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Never turn your back on The Ripper! - 95%

Brainded Binky, February 23rd, 2015

In 1976, there were many big bands that were classified as "heavy metal", yet there were only a few that actually were, the biggest one being Black Sabbath. It would be a band that at the time, was somewhat overlooked, that would bring help bring forth the NWOBHM, and with it, the rejuvenation of metal as we know it. That band was Judas Priest, and while many bands that the public put into the heavy metal category didn't quite fit the credentials of most of us, Priest was the band that would. Their first album, "Rocka Rolla", isn't quite what we expected from them, as they just started out at the time, but it would be "Sad Wings of Destiny" that would predict the band's destiny as one destined for heaviness.

Judas Priest was still experimenting with their style, even at this stage, so you'd expect to hear some songs that aren't quite at the same level as "Painkiller". Even so, they still managed to inspire quite a few people, including the young Dave Mustaine, who mentioned its significance in his autobiography. From the hard and driving power of "Tyrant" to the slow and menacing "The Ripper", this album totally fits into everything that would qualify as true metal. When experimenting, Priest has made quite a few promising results, even when they aren't quite fast. Such is the case for "Victim of Changes". Despite its slow tempo, it would be the heaviness and the raunchiness of the guitar power that would help make it stick. An even better song is "The Ripper", which also has a slow tempo. A fast tempo isn't needed in order to fulfill its status as a Priest classic, all it needed was sinister-sounding riffing with lyrics that conveyed the even more sinister nature of the titular Ripper, and everything was in place. It might not have been the most headbangable of a song, but bear in mind that this was the 70's, and songs at this pace were perfectly acceptable at the time.

Oh yes, there will be power...a lot of power. "Deceiver", for example has a crunching and chugging main riff, but that would be nothing compared to the fast and driving aggression of "Tyrant". Not only does that one have that driving pace that would be a stepping stone for Priest to get into "Painkiller" mode, but it's also got that crunch that defines heavy metal. Its main riff also consists of the power chords that many other bands at the time would never even dare to use, due to their aggressive nature. Those groups have only one goal in mind; to sell as much records as possible so that they could live the rock n' roll dream. Judas Priest sort of had the same goal, except they were willing to innovate. A dual guitar attack wouldn't be uncommon today, and that's mainly 'cos of Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing being the pioneers of this phenomena. During the 70's, nobody could ever expect the dueling guitar solos of "Tyrant" and "Genocide" to come out of any band.

Even when the band is at its softest, there seems to be something to like. Take for instance the gloom of "Epitaph". At first glance, it might seem like a bit of a cheesy barbershop quartet song about love and whatnot, due to the backing vocals ooing and aahing, but the lyrics convey something much more serious; the inevitability of death. The piano, along with the somber vocal delivery of Rob Halford, only adds to the dark and sad nature of the song. It's sort of a memento mori for anyone of any age, from the time of its release to today and beyond. "Dreamer Deceiver" actually has some guitar power, but it's mainly acoustic guitar power, making it very soft. It has a more mysterious and eerie tone to it, so it's perfectly acceptable to enjoy it. "The Ripper" has a mysterious vibe to it as well, but it's much more aggressive to fit the more abrasive, bloodthirsty nature of the song's subject matter. "Dreamer Deceiver", however, appeals more to fantasy and thus it doesn't need to be as hard as "The Ripper".

"Rocka Rolla" may be the first full-length effort by Judas Priest, but it would be "Sad Wings of Destiny" that would truly define Priest as a metal band. It would lay the cornerstone to the band's career, as well as set the standards for the millions of metal bands to come in the future. Everything has to begin somewhere, and the fastness and aggression of the metal that we're familiar with began here. If Black Sabbath invented the heaviness, it would be Priest who would invent the aggression, and songs like "Tyrant" are proof of what musicians can truly be capable of.