The sound of a piano and a synth is not what I'd normally expect on a metal album - but then we are talking about 1976, a year or two before the genre finally started to cut loose - and this is arguably the album that kicked it all off.
With Sabbath producer, Rodger Bain still twiddling the knobs, the production seems at odds with the music still, as it did on the debut, but the band's identity is becoming ever stronger, and shines through.
To my ears, this isn't as strong an album as The Scorpions mighty "In Trance" album of the previous year, Alan Moore's drumming being noticeably "boom-pish", and the playing and compositions are far less technically challenging - I do feel that this album is rather over-rated, although I do enjoy it and recognise it's importance in the great scheme of things.
Tipton's compositional skills really aren't all that, as Prelude is a somewhat unconvincing start to this impossibly influential album, with sounds of Queen-lite (meaning Queen on their first two albums!).
An ominous mood is nevertheless established, and "Tyrant" is the song that launched a thousand bands, many taking the title as their name. It's not as intense as "Dark Lady", but that riff can be found in many a NWoBHM composition, and the bridge passage to the solo duel that follows is classic Priest. The second bridge/twin solo is also a great progressive twist, and Rob's own vocal duet is masterly.
The somewhat hesitant intro to Genocide leads to yet another classic Priest riff that was to be plundered by the up and coming generation. Again, the structuring is more progressive than you'd expect from a Metal song of this period, but there are moments where I feel the music is somewhat hollow.
Epitaph is a straight homage to Queen, and a non-metallic song - but the composition is far better here - not Queen by any stretch, but actually not far off.
Island of Domination is a welcome return to the heavy stuff, but again, there's that sense of hollowness until the main riff kicks in, with heavy Budgie and Sabbath ("Children of the Grave") flavours.
Again, Priest get most experimental during the instrumental section, exploring ground laid by Sabbath before them, but taking it forward.
This is an album of two sides though; Side 2 (the first 4 songs on all but the first release!) is the stronger - if the album had continued in the same vein as Side 1, it would be a different story.
Side 2 takes a lot of influence from fellow Brummies, The Sweet - particularly from the song "Sweet FA" on the album "Fanny Adams" of 1974. Play the song (or, at least, the intro and outro - also listen to "Into The Night" and "Set Me Free" from the same album), then listen to the following tracks, and the direct line is unmistakable.
Victim Of Changes, a composition by original vocalist Al Atkins, is the strongest on the album - and a mighty fine epic it is too, although much of the soloing is rather bluffy for my tastes - and packed with Rudolph Schenker style whammy bar action! There are plenty of more original touches - and I can hear the direct influence on Diamond Head.
The Ripper follows - building on a long tradition of songs about the infamous Victorian criminal, popularised in the 1960s by "Screaming" Lord Sutch, and is another massive song, with more Queen and Scorpions tribus.
Dreamer Deceiver is another Atkins song, and the obligatory balladic moment. While slightly bluffy still, the solo here is beautiful as it slithers, snake-like around the frets, competing head on with M. Schenker and Uli Roth for the "most awesome solo of 1976".
Wrapping things up is the "Children of the Grave" inspired "Deceiver", with the unmistakable rhythmic motif derived from the theme to the UK long-running sci-fi series "Dr Who", originally composed by Ron Grainer and realised in electronics by the impossibly talented Delia Derbyshire, later abused by 90% of any metal band that wanted to be taken seriously...
An absolutely massive finish to a rather weak starting album. I disagree with the masses in that I don't find it to be a masterpiece as an entity - Side 1 is just too weak.
It's true that "Sad Wings" is massively influential - but there were other bands that were touring and exerting a huge influence too - so I have to come to the conclusion that this album is rather over-rated, in the truest sense of that over-used term, and in fact it's "Sin After Sin" that bears the real Priest crown. Both Simon Phillips and Les Binks kicked Alan Moore's ass, and provided the powerhouse that Priest needed to catapult them into the Metal Gods realm.
An excellent, nay, essential addition to any metal collection - but do check out the albums I name-checked to keep things in perspective!