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Okay, technically Judas Priest’s Sad Wings of Destiny is not the beginning for either the band or heavy metal. Heavy metal, as a genre of music, started with Black Sabbath’s eponymous debut, and Judas Priest released their first album, Rocka Rolla, in 1974. Sad Wings was, however, the beginning of something else. It helped propel heavy metal into what it is today. It lessened the blues influences and added in more classical melodies, which would increase on their next two albums. It even shows some signs of the early stages of thrash metal in “Tyrant.” In the end, Sad Wings has become a heavy metal classic that is worth respect.
The album starts very strong with the classic “Victim of Changes.” This song has been a live staple of theirs for the past thirty-five years, and for good reason. It’s slow, but extremely heavy. It has a nice chunky low-E peddling riff which has been a staple of metal since the beginning. Rob Halford demonstrates his vocal talents as he shows his falsetto to the nations. It has some progressive overtones, and it has a break for a softer part, both of which only add to the overall effect of the song. “Victim of Changes” is an embodiment of what heavy metal truly is, and has inspired countless metal musicians to this day.
Up next is the short and somewhat simplistic “The Ripper.” This riff is also somewhat slow; in fact the only riff on this record that is really fast is “Tyrant,” and none of the members really shine instrumentally here. Nonetheless, “The Ripper” is catchy and hard to resist. You can also tell that Iron Maiden was obviously influenced by this song, especially with its guitar themes.
Afterwards comes one song in two parts. The whole song is entitled “Dreamer Deceiver,” however it was divided into two parts, “Dreamer Deceiver” and “Deceiver.” The first part, “Dreamer Deceiver,” is a slow acoustic ballad that has somewhat of a folkish feel to it. It tells the tale of a wizard who takes a group of young people to a heavenly place where they are completely content. “Dreamer Deceiver” is not only one of the best ballads that Judas Priest wrote, but it also contains an amazing solo by Glenn Tipton, the first of many. The second part, “Deceiver,” is an aggressive metal track with a somewhat gallop rhythm. This second part tells of how the youths were deceived by the wizard and are trapped in his domain. ”Deceiver” shows Rob Halford’s finest vocal performance on the record. This two part song is definitely one to check out.
The album stumbles slightly with “Prelude,” a rather pointless piano intro to the next track, “Tyrant.” It makes no sense as to why this soft piano track serves as an intro to the fastest, and arguably the heaviest, song on the album. I guess it serves more as a filler than anything.
Fortunately, the band rebounds right back with “Tyrant.” This is a fast and aggressive metal track that is definitely one of the earliest speed metal tunes. One could even say that “Tyrant” is proto-thrash metal, and I myself would have to agree. Without this riff, I don’t think that bands like Megadeth and Exodus could have even existed. And not to mention that killer harmonized solo towards the end of the song. The harmonies laid here are some of the best Glenn and K.K have ever done. All of these, plus some kick ass vocals from Halford and a solid drum section from Allan Moore, make “Tyrant” one of the highlights off of this record.
Unfortunately, the record stumbles again with “Genocide,” although not nearly as badly as it did with “Prelude.” “Genocide” is more rock than metal and is just not as energetic or as groundbreaking as the other songs on the album. It does get more metallic towards the end though, which helps the song recover, and the lyrics aren’t half bad either.
Getting closer to the end, we find the song “Epitaph,” after which their current and final world tour is named after. This song is another little ballad, but not quite as strong as “Dreamer Deceiver.” The problem with Priest is that when they wrote a ballad, you never really knew if it was going to be only decent, or very good. “Epitaph” sees the Priest try to sound a little like Queen. Not that I have anything against Queen at all, it’s just not exactly the style for Priest. Still though, it definitely has a somewhat irresistible charm to it, and some nice heartfelt lyrics.
To close things off, the band goes out in a blaze with “Island of Domination.” It’s another midpaced, heavy, and aggressive metal track that really gets your blood boiling. It really starts to boil when you get to the little breakdown which is somewhat bluesy, but is still heavy and give the song an interesting mix that works. And of course there is Halford’s screams at the choruses, which are still spellbinding.
To wrap up, Sad Wings of Destiny has its flaws and stumbles a couple of times, but is nonetheless a heavy metal classic which is worth owning, and a great addition to any metalhead’s collection.
- Heavy, interesting, and complex
- Some groundbreaking material, especially on “Victim of Changes” and “Tyrant”
- Incredible vocals from Rob Halford
- Some amazing riffs and solos from Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing
- Some fans may be turned off by “Genocide” and “Epitaph”
- “Prelude” serves as more of a filler than anything
Overall Grade: 94%/A