on their marks, it wouldn't take Judas Priest long to fire their fatal bullet. Sad Wings of Destiny might not be a complete digression from the groundwork they had laid with Rocka Rolla, but it's a far more focused record which puts to rest some of the indecision I felt on the debut. Where Rocka Rolla was teeming with the psychedelic rock and heavy blues influences of other British heroes, Priest refined their songwriting here to really strike out on their own, and one could argue that this was the 'birth' of the band we all know and love today, at least in the sense that tracing this point A to any later point B is a smoother course. This is still an admittedly '70s' sound, with some moody, almost tripped out moments strewn through the metallic surges, but I'll be damned if this isn't one of the better records of its type in the whole of the decade that fashion forgot.
The second and last record for the Gull imprint, whom they'd have a few issues with down the road (with the Hero, Hero reprint compilation the band shunned in '81), Sad Wings of Destiny would be heavily responsible for getting Priest signed to CBS, the major label on which they'd explode in the ensuing decade. It's not difficult to reason why, when you hear this thing. For one, the guitars and chorus hooks are far more determined and memorable, on nearly every track. I'm not incredibly enamored of the atmospheric ballad "Dreamer Deceiver", or the Queen-like piano/vocal piece "Epitaph", but just about every other song is gold. The riffs still tug upon the influences of Zeppelin, Cream, Sabbath and Thin Lizzy, but they've fashioned the chord sequences into progressions so powerful in places here that they rival any of their forebears, and there is a distinct increase in the use of 'chugged' guitar lines that flow rather well in the context of the bluesy, wailing leads and the incessant charisma of Rob Halford's piercing timbre.
Though it wasn't my first experience with Priest (that would a Christmas Gift of their first live album Unleashed in the East from '79), this was the first studio album that I ever experienced from the band, probably around 1980-81, and even as a child I remember thinking just how powerful and creative the songs were. "The Ripper" is in particular an ambitious piece for its perfect use of momentum, the vocals and chugging setting up the rhythm section and a wicked sense for melody that felt like you were in some creepy, haunted mansion. Fuck, I wouldn't be surprised if the entire blueprint for the Castlevania games' VGM was based on the one riff in this song, though it also reminds me of Satori from another 70s group, Japan's Sabbath inspired Flower Travellin' Band. There's even some experimentation tucked into this piece, through the trills and wailing noises in the bridge.
Another monstrous number here is the opener "Victim of Changes", a song that likely needs no introduction to anyone who has been following the genre for any decent length of time. Massive, striking and unforgettable bluesy grooves drive the narrative of Halford's multi-pronged assault, and this is one of the points where they get really psychedelic in the bridge, with a simple guitar repeated over smooth, subtle bass and great vocals. "Genocide" has this incredibly, leaden and smoky barroom feel to the guitar lines in the verse, and the chugged guitar lines in "Deceiver" felt nice and relatively complex for their day. "Tyrant" also breaks balls with its heavy as fuck power chords, plunking bass and the nice contrast of the softer 'tyrant' in the chorus with the louder counter-lines. Halford also does a lot of self-harmonizing here (and through the rest of the record), which works astoundingly well, because really, the only thing better than having one Rob is two Robs. (I know what you're thinking, perverts. Stop it.)
Not every song is a hit, but even where Sad Wings... does falter, it's not remotely frustrating or bad. I just felt that "Epitaph" might have been better served elsewhere. Halford sounds great with Glenn Tipton's pianos, as he does with almost anything, but it feels slightly too dramatic, and I like my Priest with the kick ass guitars and cloud piercing harpy vocals. "Dreamer Deceiver" is slightly better because the guy's voice is brilliant, but despite that and the strong bass lines of Ian Hill, I just felt I was waiting for some big, catchy riff that never happened. Another song I often teeter over is the finale "Island of Domination", but thankfully it's got this really interesting structure where the rhythm collapses down in the middle and that one, evil riff sequence around 2:00. You also get a taste for Halford's lower, swaggering 'soul' vocals here which feel to me like the guy could've cut a record for Motown.
Not surprisingly, Priest had a new drummer here (their 5th), Alan Moore, replacing John Hinch, but I didn't notice a major difference in the playing of the two, only that the aggression of the music had been ramped up so it feels more structured and marginally less 'jammy'. As for the production, it's comparable to the debut if slightly more 'aged' when I listen to it today. You can still make out all the nuance, expression and instrumentation as clear as day, but there are a few points where the rhythm guitars feel more muddled than others. Ultimately, though, while this is perhaps not an absolute favorite of mine when rubbed up against certain other gems in the Brits' lexicon (Sin After Sin, Defenders of the Faith, Painkiller and a few others have always seemed somewhat more consistent for me), it's a damn fine record worth anyone's time and money, so any holdouts might want to pony up and set themselves and revoke their poseur licenses.
After making next to no impact (critically, commercially, or historically) with Rocka Rolla, Judas Priest returned with Sad Wings of Destiny and knocked the music world flat on its ass. Opening track Victim of Changes takes the heavy blues-rock template as driven into the ground (taking as its lyrical subject matter the classic blues topic of a no-good woman who done you wrong) plays that particular style of proto-heavy metal far heavier than any of its early proponents ever did, and then absolutely tears the format apart with wailing dual lead guitar solos and a frenzied vocal performance from Halford, who unleashes his trademark ear-shattering scream on record at long last.
From the closing scream, all bets are off - having blown away all metal that came before it, the album proceeds to completely rebuild the genre in its image. Want a blueprint or two for the NWOBHM and speed bands who would take this album as their gospel? Have The Ripper and welcome to it. Want an acoustic ballad that turns into a prog-metal workout? The one-two punch of Dreamer Deceiver/Deceiver has your back. Want a death, destruction, and mayhem-obsessed suite of songs that would set the pattern for every classic Judas Priest album to follow? Turn the record over, you'll find all that and more on side two.
As well as giving the instrumental performance of their lives, carving the dual-lead blueprint into the decapitated skull of metal, the album also marks the point where Rob Halford truly came into his own as a singer. Even today, his vocal performance - ranging from demonic moans to banshee screams to delicate crooning to megalomaniac ranting - is a joy to hear, and I can only imagine what an incredible shock to the sense it must have been when the album first came out. Compared to every other singer on the hard rock and early metal scenes from the era, Halford sounds absolutely possessed on this album, and the rest of the band are raging berserkers to match.
This, quite simply, is the ship that launched three or four subgenres of metal, as well as establishing a credible alternative to the blues-rock basis of metal as established by Zeppelin and Sabbath. If you care even slightly about the history of metal, you need to own this album. If you just want to hear top-notch metal performed by a band at their absolute peak, then guess what, you still need to own this album.
"Sad Wings Of Destiny" is definitely my favorite Judas Priest album, and it is also considered one of the best Judas Priest albums. But what makes it a classic like "British Steel"? This is where Judas Priest found their sound. They hadn't quite discovered themselves yet on "Rocka Rolla" but here on this record we have the Judas Priest that we all know and love.
The production definitely makes this record seem like a product of its time, but to me that is a good thing. It sounds like it was recorded in 1976, and rightfully so. The music is heavy and sinister much like Black Sabbath at the time, but the riffage is different and it is generally a bit faster than Black Sabbath. At times this even sounds like early 70's Rush, but a bit more metallic. The music is definitely blues based, which is the case with most early metal. Rob Halford has just as much vocal range here as he does on any other Judas Priest record. The guitar now has a thick sound that wasn't present on the first album. There is also a more powerful rhythm section now. This is a quite different Judas Priest than we had on "Rocka Rolla".
This album is full of great metal. There are a couple of faster songs on here, such as one of my personal favorites "Tyrant", which appears to be war oriented. "Ripper" is the other fast song on here, it's also very catchy and has some insane high notes provided by Rob Halford. Some of the songs are mid paced. Such as the very 70's sounding "Genocide", and "Deceiver". There is also my other personal favorite "Victim Of Changes", which is considered one of the albums highlights. My favorite part of the song is the trippy part near the end of the song, it's very melodic and very unusual for Judas Priest. "Island Of Domination" is also a very 70's sounding mid paced song, but later on it gets very slow and bluesy, it sounds like a heavier AC/DC. There are also a few non metal songs here too. "Prelude" is the opener of the album, it is an instrumental with drums and a piano. "Epitaph" is a choir like piano ballad, very out of place on this record. "Dreamer Deceiver" is another ballad but is closer to Judas Priest's style of music. It sounds pretty hippy like, but it is much more guitar based than "Epitaph".
I think that this is a great metal album worthy of any metal collection. However, I wouldn't recommend this album to anyone who is only familiar with albums like "British Steel" or "Painkiller" because some might find this too dated. I thought the same thing when I got this album, but now I think that it rules. Now all of you metalheads who love 70's metal should respect your metal gods and purchase this album!
When everybody is still talking about the new Priest album, the conceptual (and pretty good) “Nostradamus”, I'll review one of the past masterpieces of the band, the legendary “Sad Wings of Destiny”. While I haven't heard all the discs already released by Judas Priest (I still need to get “Sin After Sin”, “Defenders of the Faith”, the debut and the Ripper-era albums), this already is my personal favourite, mainly because it is a amazingly beautiful record, but not beautiful because all the songs are soft and emotional, beautiful because there isn't a single note misplaced on the majority of the songs of this album, beautiful because of the amazing songwriting talents that the band displayed with this piece.
So, one of the biggest complaints I have against this album is its weak production. The guitars lack punch and power, the drums aren't that audible, the same goes to the bass guitar. However, this weak production also gives to “Sad Wings of Destiny”, a special, retro-sound that I, at times, appreciate. About the performance of the musicians, the two guitar players deliver amazing performances, not that technical, but still playing some nice solos and absolutely godly riffs (the first one on “Victim of Changes”, the main one on “Island of Dominations”, the first one of “Deceiver”, ahhh so many!). The drumming is very simple, yet decent, I don't know why but I like Alan Moore's performance here, still simple but... effective, in my opinion. He's no Les Binks (nor Scott Travis) though, so don't expect anything ultra-technical here. About Rob Halford, he was really in a wonderful shape during the recording of this opus, I mean, he sounds very emotional during the songs, from the desperate screams on “Victim of Changes” (interesting lyrics too) to the beautiful performance on “Dreamer Deceiver”, he proves here the awesome singer he really is. What a mindblowing performance, indeed.
As for the songs, there are lots of variety here, which is a plus, obviously. There's some calm songs, “Dreamer Deceiver” and “Epitaph”, the latter even containing piano lines, an intro, “Prelude”, some aggressive, true heavy metal songs, like “Deceiver” or “Tyrant”, and a marvellous epic, called “Victim of Changes”.
As for highlights, almost every song is excellent in its own way... The record kicks off with the afore-mentioned intro, that leads us to the fantastic “Tyrant”, which features an insanely catchy chorus and fast guitar work, this is a proto-speed metal classic that's for sure. “Genocide” follows, being another aggressive tune, a bit more elaborated than “Tyrant” though. Halford's performance is especially raw on this track, and even rawer on the “Unleashed in the East” version of it, which is, by the way, absolutely worth listening. After the little “Epitaph”, “Island of Domination” kicks in, being one of my favourite songs of the bunch. It begins calmly and then becomes heavier when a fantastic guitar riff kicks in. Great stuff.
Side B opens with the epic, mindblowing, masterpiece known as “Victim of Changes”. From the Led Zeppelin's Black Dog inspired (but much better than it) first section, to the awesome breakdown, this song is absolutely perfect. Rob Halford delivers here the performance of his career, when he screams like a mad man, near the end of the song. “The Ripper” follows, taking you back to the rainy and cold streets of London... Great great ambience. “Dreamer Deceiver” is the next track and it is another masterpiece, one of the best metal ballads ever made, that's for sure. Moore's drumming works pretty well here, accompanied by yet another masterful performance by an inspired Halford. Finally “Deceiver” ends the record but unfortunately it is a pretty weak track, the worst of all (it still carries a sweet main riff, though).
Concluding, there are some weak tunes here (“Genocide” and “Deceiver”, the latter is the weakest by far, though), but the whole listening experience is great and there are some masterpieces to be found here too (“Victim of Changes” and “Dreamer Deceiver”). All the songs are also extremely well composed, the song structures are, at times, intricate, and all the musicians sound pretty good here (the man of the album is Halford, undoubtely). A fine work of art by Judas Priest, after all, and my favourite album by the band. I'll think if this record deserves some more points as the time passes by.
Ah, and the artwork is great too, perhaps my favourite artwork ever!
Best Moments of the CD:
-the breakdown and ending of “Victim of Changes”.
-the part when Rob Halford begins to sing on “Dreamer Deceiver”.
-the riff explosion of “Island of Domination”.
-the beginning of “The Ripper” (ah, how I love that song).
Released in 1976 when the popularity of heavy metal was beginning to wane, Judas Priest’s second album injected new life, speed and energy into the genre, and along with its successors paved the way for what would ultimately be defined as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Still commonly regarded as one of the band’s finest releases, it was unarguably a vast improvement over the messy and long-forgotten debut ‘Rocka Rolla,’ abandoning its blues-tinged, hard rock sound – for the most part – in favour of a highly charged approach that was in equal shares melodic and aggressive, based on the shrieking vocal talents of Rob Halford and the dual guitar harmonies and discordance of Glenn Tipton and K. K. Downing.
Even at first glance, with the album’s hellish cover art, vicious song titles and new gothic logo, it’s clear that Judas Priest has begun to define itself as a heavy metal band rather than the slightly confused hippies who recorded an album in 1974, and the presence of old live favourites from the early seventies (refused inclusion on the previous album due to the incompetence of producer Rodger Bain) makes this in some ways the first ‘true’ Judas Priest album, although ownership disputes with Gull Records sadly mean that the band still won’t receive any of the proceeds for albums released before ‘Sin After Sin.’ More focused than its predecessor, ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ still finds time to experiment with softer songs and longer compositions comprised of numerous changes, while the arguable song cycle that leads to its conclusion may demonstrate that the interest in lofty and progressive ideals has not been entirely eliminated by the desire to achieve commercial success.
A peculiar feature of this release is that its two original sides on the vinyl LP were switched around when the time came to re-issue the album on CD, causing the original opening ‘Prelude’ to be moved to the fifth track. This move was probably for the best, as the first few songs are among the band’s most popular, still being live staples today, and ‘Deceiver’ wouldn’t really work as a satisfying ending in the same way that ‘Island of Domination’ achieves, while making the opening fade-in of ‘Victim of Changes’ more relevant in its new context. Of course, any stubborn fans intent on recreating the original experience can simply stick the CD player on repeat, start from track five, and stop complaining.
1. Victim of Changes
2. The Ripper
3. Dreamer Deceiver
9. Island of Domination
Originally under the title of ‘Whiskey Woman,’ ‘Victim of Changes’ is undeniably one of the most well-loved and accomplished Judas Priest songs, so it’s regrettable that my initial response has to be: ‘this isn’t as good as the live version.’ The same could be said for many tracks later released on the definitive ‘Unleashed in the East’ live album, however inauthentic and plagued by studio tampering that may be, but this song in particular has a long tradition of excelling in the live format, explaining its presence on the ‘Metal Works’ compilation in place of this original. It’s a great song split into several parts, though the transitions are all smooth and natural, with some classic riffs and great solo spots for the guitars, the bass and in particular the ear-piercing screams of Rob Halford. The resurgence of the main riff towards the end in the lead-up to his final screams has to be one of the best executed moments in the band’s entire discography, but this song really does suffer from the lack of crowd interaction in the quieter and slower moments. An excellent heavy metal song, but one that could never be successfully captured onto disc.
‘The Ripper’ is Priest’s classic short piece about Jack the Knife, led primarily by Halford’s squeaking narrative and with one of the band’s most memorable choruses. The simplicity of this song is its real charm, ushering in an entirely New Wave of British Heavy Metal without even knowing it, and clearly directly inspiring much of what Iron Maiden did in the first few years, both musically and thematically. The central section features a cool creeping guitar riff that speeds up subtly as it goes, which may or may not be attempting to imitate the eponymous Ripper’s stalking antics, though I like to think that it is. Once again, Halford lets rip a piercing scream at the end for good measure. Wisely, the next song ‘Dreamer Deceiver’ takes a complete detour from the sounds already established, beginning with a murky acoustic guitar and soft singing that sets an effective tranquil atmosphere. Once again, this can be traced as the direct inspiration for many softer metal songs from the late seventies to the present day, even if it gets a little dull and repetitive along the way. Halford’s more energetic screams in the second half are a nice touch, and work strangely well despite the rest of the music staying the same, and there’s a really long and mellow guitar solo that I can’t help but love.
Confusingly and unwisely bearing a similar title to the previous song, ‘Deceiver’ was formerly the final song of the album (see earlier explanation), but works much better being shoved into the middle, where its mediocrity doesn’t really get in the way. It isn’t a bad song, it’s just disappointingly generic after the great pieces that have come so far, the riff failing to stay memorable for sounding just like every other medium speed guitar line the band would play throughout the seventies. Things become much more interesting with the ominous ‘Prelude,’ a little strange in the middle of the album but nonetheless perfect in bringing in the second half of offerings. The deep, booming piano is joined by a church organ and high guitar, leading into one of the finest songs of the album, the suitably monstrous ‘Tyrant.’ This song showcases everything that was great about Priest’s classic early period, with a great heavy riff, slow and pounding chorus and an irresistible break into a second, lesser-used chorus that’s as fun as hell. To make things even better, Tipton and Downing execute a full dual guitar solo, remaining ever so slightly out of tune with each other in a performance that really has to be heard. Unlike the first song, I can’t specifically remember whether the ‘Unleashed in the East’ version is superior, but in this instance the record really does it justice.
Although technically not associated, the similar subject matter of ‘Genocide’ has always linked this song with its predecessor in my mind, perhaps exacerbated by the lofty ‘Prelude’ deceiving me into delusions of a song cycle along the lines of the first album’s ‘Winter’ suite. This song essentially stands alone as another cool, early metal song, but it somehow lacks the energy of ‘Tyrant’ and the earlier pieces until the very end where everything speeds up and Halford has to yell along at an exhausting pace. Thankfully, perhaps sensing that the sound has started to become repetitive, the album offers up its greatest deviation yet with the entirely piano- and vocal-led ‘Epitaph.’ This is bound to be a very challenging song for Priest fans or metal fans in general, as the performance by Tipton (on piano) and Halford severs all connections to the sound being pioneered elsewhere on the recording, though overall the experiment is a success. Supplementing his deep croon with a very strange higher pitch in the chorus that sounds almost like a choirboy, Halford is impressive here, if not quite at his best. It’s an interesting song to break the album up, but not really the sort of thing anyone would get this CD out of their collection specifically to listen to. A nice touch is that it fades directly into the final song ‘Island of Domination’ (again, not helping my paranoia in searching for patterns and song suites that aren’t really there). The energy of ‘Tyrant’ is back, even if this song doesn’t live up to the monumental task of beating that earlier classic, but it’s still a great song based on all the usual ingredients: shrieking Halford and a pounding chorus. The band considered re-recording this for the follow-up album ‘Sin After Sin’ for some reason, but there isn’t any problem with the original.
‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ is a heavy metal classic, though one that may take some getting used to for younger fans or those more accustomed to modern music. It’s a melodic and very heavy album, though not in the way a Suffocation album is heavy, and despite the praise heaped onto the later ‘British Steel’ release, leaves behind most of the blues influence of early heavy metal (exempting songs such as ‘Victim of Changes’ which were old live favourites), paving the way for the fast and catchy metal of the early eighties that are more commonly accredited to the punk explosion. The few weak songs and unsuccessful experiments prevent it from being my personal favourite Priest album, and the inclusion of superior live versions of some songs on the excellent ‘Unleashed in the East’ a few years later makes these studio recordings a little redundant. Still, this is a great source for those songs and many others, containing definitive heavy metal classics and some great unknown treats too.
It's almost absurd how incredible Judas Priest became in the short period of time after Rocka Rolla to the point that they recorded this masterpiece of all things heavy. After spending some considerable time getting into the former album, listening to the latter is astonishing. This is the album where everything came together in every way instrumentally, compositionally, and aesthetically. The band had come to the perfect crossroads of youthful ambition and time-honed experience and just so happened to record an album while that window was open. And as anyone who has heard this can testify, the resulting masterpiece is among metal's finest records.
This album is downright epic. From the grand piano mood-cementer of "Prelude" (yes, I know the CD versions have the sides swapped. The album really does flow better this way) to the sweeping classic "Victim of Changes" to the short, potent riffage of "The Ripper," this album exudes power. The Downing/Tipton guitar combo has improved significantly. No longer do they sound like they've made up their rhythms the day before (as throughout Rocka Rolla); rather, every note and chord is placed purposefully. Their solos are just as poignant, never out of place and always effective. But as is typical with Judas Priest of this decade, no one outshines the mighty Rob Halford. Here he's at his absolute prime and graces us with his full force. He wails, he swoons, he rips through octaves as naturally as if he were speaking the words casually, rather than blasting them through his vocal cords with all of his might (which is what he's doing when he's not singing softly). Albums like Sad Wings of Destiny are what established him as one of the best metal vocalists of all time, a reputation that still stands today.
One of the best things about this album, besides its historical importance and general ass-kicking goodness, is that there wouldn't really be another Judas Priest album quite like it ever again. Sin After Sin and Stained Class both maintained the feeling that this incarnation of Judas Priest brought to the table, but not in such a free, well-flowing manner. The emphasis on mood and feeling throughout "Dreamer/Deceiver" would not be rivaled again, nor would the riffs of "Tyrant," the grandness of "Victim of Changes," or the superb atmosphere of "Epitaph." I mean, come on, Glenn Tipton plays piano all over this thing. And as for the two piano-only tracks, lost Elton John tunes these aren't by far. These are classier, with "Epitaph" being easily among my favorite Judas Priest songs (and definitely the best of the ballads).
You can talk up your Machine Head or your Paranoid all you like. Hell, even your Overkill. Because the fact of the matter is, your 70's metal collection will be perpetually incomplete without this gem. Fans of later Judas Priest, come and witness what these guys were capable of a few mere albums before....
It remains a mystery to me how an album this perfectly metal could have been produced only 6 years after the genre's founding. In any case, this was a seminal masterpiece and an incalcuble contribution to the cause of metal. From the masterful opening of Tyrant to the closing strains of Deceiver, there is absolutely no filler here. None of the random bluesy jamming that plagued Sabbath's first two albums. No lyrics about how I wanna go hot rockin', or livin' after midnight, or breakin' the law, or you've got another thing comin'. Tipton and Downing are great throughout the album, and Alan Atkins' drumming, while inferior to Simon Phillips or Les Binks, gets the job done. And this is Rob "the Metal God" Halford at his best. There are six songs here and all of them need to be highlighted.
Tyrant is, in my opinion, one of the greatest songs ever made. The solo (the third one!) is pure brilliance of the sort not heard since Deep Purple's Highway Star four years earlier. Rob Halford gives one of his most gripping vocal performances ever, including the 10 - second scream at the end, and the verses headbang with authority.
Genocide is less impressive, but still great. It's a medium paced pounding song with a Man-on-the-Silver-Mountain-like riff. The really amazing thing about it, though, is the climax at the end with Halford almost rapping the lyrics. It segues into a great fade-out solo, too. Epitaph and Island of Domination are no less awesome. Epitaph is a slow piano ballad with an impressively emotional lyric and vocal. But it's real job is to set up Island of Domination. As the piano fades, you hear a bass line coming in. And then the song explodes into the vocal intro -"BEWARE..." It absolutely sounds like the most awesome thing on the planet every time I listen to it. The song itself features an intricate riff, a driving bass line, and Halford showcasing his whole range - the lower parts as well.
Victim of Changes has a slow, pounding, Sabbath riff, a cool break and solo in the middle. Did I mention that the vocals kick ass? Well they do. This is Rob Halford's crowning vocal performance. The Ripper is a short song, but it is definitely full of suspense, especially with that eerie breakdown in the middle. As well, it is one of the first songs I learned on bass.
And now we come to Dreamer Deceiver and Deceiver. How to describe this song? Stairway to Heaven without the boring parts? That's probably the best description. Halford sings an entire verse in that falsetto banshee scream of his. There are two beautiful solo sections (one in each part), and the last half a minute of the build-up really earns Halford the title of Metal God. And when it breaks through to Deceiver, the song slams into gear. Pure metal euphoria, with the high point of the whole album being Halford's desparately screamed last verse and chorus. And after that, it fades out with a few acoustic riffs. And there is nothing more to say.
I highly recommend this to any sane person who likes good music, not just metal.
The bleak and mournful mould for this album was somewhat cast forth by the tomes of Black Sabbath, Atomic Rooster, and other shadow dwellers of metal’s early days. But with this, their second album proper, Judas Priest made a hopeless and forlorn turn that was carved out of the blackest granite yet heard in metal’s then brief life span. Their 1974 debut Rocka Rolla was similarly icy in flavor, but this was something new altogether. An album where no light shines, mankind is doomed, and Priest opened the dark possibilities of metal’s psyche to reach previously uncharted depths.
First off, Rob Halford gives a vocal performance for the ages, loaded with range, feeling and mood setting par excellence. For their part, twin axe-men K.K. Downing and Glen Tipton provide him with an almost unfathomable collection of riffs and atmospheres that bespeak of a particularly grim but musically sturdy worldview. The true majesty of the dual guitar interplay would begin its ascent here, revealing the pair as writers with knowledge beyond their (then) tender years.
And then there are the songs. Never again would Priest pack an album so tightly with such resonant and affecting cuts. Make sure your Zoloft prescription is full before airing these woeful tales. Feel your romantic relations disappear into despair as you become lovelorn in the epic “Victim Of Changes.” You’ll likely be slaughtered by “The Ripper,” and your soul will be stolen and left to drift eternally among the cosmic ephemera by the “Dreamer Deceiver.” And as your soul drifts away, the “Deceiver” cements his evil deeds with riffs cast in pure evil concrete. No kidding kids, the way these two cuts work in tandem and on their own is one of the most morbidly beautiful musical successes in heavy metal music ever. And that was only side one!
Flip the thing over (like we used to have to in the good old days of analog) and you’ll find yourself under the oppression of the “Tyrant,” you’ll be submitted to “Genocide,” and pay an unpleasant visit to the “Isle Of Domination.” Captured in a flat but appropriately dated production job, the album’s soul is blacker that most could handle, hence it’s almost complete lack of sales upon release and ensuing legendary status.
And just a note to younger death/black/grind metal-heads out there: give this work of art time. At first, its soul penetrating powers may sound conservative up against modern ideas about metallic brutality. But trust me…like a possessed tapeworm, it will slowly but inevitably wrap itself around your psyche…and then eat it. A true genre landmark.
On the heels of the strangely alluring but overall disppointing Rocka Rolla comes a COMPLETELY different album in the form of Sad Wings of Destiny. Most Priest-elitists hail this hearty chunk of classic to be their choice album, banishing the Painkiller babies off to hell. While I won't compare this to Painkiller, as they are two entirely different albums, I will say that in my eyes, it comes very close to said godly album.
While some call this an early incarnation of speed metal, and indeed it can be, I rather label this album as a piece of straight forward heavy metal (with a few twists for good measure). Coming from the catagory of the former, Tyrant tears the ground up after the Prelude and shows us a much altered side of Priest than from the year prior. Speed rock/metal riffs dominate this crowd pleaser, which is brought to it's full potential on the killer Unleashed in the East (1979). Genocide slows things down a bit, but not the insensity, which is consistant through Epitaph and Island of Domination where Halford shows us a preview of what is really to culminate later on in the album.
Victim of Changes, perhaps one of the greatest metal songs of all time. I actually prefer this version to the beefed up one on Unleashed, simply because of the ambience that is achieved through the studio environment. Going from a crushing riff in the verses, to the absolutely killer pre-interlude, to the trippy, slow interlude itself, this track doesn't stop for a second. Until it's done...right.
Following this is my personal favourite on the album, that is The Ripper, perhaps even encompassing the previous track in it's sheer pwnage. That scream at the beginning is completely inhuman, challenged (and maybe even bested) only by the brutal shreik at the beginning of Dissident Aggressor (Sin After Sin album). It's a quick song, but an effective one. This classic album ends with the duo Dreamer Deceiver/Deceiver (strange name...) which is part ballad, part undefined. An actual GOOD ballad from Priest (not that Take these Chains is terrible, but at least they actually wrote this one).
Highly recommended for everyone. I would introduce a person to metal with this album, as opposed to the popular though of an early Sabbath album. Pwnage.
Following up on "Rocka Rolla", we have an equally strange, crazy release, this one entitled "Sad Wings of Destiny", and this is one we all know and love, unless we suck, cause this is one of the most essential, legendary and mindblowing metal albums ever written.
The overall sound and production is less dark and gloomy than what sometimes was evident on the debut album, but this is not all happy and fluffy kittens, no sir. On "Victim of Changes" for example, we have a rather depressive perspective both in lyrics and mood, which is pretty fucking well done. And remember, this was released in 1976, not 2004, when all mallcore kids are running around screaming that their life sucks. This is in the crazy hippie-days, which you could see on the clothes Priest wore at the time. And while they did sound a bit weird and almost proggish back in the day, their music still tore hippies apart wherever it went.
One thing that's very notable about this album is that you can see how much the band evolved musically in the mere 2 years that passed between the release of "Rocka Rolla" up to this one. Of course, the far better production on "Sad Wings" help in making it sound way better, but the band themselves are far superior songwriters by the time they wrote this album, that's quite easy to tell. The mood, time and tempo changes in "Victim of Changes" are done flawlessly, and the song flows perfectly through many varying segments and is one of Priest's greatest epic songs to date, standing above masterpieces such as "Blood Red Skies" and "Run of the Mill", and probably equal to "Beyond The Realms of Death". Another thing that's far better on this album than on the album that came before it, is the vocal delivery of Rob Halford. He's here developing that vicious attitude that we've grown to know him for, which is evident right from the original opening track "Tyrant" (Well, I think you all know the story by now. The LP originally opened with the piano intro "Prelude", but CD versions have gotten the order messed up and instead starts out with "Victim of Changes").
He also uses the falsetto alot more on this album, and overall he also brings some of his most emotional vocal performances on the entire album- just listen to "Dreamer Deceiver", and you'll know what I mean. That song also features one of Glenn Tipton's most beautiful guitar solos of all time.
The riffwork of Glenn and KK is also way improved. The chugging opening riffage of "Genocide" is fucking wicked, and heavy as shit for 1976. And just check out that motherfucker of an ending section! Then we have the absolutely sinister "The Ripper", which at times sounds more evil than the song "Black Sabbath", also thanks to the insane vocals. "All hear my warning... Never turn your back on The Ripper!" Hell yeah. Overall, there isn't a bad moment on this entire disc.
The oddball on any other Priest disc would be the slightly absurd entirely piano-driven ballad "Epitaph", with it's cheesy backing vocals and whatnot, but on here it totally works, surprisingly enough, thanks to the balladic nature of other songs on here like "Victim of Changes" and "Dreamer Deceiver". But "Epitaph" is still the only all-out ballad, as "Victim" has it's fair share of heaviness and kickass, and "Dreamer Deceiver" fades right into a second part of the song, entitled "Deceiver", which is heavier and features an absolutely mindblowing falsetto on the vocal delivery.
It's hard to describe the overall greatness of this, which in my opinion stands as Judas Priest's and heavy metal in general's second greatest album of all time. Perfect songwriting, musicianship, vocals, atmosphere, etc etc etc. The solos are classic Tipton/Downing material, which near always equals divine. The riffs are some of the heaviest seen around that time. The bluesy elements of "Rocka Rolla" is more laid-back for a mainly all-out Metal assault, yet keeping a steady, catchy groove in the songs, which of course just makes it rock even harder.
This is a pretty strange album, just like the debut, but give it some time and it'll grow on you. This is a fucking masterpiece, and absolutely essential, and the album that defined Heavy Fucking Metal in the 1970s. Forget all about "Paranoid", this is the shiznit.
This is one of Priest's most consistent albums - along with Stained Class and Painkiller, there is really nothing bad to be found here. It also has some very nice atmosphere, and definitely good guitar work. However, the production is merely okay, as is the case on most of Priest's 70s work - the guitar isn't loud enough and kinda lacks punch (see: Priest in the East for how to achieve punch, and have the definitive versions of these songs, yade yade yada.) But hey, for 1976, this is fucking godly... for historical importance, you can't beat this one, and even today the songs sound like heavy fucking metal, bordering on thrash at times. This is one that won't get mistaken for classic rock.
There really isn't a bad song here. Even the two little interludes "Prelude" and "Epitaph" are very nice. Well, Epitaph is a full song, but it's a little piano number, but it serves as a perfect intro to Island of Domination.
The very good: "Victim of Changes", we all know ths one. "Island of Domination" - sort of a speedish number that turns midpaced in the middle. These two are actually the weakest tracks on here in my opinion, though they are quite excellent.
The awesome: "The Ripper", "Tyrant", "Genocide" - three classics of heavy metal. Tyrant was highly influential, especially with the almost random thrash break (that's right!) thrown in around the end, followed by the brilliant solo. Genocide bursts in with a dose of power out of nowhere - "slice to the left, slice to the right" - that part is just fucking vicious. And who can forget that classic intro lick on The Ripper, that solid speed metal intro riff, and that shriek? This is where Evil Has no Boundaries got its inspiration, you can totally tell.
The absolutely fucking mind-blowingly stupendously incredible: "Dreamer Deceiver"/"Deceiver" - won't SOMEONE (either Priest or Halford) play this one live?? I know both Halford and Owens could nail the high notes in here, and it would be a spectacular vocal performance (a certain live 1975 version has even higher notes in 2 places at the end of "Deceiver"!) This song (two songs, whatever, they go together) is (are) totally and completely awesome and can do no wrong. Even the production can be overlooked, because there is nothing to compare it to. DoH!
Overall, this is one of the Must Have albums by Judas Priest - if you have any sense of history, you'll pick this one up on vinyl. And if you get it on CD, beware of the fucked up tracklisting. I've got it ripped to mp3s and I've got Victim of Changes as track 6... the album goes a lot better like that, with the guitar harmony intro to begin side B, and the classic power-metal track of an intro piece (Helloween, anyone) to start the entire fucking thing. Classic shit, when all is said and done... no, it's not quite as good as the later live versions, but still it is indispensable.
With all due respect to Black Sabbath and the genre they created, the finest Heavy Metal album EVER recorded is Judas Priest's second LP, "Sad Wings of Destiny". From 1969 to 1974, Sabbath had been pouring out it's molten sludge from a haze of cocaine and booze, just writing the most fucked-up heavy things ever imagined, but the music was still heavily rooted in the stoner-blues-rock of the time. But in 1974 five young kids from the same city (Birmingham) went into the studio on a shoestring budget and codified in one 37-minute piece of vinyl exactly what a 'heavy metal' album should look and sound like - grandiose intros, piano ballads halfway through the first side, balls-out rockers, super-long moody epics, and TONS of great guitar riffs and solos from arguably the best guitar duo of all time, Glen Tipton and KK Downing. They blaze and rip through "Tyrant" and "Genocide", slash through "The Ripper", play a textbook example of tension-and-release in "Victim of Changes", and soar in the grandiose epic finisher "Dream Deceiver/Deceiver" (which features the greatest melodic guitar solo of all time by Glen). And remember, this is back when Rob Halford's voice was in its' youthful prime and when Ian Hill actually played BASS (with a nice, fat, edgy tone to boot - the groove he lays down in Deceiver is quintessential).
Of course, being recorded in 1974 AND on a shoestring budget did take its toll a little bit, particularly in the flatness of the drum sounds and the relative infancy of guitar-amp technology, but it still sounds WAY better than it should, and the sound does nothing to detract from the genius of the musicianship and song writing. And I could go on about how Transluxe (the idiots who Gull licensed the CD-reissue to) fucked up big time on the tracking of the disc, completely reversing sides one and two from the LP - that's why 'Prelude' is track five, not track one. Just re-program your CD player and listen to metal at its finest.
(Originally published at LARM (c) 1999)