JUDAS PRIEST — Sad Wings Of Destiny (review)

JUDAS PRIEST — Sad Wings Of Destiny album cover Album · 1976 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
“In the cosmos is a single sonic sound that is vibrating constantly, and if we could grip and hold on to the note we would see our minds were free”

Sad Wings Of Destiny is one of my favourite albums of all time and an absolute classic. Together with Black Sabbath’s first six albums and a few albums by Deep Purple and Rainbow, Judas Priest’s Sad Wings Of Destiny is one of the most influential Metal albums ever and it is not hard to see why. The dual guitar attack had, of course, been done before by Wishbone Ash and Thin Lizzy among others, but within a Metal context Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing pioneered this approach. In a way they did they same kind of thing with two guitars as Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord did with one guitar and one Hammond organ, but Judas Priest took it to new levels in terms of speed and precision and inspired legions of followers in the process. The heavy Blues influences present in much early Metal music (or ‘Proto-Metal’ as it is called here) and that were also predominant on Judas Priest’s debut album were almost entirely eradicated here which resulted in traditional Heavy Metal as we know it. Another essential ingredient was, of course, the very distinctive lead vocals of Rob Halford which were also clearly influenced by Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan, but again taken to new levels and again inspired legions of followers; Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden being but one of many.

The original 1976 vinyl album opened with the bombastic instrumental Prelude which was a perfect way to open the album and lead the way into the excellent Tyrant. For some strange reason all the CD re-issues of this album opened instead with Victim Of Changes. I think that contemporary listeners should program their CD-player to play the album in its original running order. But regardless of in what order you play it, what follows is a tour de force of great riffs and melodies, inspiring tempo and mood changes, incredible guitar duels and some beautiful slower acoustic passages. It is very plausible that they were also influenced by Queen who had just released the amazing A Night At The Opera album the previous year. The Queen influence is most apparent in the extravagant vocals, in some of the arrangements and perhaps most notably in the Queen-like piano ballad Epitaph. Like most Queen albums, Sad Wings Of Destiny is very varied and alternates between different tempos and moods both within the same song and from one song to another to great effect. The end result is a perfectly balanced album with infinite appeal.

It is hard to pick out favourites from such a uniformly excellent album but Dreamer Deceiver and Deceiver (which should be regarded as two parts of the same piece) are especially brilliant. Here Halford gets to show off his whole vocal range as the song moves from slow and reflective to aggressive to high-pitched Ian Gillan-like screams. Since Prelude and Tyrant basically forms one piece and Dreamer Deceiver and Deceiver also, the album basically just has seven songs and the average length of the songs hints at how much is going on in each of them.

Sad Wings Of Destiny is not only Judas Priest’s best album but an essential Rock classic; it is essential listening not only for Metal fans, but equally so for fans of Prog Rock and Classic Rock in general.
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