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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.