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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.