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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).