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This album sits in-between Sad Wings of Destiny and Stained Class. I can count on one hand the albums more influential to metal. The number of albums better is similar in scarcity. Sin After Sin is not as great as those two, but it is still amongst the very best Priest ever mustered. Most of the contributors are in good form for this, the songwriting is pretty good, and there are some classics on here.
The guitarists on here are superb. The riffing on the non-ballads is very good. It does have a hard-rock vibe as often as not, but the songs themselves are pretty definitely metal. The soloing on here is worth noting. This is Priest's first album to have their high-end oriented sound, so their famous piercing, screaming guitar leads are on full-strength here. The solos on Sinner, Starbreaker, and Dissident Aggressor immediately come to mind. The first and last also showcase another aspect. Downing was the first metal guitarist to specialize in atonal whammy-abuse solos. Many hate this kind of soloing, but it is at least interesting to see it's origins.
The drumming, is one of Priest's first good ones. The session drummer, Simon Phillips, was very technical for the time. He shows good use of the double-bass for a drummer of this time period, and he has been cited by many metal drummers as inspirational. Due to prior commitments, he declined to join Priest, but his replacement was even better. Ian isn't really special on this one. I would say that this is the first Priest album where Ian isn't really contributing. He can be heard, barely, but he does much less of interest compared to Sad Wings.
Some have argued that this is Halford's best outing, and it is very possible. Halford's vocals in his prime were something. The range, vocal control, and consistency are pretty much the pinnacle for a clean metal vocalist. Dio and Dickinson can take him for power, but that is all. As far as rock vocalists go, Freddie Mercury and maybe Ian Gillan could match him. This is where Halford first really milked his lower pitch for an album, but there's still plenty of high notes. Lyrically, this is one of Priest's better albums. Sinner, Call For the Priest, and Dissident Aggressor would be well-written metal songs in any era.
I touched upon the production earlier, it is higher pitched. It was apparently state-of-the-art for the time. I don't feel that it serves the music very well. It's more fitting than the debut, but the adjacent albums used their weaker production to invoke very heavy atmospheres. This can't do that. Also, for being big, it's kind of thin at times. I'm not sure how, but it sounds like the studio just inflated the sound like a balloon. If they wanted it louder, I would have rather them simply double-tracked or something. One thing for it's atmosphere, it has a very Gothic feel. The mausoleum on the front and the very depressing songs give it a depressed feel at times. I would rather a heavy feel, but this is rather unique in their catalog.
All in all, this is a pretty good effort. This isn't as good as the adjoining masterpieces, or Painkiller later, but this is still better than their 80's albums. Nothing troughs as badly as Take These Chains, United, or the goofy duo that ends Defenders. This also contains much of Priest's 70's aura. It is hard to put into words, but there is an art to what Priest did around this time. They took the dull, thudding instrument that Sabbath had forged, and they forged it into a sharp-edged rapier. This feel doesn't get to shine as well here, but it is still unmistakable. This is recommended to all fans of early metal and hard-rock.
Sad Wings Of Destiny already featured a peculiar sound, distinct to most of 70’s hard rock music around, totally pioneer and influential for the upcoming British wave. However, you could still notice some of the usual clichés of those times; the band was still developing its identity, experimenting with pianos, ballads (“Epitaph”, etc.) and other disposable elements they had to get rid of if they didn’t want to be another predictable rock dinosaur. The following release meant a step forward for the consolidation and achievement of the definitive classic Priest sound, though it was still inevitably plenty of common characteristics of the music of that time. Although some of these tunes certainly showed a new methodology most of NWOBHM would later emulate.
The opening title-track itself meant a huge improvement from the topical early Priest nature, a composition whose tempo gets fast and loose, defined by a rich variety of riffs with those bridges, breaks and straightforward aggression denying uniformity to reach a fine level of technique. Actually that middle-solo is kinda noisy and inconsistent with K.K. going nuts, though the rest of the song execution is pretty disciplined and accurate. The excellence of Downing & Tipton’s riffing becomes soon notable, their lines so lethal and ideally developed during the cut, also constructing competent bases for “Dissident Aggressor” or “Starbreaker”, once again completely guitar-based but giving Halford’s insistent verses much attention. The tempo gets quieter on those, weightier and calmed, more traditional, making riffs gain intensity and presence, undoubtedly lacking the originality and inventive of the rapid tunes. “Raw Deal” is one of those surprising numbers of the pack, peaceful and casual at first, getting so frantic and raw in its final part, defining the essence of speed metal with that mighty double bass-drum rhythm of Mr. Phillips. Speed is a vital element on “Call For The Priest” as well, a much heavier violent title, combining that vicious rampant riff with Rob’s harmony vocals so stratospheric and vivid, like the sound of a church choir on a Sunday morning performance. So both pioneer songs keep a reasonable balance between sonic violence and sophistication, arrangements in fact are generally clean and vocals mellow and refined, making them distinguished and energetic at the same time. Melody is always there, noticeable and present during most of the record but particularly indispensable on both ballads “Last Rose Of Summer” and “Here Come The Tears”, the first one quite repetitive and vain, the second truly emotional and dramatic including one of Rob’s most memorable performances.
Priest are putting bigger emphasis on riffs and velocity, unconsciously setting the rules of a new level, a new genre in case you don’t interpret heavy metal as hard rock’s following incarnation, a pioneer pattern that made their music so fresh, vibrant and different from most of bluesy rock groups, which were getting mediocre by the end of the decade. These guys managed to maintain here certain progression and some trace of blues/jazz inspiration combined with straighter riffs and rapid rhythms, so they’re still going through a transitory phase between the classic and the new style. Later they’d reduce difficulty and play it even faster, simpler and more direct, getting rid of the 70’s schemes completely. In this album, the configuration of the cuts is mostly easy in comparison with the symphonic rock stuff of other British acts, yet meticulous, elaborated and advanced in contrast with what they would do in the 80’s. Musically this material is rich, diverse and melodic, characteristics they would usually deny later, making this early stuff unique and special. They’re making use of acoustic guitars on those ballads, some keyboards and tenderness which would get tenuous shortly afterwards to fit the new decade trends. Although among all this sophistication, aggression and velocity can be found also. Those pioneer speed metal tempos and double bass-drum kicks weren’t new by 1977 (remember Deep Purple’s 1971 “Fireball”? Curiously Roger Glover produced this), though the greater attention Priest put on them made those elements more notable, designing the nature of their music and showing possibilities no one else explored before. Not only speed is admirable, K.K. & Glenn’s exquisite riffing made a different from the rest too, more solid, convincingly constructed and developed, becoming the leading force of the band, pushing away slowly the typical bluesy nature everybody else was stuck on.
Sin After Sin was indispensable for the evolution of the genre, it meant the beginning of a new era for Priest, who were no longer the unfocused humble group that recorded Rocka Rolla. Still there are some old-fashioned clichés, cheesy romance and bluesy riffs left but aggression, velocity and intensity became noticeable stable characteristics of their music here. So this is one of the heaviest hard rock albums of the 70’s, one of the most unfairly ignored works of Halford and co., in contrast with the hugely popular 80’s material. It’s obvious their early albums haven’t been heard enough and should get much more recognition. Sad most of fans only remember the Joan Baez cover...
Sometime back, during my quest to seek out the earlier works of Judas Priest, I had skipped over this album in favor of it's successor, "Stained Class". Which is disappointing, not only because this album is crucial (from the metal critic and historian's point of view) in seeing the transition Priest made to that album, but because this album immediately kicks your ass less than 10 seconds in, and continues to do so with minimal reprieve. Probably their heaviest album up to that point, "Sin After Sin" shows a band who is growing closer to discovering their identity as a band. The heavy songs are heavier, faster and more frenetic than before, and Rob Halford's voice soars over the songs, like an opera singer for a hellish orchestra.
Although every track has it's own highlights, there are a few tracks in particular that I feel deserve notice, since they show the musical progress Judas Priest has made, and since they continue to influence heavy metal to this day. Mid-way through the album, we are hit with "Let us Prey/Call for the Priest", which mixes the prog elements that we've come to expect from Priest's previous albums with the up tempo metal attack of the rest of the album, almost helping to invent the idea of prog metal. The song also contains a duel guitar solo that predates Iron Maiden's albums by three years. "Here Come the Tears" is one of two ballads on the album, but I mention this over the excellent "Last Rose of Summer" (a song with a watery guitar tone and soulful melody that sounds as if it could have influenced Pearl Jam, of all bands) because it grows closer to what Judas Priest would accomplish with "Beyond the Realms of Death" in terms of mixing melancholy with metal. Of course, there is "Dissident Aggressor", the epic finale of the album, where Rob's falsetto reaches unprecedented heights and the guitar attack sounds like a precursor to the thrash metal that dominated the 80s (no wonder Slayer covered it!). The closest thing to a "commercial" song on this album, even more so than "Last Rose of Summer" is the Joan Baez cover "Diamonds and Rust". With remarkably calm guitars and a rhythm line that brings Heart to mind, the song seems a prediction of Priest's more commercial work in the 80s, as well as much of the commercial metal in the 80s in general.
Although those songs deserve note because of the influence I feel they had on heavy metal (as well as rock in general), this isn't to discredit the rest of the album, especially the ripping opener "Sinner" that feels like the logical realization of the "Born to Be Wild" riff. I also can't help but pass up the hard rocking "Raw Deal" if mainly for the innuendo in the lyrics: "All eyes hit me as I walked into the bar/ Ad seeing other guys were fooling with the denim dudes". Though the reference to gay culture should now be blatant to anyone familiar with Judas Priest's career, it wouldn't have been as obvious then, when leather gay bars were still in the shadows of society, and such a reference would be an esoteric in joke. So I have to admire that, even when Rob Halford was "in the closet", he still left subtle hints to his sexuality with only a wink and smile to any possibly knowing fans (though the line "The true freedom of expression I demand is human rights" should have been a no brainer even then).
Released in 1977, the year punk rock was king, the speed of the songs on the album seem like Priest's answer to bands like the Sex Pistols, and some of the songs are still fast and heavy enough to go up against today's metal. The progressive elements feel better integrated into the album than their previous two efforts, and Judas Priest now have their own identity as a band separate from the rest of the crowd at the time.
The 70's was a time a major classics for then fresh band Judas Priest. They had the grand metal milestone "Sad Wings of Destiny" under their belts, and would soon the birth the fearsomely fast and dark "Stained Class" and the rambunctious, condensed "Hell-Bent For Leather". But in 1977, the band (under new label Columbia) put out this odd offering, the cooly-titled "Sin After Sin". To say this sucker is inconsistent would be an understatement, going back and forth between moody love ballads to bouncy mid-paced stompers to all-out brutal speeders. Fans oft consider it to be a bonafide classic, but I don't know.
There is a timeless feel to it, though still rooted in the 70's in a nostalgic manner. The performance of the bandmates are top-notch. Halford's voice is as golden as ever, his range across the boards from mournful hums on "Last Rose of Summer" to ear-piecing death shrieks on "Dissident Aggressor". Tipton and Downing lead on strong with a number of riff-happy leads; while I'm not huge on the album as a whole, it does feature some of the greatest solos of these guys, whom weren't quite yet fully at their dueling stages. Ian Hill's bass is quite solid and fairly audible in the mix. He has a few nifty fill moments and keeps an especially solid rhythm in numbers like "Raw Deal" or "Sinner". Then we have one-time Priest drummer Simon Phillips. Too bad he popped up just once, because the guy's one of this album's fucking highlights. His range is astounding, allowing for diverse speed and sound to the songs. His fills are vicious, his solos killer, his contributions unforgotten.
There's only eight songs on ere, amazingly adding up to forty minutes. The "weaker" moments, as they are, are the sappy slow ones. "Last Rose of Summer" is barely a Priest song in any guise, staying mellow and even boring in its near six minute run-time. "Here Come The Tears" is in a similar vein, but more condensed with a bit more attitude; Halford's vox and Hill's bass shine nicely here. "Starbreaker" fares a bit better with its bouncy, bluesy riffage but comes off a little unmemorable after the fact, as does the pedestrian and frankly kind of annoying cover Joan Baez's "Diamonds And Rust". "Raw Deal" is fairly solid; it has a raw (duh) guitars assault and cool vocals, but the middle solo goes on for a bit too long. This leaves us with three songs. Opener "Sinner" is absolutely cool, armed with a sharp, bouncy main riff, some of Halford's most diverse singing on the album, wicked drumming and a moody solo that offsets the rest of the song. "Let us Prey/Call For The Priest" is even better, somewhat eliminating the former song's bluesiness. It starts with a sort of Queen-like intro (Call For The Priest) and after a short, quiet buildup, we crash headfirst into the album's fastest, best track, coming quick with Phillip's best drumming and the best solo on the album, a truly spirited tour-de-force from Tipton and Downing. Closing things up is what was probably the heaviest song in the world at the time, "Dissident Aggressor". Odd sound effects give way to quiet but heavy guitar plinking and some cymbal taps, then one of Halford's highest screams ever; it's almost inhuman. Wash it down with brutal riffage and highly aggressive vocal shouting.
Overall, I don't find it to be a true classic. While the band's performance is top fucking notch, the highly unusual inconstancy of the song selection is very off-putting, going from heavy as fuck to quiet and lightweight whenever it wants. There are some okay moments, and the last three songs I mentioned are fucking fantastic, but I find this one to be a little overblown. Don't listen to it expecting heavy metal band Judas Priest; expect a more "I'm not quite sure where we're going with this" Judas Priest, and hopefully maybe you'll like it more than me.
Freed from Gull Records and with a new confidence about them following the success of Sad Wings of Destiny, Judas Priest brought a follow-up to the table that was almost as mighty as its illustrious predecessor. With fast-paced songs like Sinner and Starbreaker consolidating the outlaw biker image the band were beginning to cultivate, the blueprint for later albums such as Killing Machine and British Steel began to take shape. Meanwhile, slower, doomier songs like Here Come the Tears or Let Us Prey/Call For the Priest proving once again that Priest could move from quiet moments of reflection to raucous cries of despair as on Dreamer Deceiver/Deceiver on the previous disc.
Unlike Sad Wings, however, Sin After Sin isn't an absolutely perfect album. The end of the side presents the unwelcome spectacle of Priest turning their hand to romantic soft rock in the form of The Last Rose of Summer. It's not incompetently done soft rock if you like that sort of thing, but it's hard to deny that it feels ludicrously out of context; it just doesn't fit on the same album as Raw Deal, for goodness sake.
Still, other experiments on the band's part are more successful. Their first cover version, Diamonds and Rust, takes a Joan Baez folk rock tune and turns it into an emotionally powerful metal anthem whilst album closer Dissident Aggressor might just be the angriest thing the band had produced up to that point. Close to perfection, but kept away from it by a flower of all things. Kind of a shame when you think about it, but the album's merits more than overpower its flaws.
Let me get one thing out of the way first: I LOVE Judas Priest. There are very few metal bands that I actually have a respect for bordering on reverence, whose members I might actually worship almost as gods. And Priest is one of them. Although I don't love all of their albums equally, the vast majority of their output from Rocka Rolla all the way to Painkiller is either very good, really good, excellent, brilliant, fantastic, or outright magnificent and superlative. Three of Priest's albums from 1980 to 1990 - Screaming, Defenders and Painkiller - are among my top heavy metal albums of all time.
But their 70's output is equally, if not even more brilliant in places, and unlike a lot of loved albums in 80's metal deserves almost all of the praise it gets. For a start, none of it is genuinely overrated because it's not popular enough. It's not underground as such, but considering how big Priest would later become and still are, the likes of Sad Wings and Stained Class are fearlessly experimental, genuinely progressive, at times crushingly heavy and far ahead of their time without being commercial at all.
So how does Sin After Sin fit into all of this? Unfortunately, i have to agree with the general consensus - this album is no Sad Wings, and it's no Stained Class. It's very, very far from bad, and has a load of good and even some great moments. But it isn't as good. It lacks the wondrous consistency, daring progressiveness (well, there is some of that, just not as much) and dark atmosphere of the former, and seems rather tame compared to the almost brutal heaviness and speed, constant crushing heavy metal and musical brilliance of the latter. In a word, it is inconsistent, something which is not usually a very good sign for a Priest album. If not for this inconsistency it would be equally as awesome. And yes, it is somewhat underrated. But it does have some genuine problems.
The main one being, above all else, the album's lack of a constant focus. Sad Wings Of Destiny had the heavy riffs as well as the prog elements, darkness and complexity. And Stained Class has the speed, heaviness, riffs, and a futuristic nature, and all in all added up to something that was amazingly influential on speed metal. This album, on the other hand, is actually too experimental for its own good in places. It goes from moderate heaviness with some hard rock influences(nothing wrong with that, just a point), to brutal heaviness that is easily full on heavy metal, to soft ballads (well, one soft ballad, one hard one) and this all contrasts in a way that isn't bad, but simply isn't so good as a unified album. On Sad Wings the ballads felt like a proper part of the whole and worked with the heavier songs to create a potent atmosphere. Here, they just feel like Priest trying to cover as many possible musical bases as they can. One could thus call this Priest's Queen album, but that wouldn't be an insult. Queen may not be a metal band but I like them a great deal too. And all things considered the material here is still pretty damn strong. Again, though, I just don't think all of it works properly. A lot of it sounds odd.
The best way to demonstrate this is by moving on...so without further ado let's discuss the songs. The album opens with "Sinner", which a lot of people consider to be one of Priest's best songs. I have to disagree. It's good, but it's no Victim Of Changes. That song was monumental - heavy, brilliant singing, a clean break that actually worked really well and that essential atmosphere. It was heavy metal. Sinner, on the other hand, sounds much more rocky, and while there's nothing wrong with that at all as Priest are as much a rock band as a metal one, I don't like it as much. Rob's vocals are very good though, as he adopts that tougher, meaner style he would use to great effect on later albums as a contrast to his high-pitched singing and falsetto shrieking. This song also has a break, but it isn't very atmospheric. Again, it's like the band tried to recapture the brilliance of Victim Of Changes but just couldn't pull it off as well this time. It's a good song, but has nothing on the aforementioned monster, or the crushing opener to Stained Class.
Next up is "Diamonds And Rust", which is a song that, despite being a cover of a folk song and not particularly metal at all is actually one of my favourite songs on the whole album. Here Priest really does pull something amazing off by turning a nice folk tune by Joan Baez into a reasonably nice hard rocking metal song. It's not as heavy as the version on Unleashed In The East, but this in a way adds to its charm - it's a lot softer than the opener and here, that contrast is very effective. Halford's performance here is mesmerising - from the fairly mellow (as it should be) singing he uses throughout the majority of the song to the almost screaming highs at the end, this shows his versatility to a strong degree. By extension could argue that this album showcases the light and shade style of Priest very well too. To a point i agree, but for the most part I'd say Screaming For Vengeance is far stronger in this regard. Either way this is a great little cover, probably Priest's best.
Following on from this point is "Starbreaker", and while a lot of fans enjoy this one, I find it rather boring. It's got a typically heavy, hard-blues rock main riff that works well for what it is but doesn't take away from the silliness of the lyrics or the very cheesy hand-clapping chorus. It's neither a bad nor a good song, just an average one. There isn't much else to say really...by this point on Sad Wings Of Destiny we'd already heard three brilliant songs (on my version, the first song was Victim Of Changes, but it still counts) and so it's a bit disappointing that this album can't quite measure up to its predecessor, but expected I suppose.
This is all quite good in comparison to what is about to follow, however, as "Last Rose Of Summer" is probably the worst song Priest ever penned throughout their entire career. It's that bad, even worse than the glam shit on most of Turbo. For a start it's completely soft - there's no light and shade here, just constant light in an irritating, overly bluesy, and very 70's fashion. Most of Priest's stuff doesn't sound outdated at all, but this is something rooted firmly in the era of disco, goth rock and the like. Is that an inaccurate statement? Possibly, and I wouldn't know for sure anyway as I wasn't around back then. What I do know is that this song isn't remotely metal, it isn't much like Priest, and none of this would be a problem as a one off except it's also boring as hell. When this song ended, I breathed a sigh of relief. It's the polar opposite of a masterful ballad like Dreamer Deceiver from Sad Wings Of Destiny. While that was atmospheric, powerful, had a brilliant guitar solo and a fantastic performance by Rob, this is forgettable, bland, and wholly uninteresting. Again, if this is Priest's Queen album, it's the reason why it's so inconsistent. Priest can pull off multiple styles, but they're clearly best sticking to where their hearts belong. And that's down and dirty heavy metal. Not pseudo-goth romantic ballads without an inch of heaviness.
Thankfully, Priest totally redeem themselves with the next song, which is an absolute masterpiece in every way - the strongest song on the album so far. "Let Us Pray/Call For The Priest" is brilliant. Talking of Queen, its intro is very Queen-like, with beautiful harmonised guitars creating a very uplifting feeling. Then Rob screams: "Call for the Priest...I'M DYIIIIINNNNNG!" This is the polar opposite of forgettable. The guitars get really heavy a few seconds later, and a short while after that the song becomes something close to full on speed metal. Keep in mind that this was 1977. I wouldn't say there are any flaws to this song - it's extremely powerful, heavy, and in its own way quite proggy, and works in every one of those elements.
In fact, it seems to me that this album's second half is considerably stronger than its first. We have three ass-kickers - this song, the next one, and the last one, and a heavy and dark ballad that is infinitely better than Last Rose Of Summer.
"Raw Deal" is the sixth song here, and while it isn't pounding speed metal like the track before it, and is in fact quite bluesy (albeit still heavy) hard rock for the most part, it's good nevertheless. The lyrics are quite ahead of their time, as I'm pretty sure they are an actual endorsement of gay rights, as Rob sings about this "bar" he goes to (more like an S&M nightclub) and how people should judge him for who he is, not how he lives. The most interesting aspect of the song is a heavy breakdown in the middle section which is definitely ahead of its time. It's also fairly long, and shows yet more of the band's progressive side from this point of view. All in all, a very good song.
So far, remarkable inconsistency throughout, but the second half seems to be changing that. Does this all crash and burn down with "Here Come The Tears"? Absolutely not, as this is an extremely strong and emotional power ballad. It starts out very quietly and calmly, and stays this way for almost a minute. Then that acoustic guitar line begins, and the next part is quite a lot faster. Finally, around the two minute mark heavy riffs kick in and from then on the song is heavy until it ends. It remains extremely emotional with a great solo, and throughout the whole song Rob's performance as a vocalist is remarkable, filled with genuine emotion. This is a great, proper heavy rock ballad the way it should be done. Hell, the guitars are heavy enough that it's pretty much a metal ballad, even if a lot lighter than, say, Night Comes Down from Defenders Of The Faith. Everything gets really intense towards the end, with Rob going ever more maniacal, the guitars getting harder and more intense, the leads going crazy, and the tone becoming angry, before it ends with a crash. An excellent song. At this point you may as well say the album is consistent, as the entire second half kicks ass.
And this is represented best by the closer, the monumental "Dissident Aggressor", a song that deserves every bit of praise it gets. It's quite short, but that's part of its charm. It's ridiculously heavy and outright brutal and is nothing more than that - there's no attempt at complexity or anything remotely progressive here. Just an insane bashing-over-the-head heavy metal song that probably broke quite a few sonic boundaries in its time. Opening quietly with weird sounds, it is deceptive, luring you to turn the volume up...only to be deafened at around 0:35 as Rob lets out his higher shriek yet, so high that it seems almost inhuman, while the crushing main riff begins. Then the scream fades out and the drums kick in, and this may as well be a full on thrash song, it's that aggressive and heavy. Another thing is the total lack of subtlety, which is definitely a hard-nosed heavy metal trait, one that in this case works really well. There are plenty of other cases where it works well too, but here especially - it's something unique to metal, that "we're gonna play so loud and heavy that your ears bleed, and if you don't like it, fuck off" attitude, which i often admire. Priest don't display it much throughout this record, but on this song, it's all over the place. Insane screaming from Halford with zero attempt to be anything but as in your face and mad as possible, chugging guitars that smash you over the head with simple but pounding riffs, a brief but cool solo, and yet more insanity. It's all here. If I was to pick three defining 70's heavy metal songs, then a Sabbath song, another Priest song, and this song would be them. And with that final blast of intensity the album ends. Just imagine how people must have reacted when this first blasted out of their stereos. Anyone who wasn't into heavy rock would have been horrified by the sheer heaviness of the guitars and the extremeness of Halford's vocals. This really is the first song to really display that metal attitude to the full, I think. Sure, Sabbath also had a very "if you like us, take us, if you don't, fuck you, we don't care" quality to them at times. But this song broke down all of the boundaries. Maybe someone had done something like this before, but I doubt it.
This is actually a very good album. It also doesn't seem very inconsistent when you consider that only one song here actually sucks balls and the others are all either average, good, very good, excellent or brilliant. Except that I don't really like Sinner as much as a lot of other people do, Starbreaker is boring and Diamonds And Rust is a cover song. And then everything from Let Us Pray/Call For The Priest onwards is great. So inconsistency is a problem here.
All in all, I would say that along with Rocka Rolla this is the least metal of Priest's 70's albums. The quality of the material throughout is so good that this doesn't really matter but it's still a point. Aside from Dissident Aggressor there is nothing here that really screams "Heavy Metal". On Sad Wings Of Destiny almost everything did, and that album also had a lovely gothic atmosphere that this one lacks. And don't even get me started on Stained Class, an album that screams insane, pounding heavy metal from start to finish. Everything here is much less dark than Sad Wings and far more restrained and, to use an overused term, normal in comparison to Stained Class. Variety is good, and this album has tons of it, indeed making it the Priest album most easily compared to Queen's output at around the same time. Heavy in places, light in others, and a lot of stuff in-between the two. It's still far heavier of course, and Last Rose Of Summer is the only song here that doesn't have heavy guitars at all. So it's still mighty, at times crushing hard rock throughout, but not ripping heavy metal all the way like its successor.
Despite all of this it's still a good album to say the least, with plenty of different songs to sink your teeth into and some absolute crushers here and there along with great soloing and excellent vocals by Rob. And if you love 70's heavy rock with a prog touch at times you'll absolutely love this album. In a nutshell, this is still essential for Priest fans, heavy rock fans and heavy metal fans. It just isn't quite on the level of what came directly before it and what would come directly after, or some of their heavier 80's albums or Painkiller. But if you like Priest and want something different, this is a good record to add to your collection.
Though many would argue Judas Priest had begun to stagnate in the 80s, content with party rock albums like Turbo or Ram It Down, there was a day when they were far ahead of the pack. With Sin After Sin, the band's 3rd album, they were already crafting the caliber of hard rocking chorus parts that many bands today (32 years after the fact) still cannot mimic. Certainly, the tinny popping drum cadence lodges this record firmly in the 70s, but it is a beast while nary a weak track to be found, and one of the band's greatest albums, which I look back upon with only fondness.
When you open a record with the unforgettable "Sinner" and Rob's clinically excellent, surgical vocals, you cannot fail. The Joan Baez cover "Diamonds and Rust" is melodic and soothing, each line delivered with clarity, the guitars and bass plodding gently below as Halford delivers you into the sky. "Starbreaker" delivers AGAIN, with beautiful vocals and a primal, shuffling beat, plus the immortal hand clap! Even when Sin After Sin steers into balladic territory with the "Last Rose of Summer", it does not falter, though I'd say it's one of the least interesting tracks on the album. "Let Us Prey", "Call for the Priest/Raw Deal" and the amazing "Dissident Aggressor" truly round out the album and bestow it unto history as one of the best Priest would ever record, a worthy prototype and inspiration to so many bands to come.
The production was top notch, the lyrics well written and even 'hip' (for Priest), and the songs were carefully balanced and crafted to provide an entertaining experience. This was when the concept of the 'album' reigned supreme. Whether you listen to this on crackling vinyl to wax nostalgic about your not so innocent youth, or discovering it for the first time, you can begin to understand why this band made such a huge splash, a splash that has yet to dissipate.
Highlights: almost every song on this fucking record, now run along!
Sin After Sin is often considered, justly or otherwise, “the bastard son of ‘70s Priest.” This description causes a bit of confusion regarding the quality of said album, although the truth of the matter is that this probably comes in second place out of that era, trailing Sad Wings of Destiny but preceding Stained Class. Inferiority used in conjunction with Judas Priest’s tertiary album constitutes a fundamental injustice in the realm of metal, the reason simply being that Sin After Sin contains quite a few classics in its midst.
Well, maybe it’s not that simple. All things considered, other aspects of the album contribute to the slab of metal mastery Priest managed to output at this phase in their career. First and foremost, the addition of Simon Phillips on drums after Alan Moore’s departure ultimately benefited the band; Moore, while excellent at the heavily blues-oriented material he played on, is easily beaten out by Phillips when it comes to classic heavy metal drum beats. Honestly, he’s a beast at that set, brutalizing the instrument in a way only capable of being surpassed by thrash or black metal consta-blasting. It’s a shame he was only a session drummer – he’s easily the best instrumentalist on the album.
Secondly, the production has improved. Replacing the laid-back and more subdued production on Sad Wings of Destiny, this album’s sounds more “metallic” and overall punchier. As such, those songs that attempt heavy metal monstrousness generally succeed.
Finally, variety abounds. For every screaming beast there is a brooder or something more sentimental. Whereas Rocka Rolla was basically blues rock in its basic form and Sad Wings of Destiny generally consisted of screeching predators, Sin After Sin blends both and adds a bit of surprise into the mix.
Songs such as “Sinner” and “Dissident Aggressor” mesmerize and brutalize simultaneously with Halford’s inimitable screams and wails, particularly high-register and sometimes downright evil (especially in the case of the latter) on this specific album. His vocal prowess is matched by Tipton’s and Downing’s frenzied, vaguely unnerving soloing that somehow manages majesty and flow amidst its mania, coupled with their classic metal riffs, most recognizable in the first track’s opening section. Ian Hill generally just sits in the background, but he never shined until Killing Machine anyway.
The speedy, more schizophrenic parts of the album meet their mid-climax in “Last Rites / Call for the Priest.” It opens up posing as a quiet, calm piece with its church organ intro, but it’s evident there’s something not quite right – there’s something ominous building up in the background. And after Halford’s dark, deathly moan, it finally erupts. Frenzy, mania, schizophrenia; “Call for the Priest” contains it all. As a whole, this song constitutes an amalgamation of everything Sin After Sin stands for: violence versus calm, insanity against relaxation … it goes on and on and on.
Meanwhile, the ballads – “Here Come the Tears” and “Last Rose of Summer” – exemplify the sentimentality and moodiness with which Priest can so effectively influence their audience. But they are far from similar. The latter causes a feeling of serenity and splendor, carrying a generally positive message through its consonant nature and effectively being soft and somewhat quiet without ever transgressing into “floweriness.” The first does completely the opposite – it induces sensations of loneliness, depression, and misfortune in the listener, which it accomplishes via its use of acoustic guitar and dark piano chords.
And the surprise? That would be “Raw Deal.” This was the first effective pairing of heavy metal with blues-funk, something Priest would experiment with (and mostly succeed at) on Killing Machine. In fact, there’s a logical progression. “Raw Deal” opened the doors, while “White Heat, Red Hot” carried it further on Stained Class, an album that actually contained subtle hints of the style throughout various segments of most of its songs. And then came album number five, where all these subtleties emerged from the background and progressed into something more substantial. “Raw Deal” isn’t just about the funk, though. Trademark elements of Priest’s sound permeate its tough exterior, such as Halford’s various growls and shrieks throughout the song, as well as typically classic Downing / Tipton riffing and soloing.
So, yes, Sin After Sin certainly is an oddball, but in no way can that be considered a flaw. It makes for a much more engrossing experience overall, and several of the later albums Priest released – meaning the acclaimed ones, of course – would not have come about if the band hadn’t experimented a bit here. That means no Stained Class, no Killing Machine, and probably no Defenders of the Faith. Take that as you will.
From the opening riffs of "Sinner," you know you are in for a hell of a ride on this classic Judas Priest album. The dual guitar attack of Tipton and Downing is in full gear from the get go, and Halford's vocals have a great edge to them. Then the screams of "Sinner!" combine with the blistering guitar solos, and we are rolling.
I have to admit, when I saw Joan Baez's name on the credits for "Diamonds and Rust," I thought, "Waitaminit, this is a metal album, right?" But this track is superb. Baez's lyrics and melodies fit the rhythmic drive of Priest's metal beautifully, and Rob Halford has rarely sounded better.
Hats off to Roger Glover's excellent production skills. This album sounds so clear and powerful througout, it's amazing to consider that this was recorded in 1977. Glover's ear is put to good use, and he brings out the best in the band throughout the album. I've always admired his abilities in Deep Purple, both as bass player and producer, and this product just increases my admiration.
I think the greatest surprise for me on the record is the laid back grooviness of "Last Rose of Summer." It's definitely not the kind of sound one generally associates with the legendary metal brashness of this band, but it's really a nice track. I think it's no shame when a metal band can lay it back, and the playing and singing on this track show a tremendous sensitivity. Anyway, heavy metal was just in its young years in these days, and a band like Judas Priest could afford to explore their soft and hard sides, as they do to great effect on this album.
I have read reviews of Sin After Sin that speak of Queen's influence, and I definitely heard that influence on the opening of " Let Us Prey/ Call for the Priest." In fact, as I listened to this bit, I found myself thinking of Queen's early track "Great King Rat." It's not the same style, exactly, but there are similarities in the overall sound of production: the layers of guitars, the upbeat drum pattern, and even Halford's vocal is reminiscent of Freddie Mercury. Fun track...
Although Judas Priest had not yet ascended to the prominence they would attain in the eighties, this album definitely laid the foundation for what they would later achieve. I'm not even sure they were strictly a heavy metal band at this point in their development, but regardless, this album is a hell of a good time, and is a great example of early heavy metal style. From beginning to end, it's a rock and roll treat.
Goddamn! Judas Priest sure was/is a force to be reckoned with. Fresh from the absolutely mindblowing Sad Wings of Destiny, Priest comes back with the spectacular Sin After Sin. You know? Nobody ever recommends this album, all people ever do is shove British Steel down your throat. Now that's not a bad record, but it's not the masterpiece it's often claimed to be. Let's analyze this album one by one shall we:
1) For an album recorded in '77, it's sounds pretty damn good. Granted, I have the re-release but eh. Roger Glover (if you don't know him, please die,) should continue producing, he has an ear for metal and this album is light years ahead of Sad Wings and even Stained Class in terms of production. Every instrument is crystal clear without sounding too damn poppy. In fact, it kinda sounds like a Deep Purple record (I wonder why?).
2) Rob Halford is in top form. That opening shriek in "Dissident Aggressor" sends chills down my spine. How the hell did a man produce such a shriek? I wasn't too surprised when I found out he's a fudgepacker. Oh and that "Call for the priest...I'm DYYYYYIIIING!" is the metal equivalent of an orgasmic sigh.
3) The Tipton/Downing axe attack has never been so outrageous. I mean this is only a YEAR after Sad Wings and their playing seems to have improved like hell. The riffs are godlike in this album, I wonder why they don't call this Riff After Riff? The tone that they use in this album is classic 70s, it sounds like Ritchie's tone though slightly heavier.
4) Ian Hill, ladies and gentlemen! You can finally hear the man! I guess Glover, being a fellow bassist, must've felt sorry for Ian and highlighted him in this album. He actually plays some really good basslines, though he mostly follows the guitars.
5) Simon Phillips recorded this when he was only 19! If only he wasn't a session drummer. Ah well, Les could do it just as fine. The drumming is a major step up from what Alan Moore (NOT the writer) was doing in Sad Wings. Just listen to "Let Us Prey/Call for the Priest" and all will be revealed. Seeing as how Glover produced this, the drums aren't too forward and are mixed just right.
The songs themselves are masterpieces: "Sinner," the fantastic cover "Diamonds and Rust," "Let Us Prey/Call for the Priest" and the absolutely amazing "Dissident Aggressor." There's a reason why Slayer covered that last one, though I prefer the original any day. The ballads aren't bad, I like "The Last Rose of Summer" I think it's a great song in the vein of "Epitaph." "Starbreaker" is a nice little number but I'm not too fond of it. The only song I really don't like is "Raw Deal," it just feels like a by-the-numbers metal song.
Get it? Absotively! The re-release has two bonus tracks, "Race for the Devil" and "Jawbreaker(live)." Why that live track isn't on the album with "Jawbreaker" is beyond me. To me, the re-release doesn't give this album the package it deserves. But it's still a great album. If you like ANY type of metal at all, then get this NOW!
EDIT: Changed the score, fixed some tpyos, added some sentences.
Having been dropped from Gull Records after the excellent ‘Sad Wings of Destiny,’ which remains a Judas Priest classic to this day, the band was fortuitously picked up by major label Columbia in a commendable display of foresight. Consequently, this third album is sometimes viewed as the first ‘true’ Priest album, which is wrong both factually and morally.
‘Sin After Sin’ was recorded and released in early 1977, and continued to develop the band’s distinctive sound towards the famous and much-imitated style that would dominate eighties metal while also remaining largely commercial. Nonetheless, there is a noticeable lack of the energy and aggression that characterised the previous album, to the extent that a more relaxed tone dominates and the band even heads into the previously avoided territory of rock ballads. The production values have shifted up a notch, which isn’t necessarily a good thing as I found that the raw and dirty screeching of earlier songs like ‘The Ripper’ worked to their advantage, and now the crisp-yet-stilted seventies guitar tone can be more clearly heard. Frontman Rob Halford is still captured at his screaming best, and his softer crooning is utilised as it had been on the previous albums, but apart from young and rapid session drummer Simon Phillips, the rest of the band seems to lack a certain drive that it previously displayed, settling for a thinner and more repetitive sound that ends up sounding quite bland and tedious as the album draws on.
2. Diamonds and Rust
4. Last Rose of Summer
5. Let Us Pray/Call for the Priest
6. Raw Deal
7. Here Come the Tears
8. Dissident Aggressor
Opening track ‘Sinner’ is a fan favourite, and one of the better pieces here, though aside from Halford’s surprising performance in the chorus there isn’t anything to take it to the level of earlier classics. The guitar sound is thin and slightly hidden in the background, which the usually reliable Glenn Tipton and K. K. Downing don’t try to alleviate by going all-out on solos, and like almost all songs on this album it seems to have lasted for far too long by the conclusion. Another regrettable aspect of this album is that many of its chorus vocals sound reminiscent of the regrettable ‘hair metal’ scene that dominated American metal in the eighties (the muscular blokes in make-up and ridiculous wigs playing power ballads), all of which can conceivably be traced back to this collection of songs. ‘Last Rose of Summer’ in particular sounds exactly like the generic acoustic ballads of bands like Poison that would later prove inexplicably popular despite being drab, dull and long. Halford’s croon is quite good, but it was demonstrated on the first two albums far more impressively.
The cover of Joan Baez’s ‘Diamonds and Rust’ keeps the beginning of the album fairly interesting, and it’s a shame that little the band wrote themselves could approach this standard on this record. Once again, Halford is the only real asset as he sings the borrowed vocal line, but it was a live favourite that’s captured well in the higher budget studio. ‘Starbreaker’ is commonly seen as the heavy song of this release for reasons I can’t quite understand, as it entirely lacks the power the band is capable of projecting. The drum intro is disappointing, the guitars are once again repetitive and predictable even in the chorus, and the hand clapping towards the end seems like a joke. From this point onwards, the album only gets worse.
‘Let Us Prey/Call for the Priest’ promises a more complex song along the lines of ‘Victim of Changes,’ but the splitting into two halves merely constitutes a switch from dull acoustic introduction to fast rock conclusion. It’s an okay song, but entirely average especially for this band, even seeming to once again borrow the vocal melody from elsewhere, in this case Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s ‘Karn Evil 9’ and lasting for longer than my attention span permits... which is really saying something, considering the ELP song I just referenced. ‘Raw Deal’ is, distressingly, even longer, and followed up by yet another power ballad as can be discerned merely from the title of ‘Here Come the Tears.’ Fortunately, the album manages to end on a slightly above-average note with the hard rocking ‘Dissident Aggressor,’ a song I’m quite fond of that lives up to the band’s standards at the time in a way that almost nothing else here manages. The song is short and concise, and everyone is back on form, even though the guitars could do with a bit of a kick – thankfully, Slayer would later provide this when covering the song for their ‘South of Heaven.’
A largely negative review there of an album that should have been an integral link in the indestructible chain of heavy metal, but instead hangs limply and out of sight between the two excellent albums on either side of it. It may have been due to fatigue, or even a deliberate decision to make something more accessible and mellow (in the way the band would later follow up the hard ‘British Steel’ with the soft ‘Point of Entry’), but it’s not really worth fans of contemporary metal checking out. If it has any legacy, it’s likely to have been towards areas I’d rather forget existed.
The trouble with Judas Priest has always been their inconsistentcy, and this album is no doubt one shining example of that. If some of the filler tracks had been pruned off, this would have been the album that Stained Class is (namely, the first "true" metal album). It sounds as if they wanted to make Sad Wings Part II as well as a commercial rock album at the same time, and it can come off as plain goofy in parts (namely the first 4 minutes of Raw Deal and the ballads). These songs' placements in the tracklist just kill the feel of the album, and really do it a disservice, which is unfortunate.
It's obvious that Priest can't do wrong when they crank the metronome up and just play fast on 10, like on Painkiller. The good ol' speed metal tracks on Sin After Sin are all incredible, and highly worthy. Let Us Prey/Call For The Priest is easily the standout, and still possibly the fastest song they've ever done (280 BPM), all while maintaining an excellent sense of songwriting and melody; the riffs and solos are both phenomenal. This is also the first Priest song with a true guitar duel (Tyrant seems a bit underdeveloped, and only has 3 solos) and also a killer harmony section. It's a shame this song hasn't been played live in the past...28 years or so. Hearing that organ melody as opposed to The Hellion open their live set would definitely be a welcomed change.
Starbreaker, Sinner, and Diamonds And Rust are no slouches either, though Starbreaker is the weakest of the three. All are packed with yummy riffy goodness, and again, Priest's sense of melody at this time was impeccable. Halford is spot on here, and really never screams for the sake of screaming, which plagues a majority of their post British Steel output.
The album's closer, Dissident Aggressor, has to be the heaviest song ever released for its time. After a few seconds of some pick scrapes and triplet-eighths guitar strumming, the most intense scream Rob has ever unleashed arrives. It's almost inhuman sounding (actually, it sounds pitch-shifted...or his boyfriend at the time was a bit too aggressive the night before...but who cares!), and the song never lets up after that. The riff set is punishing, crushing, and all the while, clear and melodic. Slayer had 9 years to think of a way to make this song heavier, and even they failed; that truely is a testament to this song's place as the first "extreme" metal song, blending Deep Purple's speed and aggression and Black Sabbath's bludgeoning and heaviness in a mix that not even Priest has managed to recreate (though Slayer is still trying to recreate the hurricane/cat-in-a-fan sound of the solo). For 1977, it would have scared the shit out of someone, like The Excorcist of metal. In 1987, it was still heavy as fuck. In 1997, it was still heavy as fuck. It's safe to assume that it will still be heavy as fuck in 2007.
The musicianship here (save the ever-inaudible Ian Hill, poor bloke) is superb. It's a shame Simon Phillips couldn't stay on as part of the Priest lineup, especially comparing him to mediocre drummer extrodinairre Dave Holland. The drum sound on this album is second to none in the Priest catalog. Glenn and KK really stepped up the riffage here, too, creating a highly varied musical feel with (I mention it again) a killer ear for melody, and their guitar tone is clear, bright, and heavy. Halford is also at his vocal peak (let the phlegm-filled scream in Metal Meltdown be evidence that he has been sliding down hill since this album), using his full range as needed. A very underrated slab of 70s metal.
This is a very overlooked album. And I have no clue why? It takes the brilliance of Sad Wings Of Destiny and makes it more Metal. There are absolutely no filler tracks, and not a single weak song either. With the addition of Simon Philips, the songs have a harder crunch and are overall much heavier. K.K. electrifies and Glenn does more than impress. It’s a must-have for any Metalhead’s collection.
Sinner is an evil blend of insanity and fury that grabs you by the neck and doesn’t let go. It’s a wicked vice. K.K.’s whammy-bar rage is unsurpassed and tightens the death-grip. Rob sounds extremely evil, and his scream at the end is godly. Diamonds And Rust proceeds it as a solemn but heavy track. Glenn’s licks are sheer emotion. After the middle part is Earth-quaking double-bass. It’s a great song, but its true form is live (specifically, Unleashed In The East).
Starbreaker is a terrific song that has some proto-thrash riffs scattered throughout. It’s heavy and pounds your skull in. The “Starbreaker take my hand” part is exceptional, and the solo that comes after it shreds. Rob ends it with tons of wild screams.
A big change comes with Last Rose Of Summer. Although it’s pretty good, it’s misplaced. It should be on Rocka Rolla. The song isn’t Metal, and half of it is the title being repeated. By far the weakest track. It’s not bad enough to be skipped, but shouldn’t be on the album.
Side Two is miles better and doesn’t let go for a single second. The first ever Speed Metal song, Let Us Prey/Call For The Priest pulverizes you. It’s a humongous riff-o-rama that leaves you crippled. Rob really shines here and unleashes deadly screeches. Plus, the solo is mind numbing. Everyone plays to the max. After that blast of intensity is Raw Deal. It’s very aggressive and K.K. deals ferocious licks. But the main highlight here (and the whole album) is the riff four minutes into the song. Mosh Ownage at its finest. If this doesn’t twist your spine and commence you to fiercely headbang into a violent whiplash, then nothing will. That riff is one of the best Metal riffs ever. If you don’t acknowledge that, then you’re fucking brain-dead and thus listen to rap. The song ends with fury as well. This is a definite kick-ass song, especially the last two minutes.
You’re given a little breather with Here Comes The Tears. It is a somber ballad with an excellent epic touch. It’s very majestic and fits the album perfectly. The acoustic riff at around 1:10 is pure, brilliant grace. Glenn even adds piano to escalate the drama. He plays an emotional two-minute solo that nearly reaches the level of elegance as Dreamer Deceiver’s. Plus the “Here they come, here comes the tears” is really gloomy. This is a great suicidal-lyrical song. But it came out when it was cool, not like Nirvana and other queer-ass shit. It even ends with an explosion, which is the best way to end a ballad.
If you’ve survived so far, then Dissident Aggressor is going to finish you off. It’s the last song; all is calm, and then AHHHHHHH!!!!! Your head explodes and your insides burst out. The most vicious song ever, it makes Black Magic sound like Christian music. Simon is goddamn crazy on the kit, and Glenn and K.K. shoot out skull-crushing riffs. Also, the solo is unadulterated extreme aggression. The song is headbanging rapture. You’ll certainly mosh out in these three minutes of intensive, wild madness. It ends with Rob belting out wails that disintegrates your beheaded rotting corpse. Finally they learn how to end an album right.
There you have it, blood-surging Metal for all of you hungry headbangers. It’s the first album ever to feature insane drumming. Rob displays his peak performance. Although it doesn’t have as many riffs as Sad Wings Of Destiny, the quality of them are greatly improved. Plus, the Moshing lunacy is needed for everyone to experience. Get this album now, regardless if you’re a Priest fan or not. You won’t be let down.
On the heels of the absolute classic Sad Wings of Destiny comes Sin After Sin, which is many ways a better album, but just fails to pack the killer punch that Sad Wings did, which makes it not quite (but close to) the album. Once again the band is intense, Halford packing incredible screams, shrieks, moans, howls and everything in between into this excellent work of early metal. And metal is the key word here, while Sad Wings may indeed have the qualitative edge, Sin After Sin indeed has much more of a metal background to it, fully evident in songs such as Sinner, Starbreaker and especially the closer, Dissident Aggressor. While Sad Wings did indeed have metal elements and riffs, Priest plays to a more metal style on Sin After Sin, making the album more cutting and less rockish sounding.
The production here is not terrible, this is likely because I have the remastered version, but the original is apparently nothing special at all. The guitar tone is rather weak at times (but also VERY strong at others, such as Dissident Aggressor or even Last Rose of Summer, in the acoustic passages). The levels of the instruments being rather even, with the drummer getting a bit ripped off in my opinion, as more emphasis on the drumming would have given the whole album a Dissident Aggressor style edge to it. On the softer songs, the production stays together better as a whole.
We open with Sinner, a true classic in metal. The opening riff (after the "motor rev" intro) is not all that great, but it suits the verse progression. The guitar then becomes more prominent in the pre/chorus, where Halford says "Sacrifice to vice or fall by the hand of the Sinner!!" (Great line!). The rifs really pick up later on in the song, where it goes through a sort of Victim of Changes style break, and returns for one more chorus. The lyrics on this number are incredible also, very evil without being stupid (as I believe another reviewer wrote). An excellent song.
Diamonds and Rust comes in next, with a trippy sounding riff to open into an Operatic sort of song, again showcasing excellent lyrics and riff progression through the verses. Halford puts on a good performance, but we all know that he's saving himself for later... Last Rose of Summer kicks in next, and is not a terrible ballad, but nothing particularily memorable, as Here Come the Tears happens to be on the same album, and is a much better song. The former lags around for a few minutes, before finishing with Halford reciting the song title around eight hundred times. Call for the Priest/Let Us Pray is next and really,REALLY sounds like Pink Floyd for the opening, until that is, the main riff kicks in (then we know it's not Pink Floyd...). This track flies around the room at 500 km an hour and only stops after the choruses (just to kick your ass before taking off again). Probably the 2nd best track on the album.
Raw Deal slows things down a bit, adding the bluesy element that Priest heavily used on the Rocka Rolla album, and most notably on the song Killing Machine from the album of the same name. A decent riff propells us through the verses and chorus, with some mildly strange and lame lyrics tell us of a certain kind of bar that Halford is fond of. This song really picks up at the bridge, with the guitar solo. Listen to that underlying riff. Fucking listen to that. What an awesome backing riff. The song ends sort of like Last Rose of Summer, but not as repeatitive (is that possible...)
Here Come the Tears is much more of a trip than Last Rose of Summer, but strangely less memorable. That is really all I have to say about it, other than that it is a decent ballad in the vein of Priest (read: it's better than Take These Chains but nowhere near Beyond the Realm of Death).
Finally. The epiloge. The best song on the album. This is what Halford has been teasing for the half an hour preluding this, but finally it cumlinates on Dissident Aggressor, which chugs along for a few seconds before unleashing the MOST INSANE SCREAM KNOWN TO MAN upon the metal world. The rest of the song doesn't slouch either, with heavy as fuck riffs carrying Halford's maniacal shouts and verses. This is the best song on the album, and is surprisingly not a tremendously popular Priest song. I'm telling you now, this is definitely one of the best 5 Priest songs (neighbouring Painkiller, Screaming for Vengeance, The Ripper and Beyond the Realm of Death). A true classic in it's own right.
Put down your fucking British Steel and listen to this.
Priest, at first glance, seems to be a band of even numbers (the same way Star Trek is I guess). Basically, here's a simplified look at how many Priest fans feel about the catalogue. Rocka Rolla isn't too popular. Sad Wings of Destiny is the near unanimous choice of the classic Priest-heads. Sin After Sin is considered just too odd, not nearly as good as the rest of their stuff. Stained Class is another masterwork. Hell Bent for Leather/Killing Machine is too funky, too much of a change. British Steel is a classic. Point of Entry was a disappointment. Screaming for Vengeance is the best Priest record. Defenders, while good, was a step down... and then the band sucked until Painkiller.
That's a good description of how many view Priest's catalogue. That doesn't mean it's right at all. In fact, in my opinion it's almost totally wrong. The first big wallop to the party line is the fact that Sin After Sin is not only better than anything Priest released after 1979, it's also one of the greatest albums anyone ever released, period. This is a Priest stupefyingly beyond the pale, crafting an album full of experimentation and bold intelligence that puts to shame the claim that metal cannot play in the same league as the mad geniuses of rock royalty.
True, Sin After Sin does not come down and redefine music in the way Sad Wings did, but really it could've had people decided to follow the path Priest was meandering down. The album is no less innovative than it's predecessor, but it's like the world was too busy trying to be like Sad Wings to even try to master the almost magical profundity barely contained on this little compact disc (or at the time, considerably larger black vinyl). Sadly, yet also fortuitously, Priest was literally starving, and couldn't afford to continue on in a direction that wasn't getting any attention. Therefore, the band would continue on in a mesmerizing (and virtuosic) series of massive stylistic shifts, the band moving on to futuristic uber-technical masterworks on Stained Class. This band literally went through ELEVEN big changes in a row, ending at Ram it Down.
The first big move was acquiring the inhumanly talented Simon Phillips on drums. This guy is seriously the most unique metal drummer since Bill Ward (in a totally different way), from the bouncy clapping drum rolls on "Starbreaker" to the amazingly textured cymbal-wash opening "Raw Deal". The guy manages to make cymbals of all things beautiful and eye-opening. It's true, the guy's odd style is a little distracting at times, but Sin After Sin wouldn't be Sin After Sin without it.
Judas Priest may have made a name for themselves with one-dimensional hits like "You Got Another Thing Coming" and "Breakin' the Law", but this record more than any other shows them literally doing 180 turns song in and song out. It may be disconcerting for some, but to me it's like finding a gold mine, and then discovering it's also an oil well, a diamond deposit, and home of the finest steak house in the greater Harrow area. If the album was simply bi-polar and full of schisms between the tracks, I would not be so kind, but they do every style better than any influence you might find, and more often than not are inventing a whole new sub-genre that none who followed could touch.
Opener "Sinner" sounds both newer and older (it's the guitar style I think) than the stuff on Sad Wings, an epic as unlike "Victim of Changes" as musically possible, maze-like and full of interesting production choices, most notably the OutKast-style repetition of the "god of the devils" line (check out "Hey Ya" if you can stomach it, the "shake it" bit). The solos are hot, Rob Halford electric (change those adjectives around and my review might come off as a little less innocent), Simon Phillips Simon Phillips-like.
I think "Diamonds and Rust" may be the best example of metallizing a non-metal song as of 1977, and perhaps the first commercially successful one (on a very small level) as it soon became the 'drug of choice' for metal acts looking for an in on the business (Anthrax = "I'm Eighteen", Heathen - "Set Me Free"). It's also solidly thrashy riff-wise and features a brilliantly sombre Halford performance, the melancholic lyrics perhaps actually revealing his under-utilized talent at singing lyrics that don't involve forced oral sex or winged saviours from out the sky.
"Starbreaker" belies the cold reputation of early Priest, the song finding grooves more easily than temporally-adjacent KISS and rocking out measured and headbang happy. Priest always had non-sense lyrics at times (later: all the time) and "Starbreaker" is no exception, the song apparently about some sort of interstellar ladies man come to spread his alien seed around the same cycle on which Haley's Comet swings by. Seriously, practically all of the references to 'paradise' and 'star voyage[s] to a new world' could easily be taken as euphemisms. In any case, the song as a sweet break ('Starbreaker lead us on, and on, oooon....') and an even sweeter solo, one of my favourites out of a catalogue wherein nearly every solo is pure gold.
Now, naysayers be damned, I like "Last Rose of Summer". It isn't like we're trying to challenge Altars of Madness of Necroticism here, it's a ballad in the trippy, dippy 70's style. Rob is alarmingly warm and gentle here, elegant phrasing and some delicate shading making it a good song to quiet those who write him off as a guy who just screams his head off. And for the Painkiller kids in the family, a song to hide in the closet and deny 'til the end of time. I'm not sure what the deal is with the background vocals are on about because they get creepy after a while, but otherwise Rob is a perfect ten and Simon's soft drumming chops (not to mention Tipton and Downing's melodic leads) get some nice exercise before the next onslaught.
"Let Us Prey" is a brilliantly church-y intro, organ-like lead guitars and Halford's out of this world wail introducing us to Priest's most Purple song, and also the song in which Priest proves that in general, they're way better than Purple ever was. This is an update on Purple speedsters like "Fireball", "Speed King", "Highway Star", and "Demon's Eye", that old guitar style very similar save for the fact Priest is playing at such unhealthy speeds that often you can't tell. Here the writers are obviously a little upset with the media who panned Priest's early records and ignored the hell out of the brand new ideas served up on the preceding platters. At least they don't chew out magazines by name the way Axl Rose did in musical form. Priest busts out a fiery lead duel that shames anything Purple ever did (well, maybe not "Pictures of Home"), Halford pronouncing from his high-upon-high metal god throne, Phillips in the boiler room playing some super-fast fills and jamming in as many sounds as possible into the standard fast-drum style. I just wish I had something to say about poor Ian Hill.
Yet another total switch-up. Virtually nobody remembers that Priest used to be pretty damn funky, tracks like this and later "Killing Machine" and "Burnin' Up" grooving (in the true, general music definition of that term) like no other metal band before or since. This is Purple's hackneyed white funk (and God forbid, Zeppelin's horrific white reggae) done right, Rob Halford giving us a tour of a gay bar... errr, western saloon (I'm sorry, but read the lyrics) while the band cruises by in a bouncing low-rider. Furthermore, the song contains what I consider to be one of the first mosh breaks, the basic blueprint for any number of neck-snapping Anthrax/Pantera breakdowns, as well as one of the most dramatic ride-outs in rock history. Have I mentioned that Rob Halford is the most amazing singer in all of metal?
Next, another ballad yet in no way similar to "Last Rose". This is the type of dripping sorrow that you can share with your snarling denim 'n' leather buddies. It's slow, gothic, almost like a psyched-out alternate universe version of The Gathering. Rob is so reserved on the first part of the song, Ian Hill droopy and mercurial (Yes!), Phillips acting texture and feel through sparse drums... and then the more brisk acoustic guitar moves in. Really, this is the most "Victims"-style song on the album, sorrow and resentment mixing as the song gradually builds. The crunching guitars supporting operatic wails in the heavy part of the song are perfect, this highly melodic doom feel permeating your innards, the loss implied expressed so perfectly that the only comparison at the time was the emotional connection of terror in "Black Sabbath". The final 'here come the tears' are so eerie because it sounds like Rob is singing 'land of the dead' which is so appropriate for the crashing epic finale of the song.
And now for something completely different.
Goofy little drum fills, sound effects, unidentifiable instrumentation, a build up to.... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is that even human?! On a pair of headphones that noise is so high-register that your eardrums feel like bursting. Hell, it's enough to blind you for a moment to the incredibly heavy riffs being pounded into your skull. Like nothing else, operating on a level nobody else was even thinking about, "Dissident Aggressor" is no less than the most advanced metal written by '77, in fact, heavier and more intense than anything up until around 1980. It's amazingly brief as if this kind of power can't be kept up for long, more metal than Satan lyrics, riffs and sheer mind-melting power that had me literally flattened against the mattress (do most of my listening in bed) with my mouth agape at the damned song. If I'd be walking down the street I may well have fallen over. Then, I ruined by throat snarling along in my best death metal growl. If this song doesn't make your head bang unsafely, you may very well be dead. And the solos, the solos! It literally sounds like Tipton and Downing picked up some forked tridents and started spearing demons and casting them writhing into the light, their death-screams recorded for use in this ultimate plateau of metal power. Really, metal has rarely been better since.
Anything after THAT would be an anti-climax, but the light and loose "Run with the Devil" eases you back into reality with it's catchy, light riffing and solid performances from all involved. After that, a nice live version of "Jawbreaker" (apparently the band didn't perform many of the tracks on this record that weren't already on Unleashed in the East) closes the affair in a fine fashion.
You know it's albums like this that make me embarrassed about the choices Priest made post-79. As good as British Steel, Screaming for Vengeance, and most of all Defenders of the Faith are, they'll never be as flat-out great as this stuff. The creativity was drying up, the brilliance nearly used up, the band destined to a future of ridicule from the lay-man, and to be slotted in behind upstarts like Iron Maiden in the great metal sweepstakes. Still, we should bow toward the undeniable genius that Priest once had and, if a miracle happens, may yet regain. Sin After Sin, the most experimental Priest record and ultimately one of the most satisfying.
Stand-Outs: "Dissident Aggressor", "Starbreaker", "Here Come the Tears"... okay, that's virtually random. Any track would do.
Yes, this album is indeed very underappreciated. The members of Priest are all in an excellent shape on this album. Rob's vocals are unbelievable, the guitarwork is mindblowing, the bass is excellent and the drumming is insane.
The bluesy feeling from the two first albums still play a big role in the sound of this album, but the Priest is more and more turning to an all out heavy metal assault.
Sinner opens the album in a grand way with that classic guitar riff.
The song has a quite evil but still upbeat feel to it, with the classic bluesy 70's Priest touch. After the first vers comes the chorus, which has an amazing vocal performance.
The song also has three mindblowing guitar solos, some of the best they've ever done. It's an incredibly strong opener for an incredibly strong album.
Diamonds And Rust up next, a cover of Joan Baez. The song contains a very cool bass riff, which is very discrete but builds up the song very good.
There's no actual solo in the song, but some killer guitar licks.
The song is very good, but not in the same league as the magnificent opening. Although, on Live Meltdown '98 you can find a beautiful live version of this song, with some of the most emotional vocals you have ever heard.
Starbreaker opens with a killer drum intro, and soon the main riff kicks in. Very catchy and a really fun listen. Killer guitar work, and excellent drumming. Session drummer Simon Phillips was used on this album, and he's an amazing drummer, mostly because of his wide range. You could make him play the drum in any song by any band in any genre, and he'd sound perfect.
Another killer guitar solo is to be found in this song, which is not more than what you'd expect.
Last Rose Of Summer is the first of two ballads on this album. Pretty good song, but it could've been better.
The bass and guitar riffs are very emotional, and Rob's vocals are beautiful.
A very well executed solo is to be found, but maybe a tad too short.
It's unfortunate that they have to repeat "Last rose of summer" for what feels like hours at the end of the song.
Let Us Prey/Call For The Priest is the best song so far. Let Us Prey is a powerful beginning, with some killer melodies, and an immortal opening line: "Call for the priest, I'm dying!" Then, the song gets going with a blast.
The song is pretty much speed metal, with killer riffing, strong vocals, and amazing drums.
There's some beautiful guitar leads in the song, and a mindblowing solo.
Raw Deal is a pretty cool song. It's quite slow paced, with a drugged, bluesy feeling to it. The guitar riffing is among the best on the album.
The ending section of this song is among the strongest ever, right after Rob sings/screams "I gave my life, I am immortal!" From that part, the guitars speed up, and goes into a simply amazing bridge.
It then continues into the final part of the song. Rob screams like a madman, and the song is suddenly over. Very good song, this.
Here Come The Tears is the second ballad, and the better of the two. This is in fact one of Priest's greatest ballads ever.
Beautiful acoustic guitars, a dark and truly emotional vocal performance. Especially on the bridge, where Rob sings in his high-pitched voice, filled with melody and sadness.
The solo is beautiful, and it leads into the ending section, and slowly fades out into the final track.
Dissident Aggressor is opened by some weird sound effects, and a guitar riff slowly tuning up. Without warning, Rob Halford delivers a mindblowing scream, while the main riff kicks in.
Rob is divine all through the song, this is certainly one of his better performances ever.
This is the heaviest song on the album, and one of the best. It simply kicks ass from beginning to end.
On the remaster, you can find the bonus track Race With The Devil, a cover on the band Gun.
It's a rather decent track, with catchy riffwork, great leads, licks and a solo by Glenn Tipton.
There's also a live version of Jawbreaker on the album, but it's pretty bad. The opening is speeded up for no reason and it feels pretty disorganized.
The studio version is definitely better. But there is a raw feeling to the guitar riffs, which is probably the only improvement that has been made.
When Rob screams "Jawbreaker!" At the end of the song, you wonder what the fuck he's doing. It sounds like a rooster with something very big and uncomfortable stuck up it's ass.
Overall, the album is a very strong effort, and easily worth getting. The best songs are Sinner, Call For The Priest, Here Come The Tears and Dissident Aggressor, but all of the songs are very good.
This album is definitely recommended.