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Some people may tell you that this album sucks. They may tell you that Nostradamus or British Steel is the greatest Priest record. They may even say that Halford can't sing. But the truth is this: they're wrong. They probably got their copy of Priest's latest album from Hot Topic, along with a dose of Meshuggah and Brain Drill. They probably think anything they don't listen to is complete crap. So let those fools listen to their Korn and their Linkin Park while you spend the best forty minutes of your life listening to Sad Wings and mock the idiocy of scene kids.
Because the actuality of the matter is that Sad Wings of Destiny, the second effort from heavy metal originators Judas Priest, has stood for over thirty years as the finest album heavy metal has to offer. And that probably won't change. Ever.
Listen in awe as Rob "Metal God" Halford growls, shrieks, and wails such classics as "Dreamer Deceiver." Appreciate the flawless backbone the instrumentalists provide, giving Halford all the support he needs to completely defy the barriers of sound. Downing and Tipton provide some of the best early Priest riffs in existence, while the rhythm section grooves away. And meanwhile, Halford shows off his unmistakable range and talent. It all adds up to a beautiful, complete whole.
The album starts well with "Prelude." This isn't one of those pointless intros that so many albums erroneously flaunt. Instead, what you'll find here is a moody piano instrumental. It's rare for even true classical music to come close to this type of grandeur. From the first second, the album gives off a dark, oddly threatening atmosphere that is even more greatly amplified while looking at the album cover.
And then "Tyrant" invades your consciousness. This is where the fun begins. Sporting the best lyrics on the album and amazing riffs throughout, the song proceeds to immerse you in its glory. The best part has to be the chorus. Over moans of the song's title, Halford curses the evils of dictatorship. Listen to the venom as he snarls "hideous destructor." Hear the awesome, speedy solos. If you're not already captivated, there's something terribly wrong with you. And at the end of the song, out of nowhere...
"Every man shall ... FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL!"
There's one word that should be in your head right about now: "Wow."
Keeping up the steady stream of quality, "Genocide" bursts onto the scene. Entering with some great, bluesy riffs, it continuously kicks you straight in the ass for almost six whole minutes. The lyrics stay awesome, and so does the music. I dare you not to flash the horns when Halford masterfully and rapidly belts out the second "total genocide." See if you can keep yourself from enjoying the spoken middle passage. I sincerely doubt you can. And finally, gasp at the sheer awesomeness of the final verse while Halford effortlessly whips out line after line of speedy rage.
You may think at this point that the album may soon become such a sprawling monster of a masterpiece that you'll faint from exhaustion. But don't worry; now you can catch your breath - because up next is a beautiful, elegant ballad known as "Epitaph." This is a rare chance for you to hear Halford's wondrous lower register. The lyrics are very sentimental and moving, giving you a feeling of simultaneous sorrow and exuberance.
I hope you got some rest, because the metallic fury now returns with "Island of Domination." This song has some of the best riffs yet, including an excellent, driving middle section. Halford once again provides face-punchingly awesome vocals, this time adding a rough, heavy quality to some of the lines. And now, with the awesome fade-out, you've got about ten or so seconds to prepare for the might of...
...VICTIM OF CHANGES! This here is an obelisk of heavy metal - one of the best songs the genre can show off. It's one of the two absolute best Priest songs, too, along with a song that appears later in this album. After the mood-setting fade-in, one of the best riffs of the 70s kicks in. Trust me - your life is not complete until you've heard it. It's that good. The first line of the song assails you with one of Halford's trademark banshee shrieks. He sounds tormented through the whole song, enhancing the mood. Another great part of the song appears right after the first chorus, where several chords ring out with the perfect balance of tone and consonance. And then there's the subdued middle section, one of the high points of the song. Here's your last chance to relax, because right afterward you'll be shot upright like a slacking soldier upon a shout from the general. Why? Only because Halford screams one worthy of the record books. Seriously - if you're hearing this for the first time, your eyes will shoot wide open in awe.
Next up is "The Ripper." Following a cool intro riff, Halford growls out the menacing thoughts of none other than the infamous Jack the Ripper. The atmosphere here is dark and sinister, and you may even start to worry that Jack is coming for YOU. This song has some seriously awesome lyrics, and, at the end, another barrier-breaking scream.
If you've survived this much, let me be the first to congratulate you on a job well done. In fact, you even get a reward. And here it is - Sad Wings of Destiny's other masterpiece: "Dreamer Deceiver / Deceiver." It's the magnum opus of Priest ballads (a title for which there are many contenders), and for good reason. There are many things that make this song great - first off, the gradual rise in vocal pitch. At the beginning of the song, Halford sings pretty low, subtly raising his voice each verse, up to a somewhat average pitch (by his standards). But then, out of nowhere, he breaks out an entire verse in his unbelievable banshee wail. If this part isn't his highest ever, I'll be damned. On Halford's heels a slow, elaborate solo emerges, and at the climax, "Dreamer Deceiver" transitions into "Deceiver." This part continues the heavier sound of the previous one, with still more awesome lyrics and quite a few wails on Halford's part. And then the album ends with a short acoustic passage.
Congratulations. You've made it through the stupendous work of art that is Judas Priest's "Sad Wings of Destiny." If you didn't enjoy it, kindly leave everything and go live in a box in the slums, you tasteless slob. For the rest of you, you've just experienced a bona fide miracle of heavy metal. Your life is that much more complete - and once again, congratulations on a job well done.