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Sacrifice to Vice - 60%

Frankingsteins, December 17th, 2007

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.

1. Sinner
2. Diamonds and Rust
3. Starbreaker
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.