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 ·
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Music journalist Martin Popoff describes three important stages in the development of heavy metal. The first is invention, for which he cites Black Sabbath’s debut and Deep Purple’s “In Rock” album. The second is reinvention, which according to Popoff occurred with “Sad Wings of Destiny”. I personally agree. Heavy, loud, and aggressive rock became a trend with gathering force at the turn of the decade, but within a couple of years, the hard rock scene with its lyrics about women and fast times or hard times and upbeat melodies replaced the heavier downer rock style of the heaviest of the early seventies’ bands whose lyrics were often about political corruption, war, death and environmental disaster. By 1975, heavy metal was a term used to describe any loud and heavy rock, including music by Aerosmith, Bachman Turner Overdrive, and Nazareth. True metal needed a hero to bring back the "heaviness" of the music and lyrics.

Judas Priest recorded their first album in 1974, and though it featured the latest members of Rob Halford and Glenn Tipton, much of the material was from the Al Atkins days, with more of a heavy blues-based and sometimes progressive style. “Sad Wings of Destiny” includes some remaining material from the old days (“Victim of Changes” is a combination of Al Atkins material and something from Halford’s former band Hiroshima) but was built on a lot of fresh ideas. There was a new approach happening here, and while trying something new for the sophomore release is tempting for a lot of bands, it can also be a disaster. Fortunately for Judas Priest and for the heavy metal world, the new songs inspired rather than disparaged.

The keys to the new sound were lots of heavy bar chord riffs, Halford’s operatic and gifted vocals, and lots of excellent guitar solos by the two lead guitarists with different styles. A personal favourite of mine has always been “Tyrant” which opens with one of the coolest riffs of the 70’s and an excellent pointer to the way metal would develop. The song includes two different choruses and two guitar solo breaks with a distinctly different approach to each, the first being more badass and the second more melodic. Halford hits the high notes here as he would come to be known for doing.

Of course, “Victim of Changes” is an outstanding piece of metal work with some ultra-heavy riffs and that smooth, meditative trip in the middle that slowly gives way to heavy metal thunder at the end with another soaring Halford note.

There’s more of this metal music on “Genocide”, “Deceiver”, “The Ripper” and “Island of Domination”. And one of my favourite melodic guitar solos ever appears on the very beautiful “Dreamer Deceiver”, a song which also showcases Halford’s vocal range from low and soothing with ethereal falsetto to powerful high notes delivered in a range that few men could ever manage.

A curious thing about this album is the use of piano in “Prelude” and “Epitaph”. I don’t know of another Judas Priest album to use piano as the lead instrument. Word is that Glenn Tipton actually played classical piano for many years before switching to electric guitar rather late in life. Because of this, he played piano and synthesizer on the Gull Records albums and his solos are said to be the more melodic and classically influenced while K.K. Downing’s solos were wilder and more visceral.

“SadWings” has so many positive points for a traditional metal album and it makes for an incredible album in the history of heavy music in the 1970’s. Listening to it, it’s easy to see how this album could be like gasoline on the early fires of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. However, after listening to it again the other day I made a few observations worthy of criticism. My introduction to this album was through the truncated version (minus “The Ripper” and “Epitaph/Island of Domination”) that appeared on “Hero Hero” with the entire “Rocka Rolla” album, and now I feel that the production of these omitted songs is different from the others. Perhaps it’s just my CD reissue that has this, but I feel that some of the vocal overdubs are too loud. I also find the playing almost emphatically harsh, unless that is again a matter of the original mixing. The piano in “Epitaph” seems banged and struck as if to add emotion but it comes across as lacking finess.

Questions about the mixing notwithstanding, there are some excellent traditional heavy metal songs on here and some fantastic riffs. Certainly, this was the style to follow to give us heavy metal as we knew it by 1979 when the dam began to burst.
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more than 2 years ago
I feel after Sin After Sin they had great songs but few really great albums. Screaming for Vengeance is still a favourite album of mine, though.

UMUR, good point. They were still working on the sound and style of music rather than being Metal Gods. They were a favourite band of mine for a couple of years in the 80's and I have most of their albums on CD now.

Unitron wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Great review, definitely one of their best.
UMUR wrote:
more than 2 years ago
I´ve never been much of a Priest fan, but this particular album is brilliant IMO. There weren´t all about heavy metal thunder and leather at this point, which I greatly appreciate...

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