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Caught Between Two Masterpieces - 84%

stainedclass2112, April 30th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2001, CD, Columbia Records (Reissue, Remastered)

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!