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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.