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
3/5 ·
Vim Fuego
Do you remember the Atari 2600? It was a gaming console which first hit the market in 1977, and revolutionised home entertainment. A year before Space Invaders hit the arcades and chip shops of the world, the 2600 allowed you to play video games in your own home on your own TV. And the games which eventually followed were great fun to play, as many were ports of popular arcade games, the afore-mentioned Space Invaders being the killer app which really put the 2600 years ahead of the competition. It was followed by NintendoSegaMegadriveGameboyGenesis, or whatever the other wannabe consoles were, but none ever matched the 2600’s longevity, remaining in production for 15 years. Many modern day console gamers revere the 2600, because it paved the way for so much of today’s gaming innovation, culture, and methodology, but would they ever go back to playing just the 2600?

No, they would not.

Despite all it’s innovations, by today’s standard, the 2600 looks old and primitive. Look at a game like Adventure, for example. It was the first adventure/RPG available on a console. The main character is a block. Yes, a little coloured square ran around a castle and, among other things, could carry a spear which is supposed to be a sword with which he could kill a duck. Er, sorry, a dragon. Yes, the dragons looked like ducks. The mazes were blocky and reasonably simple. Compare this to the total immersion of any modern day RPG, like The Elder Scrolls or Witcher series, and it doesn’t even seem like the same technology. However, the basics are still the same- console, screen, controller.

“Sad Wings of Destiny” is an Atari 2600 album anachronistically stuck in a heavy metal PS4/XBOX ONE world. Yes, it is a thing to be admired and respected. Without it, modern metal would not exist in the form it does. It helped lay down the foundations and fundamentals of metal. But metal has moved on.

First though, the positives of this album. It is chock full of those masterly riffs Judas Priest made their career on. The first track “Victim of Changes” crashes straight into that stunning riff, and chugs away like the Little Engine who Fucking Well Could. Second track “The Ripper” is a creepy little fucker, portraying a sense of lurking evil.

A young Rob Halford is an eargasm all it’s own. His clarion call voice is crystal clear, He has the vitality and bite of someone young and ambitious who has an amazing vocal gift. His voice soars, dips, wails, emotes, and threatens. Halford adds colour and nuance, perfectly complementing the crashing metallic music of “Tyrant” or the subtle tones of a picked guitar on “Dreamer Deceiver”.

After a while though, the cracks begin to appear.

The pacing of the album is odd. “Dreamer Deceiver” is just too slow too soon after “Victim of Changes”, and really drops the album flow on it’s ass. True, “Deceiver” picks up the pace again, followed soon after by “Tyrant”, but then there’s another big flat patch with “Genocide”, which reeks of filler, followed by the piano/harmonised vocal song “Epitaph”. It sounds incredibly out of place, more like a rejected track from Queen’s “A Night at the Opera” sessions. Album closer “Island of Domination” is a rollicking rocker with a dirty groove, and just leaves the listener wondering what the fuck Judas Priest were really trying to do with the album as a whole.

The biggest problem here is it just doesn’t sound heavy enough. Volume helps, but it isn’t everything. Yes, a blasphemous thing to say, but there really is a lack of energy and punch to the whole thing which cranking up to 11 and snapping off the knob just won’t fix. Metal was still a relatively new genre in 1976, and studios, producers, and engineers often didn’t have much experience with recording it. As a result, large parts of the album are flat. Occasionally, the guitars sound like Bob Dylan’s nose was used as an amplifier.

Sometimes, time is a bitch. Back in the day, this music might have scared disco fans or the Kiss Army, but by modern standards, it’s all kind of quaint. This is an album which you really want to love, but will probably end up respecting rather than loving.
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Unitron wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Check out Buffalo's Volcanic Rock, that has a great heavy production.
Vim Fuego wrote:
more than 2 years ago
@ Unitron. We must be listening to different metal then. The only metal band from the 70s which got a decent production job was Black Sabbath.
Unitron wrote:
more than 2 years ago
"Doesn't sound heavy enough"? This album is heavier than most modern metal. The 70's had that nice warm and organic sound that made metal albums have both clarity and heaviness.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Just listened to this recently. Never been a favorite but after hearing it again, i have to say i love it more now. It was as heavy as anything else for 1976 but it's really just the cachy tracks that won me over.
more than 2 years ago
I mostly listen to just Tyrant and Victim of Changes but I always loved the guitar solo in Dreamer Deceiver. It feels very emotional. Yes, the whole Prelude, Epitaph, Dreamer Deceiver thing is a bit puzzling. The cassette I had started with Prelude and side B opened with Dreamer Deceiver. A bit weird to have my parents come in and hear Prelude on the cassette deck. "That's not your usual style of music." "I know. I know. Just wait a moment!"

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