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Regardless of the inconsistent musical foundation behind "Sin After Sin, the album shows a more mature side of the band and the blueprint on which they built their way forward. Furthermore, the music featured herein would also provide much of the rhythmical construction for several speed, power and thrash metal bands, in other words, almost everything but the most extreme subgenres/forms of metal. And believe it or not, this rhythmical construction would be provided not just by the tremendous guitar duo formed by Tipton and Downing, but also by the teenager, talented drummer Simon Phillips, who in just few minutes of an impressing performance would show the first references of certain drumming techniques such as the double-bass.
The album is opened in such an impressing fashion by "Sinner", which is quite tricky, since despite of the softer riffs and the Zeppelinesque influences featured therein, it is full of speedish drumming passages, such as the ones played during the chorus, which are somehow similar to many other that would be featured in "Painkiller". Then, the Joan Baez cover "Diamonds and Rust" is much more of a Halford thing due to the strong emphasis given to his vocals, and his intonation throughout the lines of the song would be part of different compositions of many European power metal bands; but rather than simply that, it is one of the best covers ever done in the heavy metal history, simply played in their own way.
And even though the band left behind much of the atmosphere and sound of their preceding album, the ballads did not run with this luck. The band wrote two impressive ballads ("Last Rose of the Summer" and "Here Comes the Tears"), and the dark and gothic lyrics embedded in the songs would fit perfectly the soft and dark atmosphere of these ballads. "Call for the Priest" holds one of the basic constructions that would be featured in speed metal music, and it is possible to mention a good number of songs built on this blueprint, starting with the slower-paced epic Blind Fury's number "Out of Reach" and also their faster opening track "Do It Fast, Do It Loud".
The stellar moment of the album is the closing track "Dissident Aggressor", which is tremendously ahead of its time. Firstly, since the song features a drumming technique which would not be common during the 70's, that is the double bass drumming. Furthermore, its riffs are stronger than in any song of the album, providing a very aggressive sound, which altogether with "Tyrant" would estimulate the creative abilities of Kerry King and company in such a way that no single band would ever do. Definitely, it is the most vicious song and the heavier moment of the band in the album.
Perhaps "Sin After Sin" is not considered the most memorable release of the band; however, it is one of the most influential. And after their succeeding release "Stained Class", the band was leading into a huge commercial success that unfortunately would put things in a wrong place. That is, masterpieces like this one would be forgotten and abandoned, and other average releases like "British Steel" would be overrated. Therefore, the album is recommended for people who really want further knowledge on heavy metal music, but it is mostly advisable to give it a chance. It would provide excellent moments for sure.
This was the first Judas Priest album I have listened to and it still stands as one of my favorites. This seemed like the band's most creative peak in their career as the album breaks a lot of ground and has a great layer of diversity to it to cap it off. After following Sad Wings of Destiny, which was a lot more blues rock based, they drifted away from relying on what had been the trend for most metal music in the 1970s and started what music would become in the latter portion of the 1970s into the early 1980s.
The musicality on this album shows the Priests at their most creative. The energy is intense on many of these songs and push the limits on what was acceptable on metal album during this period of time. Downing and Tipton show what it can be like to have duel guitars on tracks bounce either off each other or together in a masterful way. One of my favorite aspects of this album, however, are the guest drums by Simon Phillips which add a layer of heaviness to the album especially on tracks such as Let Us Pray / Call the Priest and Sinner. Halford's vocals are amazing on this album and hits some of his highest notes in his career in songs such as Starbreaker and his most emotional and dramatic on songs like Last Rose of Summer. Overall, this is one of the band's tightest albums together.
The production on this album is heavy and clear. The sound isn't too mushy but at the same time, it isn't too thin either which would be the problem on their next album, Stained Class. The double bass sounds amazing with the guitar tones that have their own signature sound. The vocal harmonies are on point and don't overpower the guitars, bass and drums. You can even hear the bass on this album which was something that was hard to hear on many albums during this era.
With all that I have said, this album could have been perfect. There are a couple of songs here that completely kill the vibe of this album. First, Raw Deal is just another bluesy track that has a slow start but redeems itself in the latter half. Here Come The Tears is what essentially brings this score down to, well, not a perfect score. It's just boring and grows very dull and tired after the first couple of listens. Rob's vocals are missing the edge on them as he had on other tracks and the guitar work is pretty generic. This song would eventually start a very bad trend of piss poor ballads that would show up on future Judas Priest Albums.
While this albums has its Diamonds and Rust, I cannot deny that this is one of my favorite Judas Priest albums. With the band inspiring acts that would dominate the NWOBHM scene in the next year or two, this was a solid start of an amazing era of game changing music. However, the end of the Priest's creative era.
You know a band like Judas Priest is freakin' awesome when you hear so many unique opinions about their many different albums. The trilogy of Sad Wings of Destiny, Sin After Sin, and Stained Class is downright legendary, all three of these are essential listening for every metalhead. This is obvious, these records were groundbreaking and kick total ass even to this day, but metal fans young and old differ on one question - which one is the best? I know people who say Sad Wings is Priest's best, and others who say that Stained Class is the best. But no matter your opinion, you can't count out Sin After Sin! In my book, this album is inferior to its predecessor and successor, but it is still a force to be reckoned with.
Despite my opinion of it currently, I had a really hard time getting into this album. To me, this is far weaker than both Sad Wings and Stained Class. The music within is largely the natural progression from the previous effort to Stained Class, which means less blues influences and more speed and aggression, at least for the most part. I, for one, think that this album is a bit soft. It's not even as heavy as Sad Wings was. There are three ballads, and one mostly mid paced track - so right off the bat, this album is not the even close to metal beasts that were the slices of bread that make up this proverbial sandwich. This can be a big turn-off to those coming from one of those to this one, but do give it a chance. It took a while to grow on me, but now it gets frequent spins from me.
When this album wants to be awesome, it's downright badass. The album opens with "Sinner", which is one of JP's most insanely badass tracks to ever come from their entire discography. The song features a set of ballsy and driving guitar riffs accompanied by awesome bass and drums for its entire running time, not to mention the eerie interlude section. This song is by far the best on the album, and it gives a showcase of the kind of 70's Priest angst that the album dishes out a good bit of. Other highlights include the famously wicked "Dissident Aggressor" with its pounding drums and borderline thrash riffing - for 1977, this was nuts. It still is nuts. These two, along with "Call For the Priest", "Starbreaker", and parts of "Raw Deal" are the bread and butter of Sin After Sin. Totally riveting classic heavy metal awesomeness.
The lesser parts of this album are the ballads. One of the biggest songs from this album, the Joan Baez cover "Diamonds and Rust" is the stand out among these. The song is extremely creative, as turning this old folky song in to what Priest have done to it is pretty unique. That being said, this song is not as good as everybody says it is. It's a good and memorable track, but it loses its charm quite quickly. There is also "Here Come the Tears", and this song drives me freaking nuts. It is not a terrible track, entirely, but it comes across as a whiny, dramatic ordeal that wastes no time in grating on the ears. I don't care if this is considered "emotional" or "touching", it's a total flop that detracts from the album.
I think rather harshly of "Diamonds and Rust" and "Here Come the Tears", but I do love "Last Rose of Summer". In fact, it's my second favorite song on the album. It's actually in my top 3 Judas Priest ballads, its entire being is beautiful, peaceful, inviting, and delightfully relaxing. The charming acoustic guitars accompanied by the soothing electric leads craft a marvelous soundscape for Rob's creamy soaring vocals. Definitely a winner of a song, but in the long run, it's the ballsy, aggressive tracks that make this album great.
The instrumentation of Sin After Sin is fantastic. Many claim this as Rob Halford's best performance, and while I say that goes to Stained Class, Rob kills it on this record. He never pushes the register too high, but he makes perfect use of his insane talent to its full extent. The legendary twin lead duo of Downing and Tipton bring their full bag of tricks as well, each featuring a blazing performance of fretboard wizardry. The solos are a bit frenetic, featuring some very early usage of whammy spamming in addition to some more noisier soloing techniques. The leads that sometimes accompany Rob's vocals and the leads on "Last Rose of Summer" are amazing, showcasing these guys' ability to give warm soaring lead melodies.
Ian Hill is awesome on this album, with the bass lines being groovy, creative, and the perfect backbone for the band. Thanks to the albums crystal clear production, his bass tone fits the guitars perfectly - he punches through the mix while also blending with it nicely. He also locks in wonderfully with drummer Simon Phillips, who brings an insane performance to the table. Simon Phillips is utterly fantastic here, and the drumming is one of my favorite parts of the whole album. He is fast, creative, dexterous, and his fills are way ahead of their time. The drumming on the interlude of "Sinner" is one of the best highlights of the album, and he adds a ton to the song. Overall, Priest rocks hard on Sin After Sin, just like they did on the previous album.
While Sin After Sin is definitely my least favorite of Judas Priest's legendary trilogy, it still is a great heavy metal record. The musicianship is top-notch, the production is sheer perfection, and even though there are a few weak tracks, this album ends up being one of the best JP albums. I'd be lying if I said this didn't take 4 or 5 months to grow on me, but I would recommend this to all fans of classic heavy metal.
Sinner rider, rides in with the storm.
The devil rides beside him.
The devil is his god, God help you mourn.
Do you, do you hear it, do you hear the thunder?
Deafen every living thing about.
Can you, can you see it, can you?
See the mountains darken yonder.
Black sun rising, time is running out.
Sacrifice to vice or die by the hand of the Sinner!
In 1977 Judas Priest released their third full-length album entitled 'Sin After Sin'. For me, this is the perfect follow up to their second release 'Sad Wings of Destiny'. This is when the almighty metal gods found their 'formula'. What do I mean by this? By this, I mean their cohesive ability to write songs to their full capacity and in their own unique style. This 'formula' which I speak of is very apparent in their previous full-length release but not completely consistent yet. This album shows their experience kicking in and as a by-product of this they found the freedom to write a consolidated album in which I find myself in awe with every play. No matter how many times I listen to this gem I simply cannot get enough.
No other album opener from the top of my head can impact me so such as the 'Sinner' song found on this record. As soon as you are blasting this opener you know you're head banging! My favourite part in this song would definitely have to be the middle break down part. Just listen to the intensity of those guitar squeals! Yes, this album starts off with a right screamer. The album just flows nicely from here. Up next is a beautifully recorded cover of Joan Baez. Rob Halford continues to show just what a great vocalist he is by showcasing his huge vocal range.
What you will realise with this release of Judas Priest is the fact that it has everything on offer. If you want a faster paced belter then you have songs like 'Sinner', 'Let Us Pray', 'Dissident Aggressor' and if you want a slow paced ballad then you've got songs like 'Diamonds and Rust', 'Last Rose of Summer' and 'Here Comes the Pain'. The album will literally take you on a journey bringing you up and taking you back down to earth at those most crucial moments. There are also a couple of mid-paced songs which are great too, 'Starbreaker' and 'Raw Deal'. As you know Judas Priest love to harmonize their melodies and riffs and this album doesn't lack in that department. Sweet harmonisations followed by crushing riffs (just listen to Sinner for a slice of this action). If we move on to the musicians you will find Simon Phillips on the drums. I thought he provided a great performance. Bass on the album is audible and good but that's about as far as I'll take that. The best performers as always come from the guitarists (Tipton and Downing) and vocalist Rob Halford.
'Sin After Sin' is definitely a must need for all heavy metal maniacs out there. This is simply an inspiring and very enjoyable album to listen to. I believe it deserves to be in every metal fans music collection and that goes for anyone who's into the more extreme side of metal because quite frankly without bands like Judas Priest raising the bar with such albums like this I seriously don't know how metal would have evolved.
My personal opinion tells me for the worse!
Everybody knows that Judas Priest was the catalyst for millions, if not billions of metal bands that were to follow them. They defined the aggression that followed the heaviness, and were basically the very first bricks laid after the cornerstone, said cornerstone being Black Sabbath. They were still refining themselves in the mid 1970's, however, and even on their third release, "Sin After Sin", there remains some pieces of their "Rocka Rolla" days. Nevertheless, the album still soars with hints of the band's more powerful direction in the future.
The album opens with what I consider to by my favorite track, "Sinner". The reason being that it's just as fast-paced as "Tyrant" on the previous album, and has more licks to get behind. Like the long songs on "Sad Wings of Destiny", it also seems a little progressive, as it consists of more than just the standard two or three verses found in "Tyrant". It even slows down near the end, but that doesn't mean that the entire song is ruined by any means. It just demonstrates the band's experimental style that was going on at the time of the album's release. One song that doesn't do much with experimentation, however, would be the classic, "Dissident Aggressor". It's pretty much crunching and powerful the whole song through, not much more than just mostly aggression. It is kinda slow during the verses, but the song barely lasts more than three minutes - hardly a typical 70's progressive rock song, if you'd ask me.
Remember, this is the 70's, and heavy metal was still in its embryonic stages. As such, there's songs on "Sin After Sin" that borderline hard rock, 'cos that's what dominated the airwaves around that time. "Last Rose of Summer" is anything but hard, and hardly anything that anybody'd expect from Judas Priest. Simply put, it's basically a 70's hard rock ballad that sounds exactly like something Bad Company would cough up. Unless you don't really appreciate classic rock much, I really wouldn't consider "Last Rose of Summer" to be that bad of a song. Although it's considered another ballad, "Here come the Tears" is a potential candidate for a good song. It's harder, more metal-based, despite being at a plodding pace, not to mention Rob Halford's varying vocal range, from his signature high notes, to a sobering, baritone/bass that comes during the chorus. That song alone shows just how talented Rob Halford is when singing. It proves that he's capable of more than just his metal screams to convey one song's anger. He can also convey the sorrow of another.
Did you know that "Diamonds and Rust" was originally a song written and performed by Joan Baez, the female equivalent of Bob Dylan? I'm sure you do, since you've most likely read the album's notes on this website. We all know that Baez never really used electric guitars, so would a Judas Priest version of "Diamonds and Rust" be the 70's equivalent of the band's ill-conceived cover of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" on their "Ram it Down" album in the 80's? Not so fast! The band took "Diamonds and Rust" and made it their own thing. They've introduced the heavy guitars that made them famous, sped up the tempo, and otherwise made the song more aggressive in a sense. For this reason, if you listened to this song before the original, you'd find it hard to believe that it's actually a cover! They've taken what's a folk song, and turned it into a hard rock/heavy metal song, and that's covering a song done right.
Even as a more experimental effort, it still carries quite a few good songs. It might not be what we'd all expect Priest to be, but hey, this was only their third album, and the raging speed of "Exciter" would come much later. Even with that being said, there's quite a bit of heaviness to be found on "Sin After Sin". It may be a product of its time, but it's still got what Priest would do plenty of in the decades to come soon after.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.