Welcome to PRIEST WEEKEND! It’s a long Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, and…
Well, here’s the truth of it. I had three Judas Priest reviews lined up and needed a spot to schedule them. A three day weekend worked. That’s how much thought went into the scheduling of this Thanksgiving theme.
Enjoy PRIEST WEEKEND starting with their immortal second album…
JUDAS PRIEST – Sad Wings of Destiny (1976 Gull)
It’s quite a shame that Judas Priest haven’t regained the rights to their first and second albums. Too many fly-by-night labels have done shoddy or half-arsed reissues of the albums and Sad Wings is no exception. This one, on Snapper, isn’t too objectionable. It’s funny to see “digitally mastered” on the front sticker, as if this is some kind of selling feature. All CDs are digitally mastered! Remember that old AAD, ADD, DDD logo that used to appear on CDs? The A and D refers to analog or digital processes: recording, mixing, and mastering. Every CD is at least AAD. The “informative liner notes” (by somebody called “Krusher”) is just a blubbering general history essay on the band.
Fortunately, no matter how it’s packaged, the music is exceptional.
“Victim of Changes” defines “epic”, and probably remains Judas Priest’s definitive word on the epic song. This is actually a mashup of two earlier songs called “Red Light Lady”, written by Rob Halford, and “Whiskey Woman” by original singer and founder, Al Atkins. That’s how it came to be that Halford shares a writing credit with his predecessor, an unusual circumstance indeed! The finished song “Victim of Changes” has everything: the concrete heavy riffs, the drama, the melody and the unearthly screams! It takes its time, but it simply lays waste to the landscape. By the time Rob nails his final scream, you may find yourself hard of hearing. As if that wasn’t enough, “The Ripper” (a shorty) contains even more screams-per-minute than “Victim”. Priest seemed to take a turn away from blues, towards metal on Sad Wings of Destiny. The first two songs are as sharp and devastating as anything else in the Priest canon.
Although they are often separated on compilations and whatnot, “Dreamer Deceiver” and “Deceiver” are more or less one song. One sounds incomplete without the other. “Dreamer Deceiver” is an airy, acoustic number about some sort of ethereal being. It is as entrancing as its title character:
“We followed the Dreamer through the purple hazy clouds,
He could control our sense of time.
We thought were lost but, no matter how we tried,
Everyone was in peace of mind.”
Rob’s vocal performance on this one ranges from the deep and dramatic, to the wails that Priest fans crave. It is the blueprint for similar early Iron Maiden tracks such as “Remember Tomorrow”. Even the guitar solo is a well-composed piece of music, but this is just the beginning. Morphing into “Deceiver”, the acoustic plucking has changed to an electric chug. This time the guitar solo blazes rather than cries. “Deceiver” burns out quick, ending the first side.
Side two begins, as it obviously should, with a piano instrumental! Glenn Tipton wrote and performed “Prelude” which is really just another track meant for you to let your guard down…before being ploughed over by the evil “Tyrant”! He is the destructor, and every man shall fall! The way Rob screams it, you believe it. This is straight up the alley of prior tunes, like “Ripper” and “Deceiver”: fast, lean, and heavy as balls!
“Genocide” is a change of pace, a leaning towards the mid-tempo ground that Priest would find great success with later. There is a Priest stamp to it: a simple 4/4 beat, a couple of cool riffs, verses, chorus and solo…but I like the slow middle section best. “Sin after sin…I have endured, but the wounds I bear, are the wounds of love.” Sin After Sin was used as the next Priest album title. Then, another surprise. “Epitaph” is a piano ballad with Rob singing with a Queen-like backdrop of vocals. Only piano and vocals, that is it. Once again this is a Glenn Tipton song, and even though Priest let on that they had quiet tendencies, this is still a bit of a shocker. “Pretty” is an appropriate word. It is a tour de force for Rob, who performed some very intricate singing.
Chugging off to into the horizon, “Island of Domination” is the final track on a purely excellent heavy metal album. Multi-layered Halford screams usher in the final assault. Rocking both heavily and intelligently, the mighty Priest finished the album with a blitzkrieg, taking no prisoners. From gallop to groove, “Island of Domination” has a bit of everything Priest did well.
What an album. Do you like heavy metal music? Then you need Sad Wings. Period. Exclamation point!