Metal Music Reviews from 666sharon666

SPECTRAL VOICE Eroded Corridors of Unbeing

Album · 2017 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 4.09 | 6 ratings
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The fusion of doom metal and death metal can result in a number of vastly different sounding albums all being branded under the same 'death-doom metal' banner. From more melodic and gothic stuff like the recent (and early) Paradise Lost outings to slowed to a snail's pace crossovers with the funeral doom metal style and even something like Exuvia by The Ruins of Beverast that throws in all kinds of unusual influences like tribal ambient. Then you get an album like Eroded Corridors of Unbeing, the 2017 debut full-length by US act Spectral Voice, which instead of feeling like a doom metal album with death metal influences like a lot of death-doom metal can be described as, is more like a true fusion of the two: in some ways it's a death-doom metal album, in others it's a doom-death metal album.

I say this because there's plenty of instances during the album where Spectral Voice's music is much more death metal based than it is in doom metal, especially during tracks like Lurking Gloom where they pick up the tempo and go beyond what is normally considered acceptable for doom metal, even the more heavy metal influenced so called 'traditional' style. Maybe that shouldn't be a surprise when most of the band's line-up also belongs to the death metal act Blood Incantation, so they're hardly greenhorns (Spectral Voice themselves have also previously released no less than five demos and two splits) in the genre.

Yes, more often the music on Eroded Corridors of Unbeing is slow to mid-paced, but it certainly equally has the sound of a death metal album in terms of riffing style. And it sounds like a particularly filthy death metal album at that. There's no modern squeaky clean polished production work been done here and the band show everything they can do offer perfectly without it. Through it all though the album builds an atmosphere of oppressive menace, which is in no way mitigated by the inclusion of melodic guitar lines and notes and ambient sound effects during the brief moments the album allows you to come up for air. I can't understand the vocals, but in this case I don't need to: they function perfectly as an extra instrument, adding an extra layer to the evil cacophony of guitars, bass and drums.

Eroded Corridors of Unbeing is a mid-length album, containing five songs. I find that some death-doom metal albums can end up seeming like they've been drawn out for too long, but there's no danger of that impression forming here. These five songs are packed to the brim with quality riffs, and though it sure doesn't sound pretty the unpolished production gives the album a certain kind of charm that has me instantly hooked in Spectral Voice's style. I really think this one is a special album. It's quickly become my new personal favourite doom and death metal album of the year. Play it loud and often.

RENDERED HELPLESS Entities of Transdimensional Emergence

Album · 2017 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 3.67 | 3 ratings
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MMA Reviewer's Challenge August 2017 – Randomly selected previously unreviewed 2017 release.

Brutal death metal is a genre designed to push the death metal sound to its most extreme. I've always been under the impression that doing that this is the easy part. The hard part would be doing it in such a way that an album stands out in some way. One man act of Alexander Paul (Organectomy), Rendered Helpless, from New Zealand, is back with his second album under the name, Entities of Transdimensional Emergence, which shows a lot of promise for this young artist in the genre.

The album contains nine tracks and only lasts a total of 28:20 minutes. We're talking short tracks that waste no time, just do their business, and then they're over, so in that sense the structure of the album is fairly typical of the genre. Speaking of which, Entities of Transdimensional Emergence is technically more of a slam death metal album and this is the main feature of the music. The style is bit monotonous on the surface, but I found that I had little trouble listening to the whole album in one go, though it's definitely in its favour to have such a short length. Regardless being able to listen to the whole thing in one go is the first hurdle crossed when it comes to genres like brutal/slam death metal, so in my book that puts Rendered Helpless that much closer to the head of the pack. Also working in this album's favour is that there are a few other influences that can be picked up on in music if you listen past the slams, notably a bit of death-doom metal in the slower parts.

This album isn't my typical thing by any means, so it isn't the easiest of albums for me to write about. The most positive thing I can say in its favour is that it's an album from a genre that, while I don't completely dislike it, largely find uninteresting and I actually do quite like this one, though it's not something I'd revisit very often.

CAVITY Supercollider

Album · 1999 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Metal Music Archives Reviewer's Challenge: Album selected by aglasshouse.

With some albums you only need to take a glance at its artwork or the artist's logo to make a reasonable guess about what sort of music it is. With albums like Supercollider, the third album by American metal band Cavity, I'd have guessed wrong if I hadn't already been told. You can no more judge an album by its cover than you can a book. I'd have guessed at something in the post-grunge line looking at either the original cover or the 2002 reissue over, but I'd have been dead wrong. But then who could have guessed that this rather unassuming and (in my view) interesting style of cover would be hiding some heavy, semi-doomy, sludge metal?

The 2002 version of this album also brought some changes to its tracklist, adding in two extra ones, Xtoone and ...Who Doesn't Even Know Yet? For some reason the original final song of the album, Almost Blue, was removed in this edition of the album. It's this version of the album that I have listened to. The album has however had another reissue, this time on vinyl, in April 2017 which restores the original 1999 tracklist.

Cavity aren't a band who mess about with their song-writing. Their main focus is heavy, fuzzy riffs. Vocals play a prominent role as well, but their do seem secondary to the guitars. They aren't a showy band though; there isn't any lead guitar to speak of in their music and their writing style tends towards a short track duration. Tracks two (Set in Cinders) through six (Threshold), don't even hit three minutes. Just heavy riffs, with the occasional added bit of full-on doom slowness. I'd also say it has a few stoner metal moments, a genre that some of the band's other albums seem to be more heavily associated with. Here it's just flavour though, like with the doom metal. Supercollider is otherwise a straightforward sludge metal record, out to do one simple job: make those riffs as heavy as possible.

I think they do a pretty decent job at that, but with that said, if you're listening to albums looking for a lot of variation then you won't find too much of it here. As I said before, Cavity aren't a flashy band, so the closest thing you'll get a change of pace with is probably Inside my Spine where the vocals are harsher and more traditional growling rather than the hardcore shouts and raw singing used elsewhere. Xtoone's style also stands out as a bit different but as I said before, this song doesn't exist on the original 1999 version of the album and my honest opinion is that its rather throwaway, so it beats me why the 2002 version added it.

Cavity don't play a style of music I listen to very often but as far as my taste in sludge metal goes they certainly display a raw kind of charm that as a metal fan I find difficult not to smile about. 4 stars.

WINTERHORDE Maestro

Album · 2016 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 4.69 | 7 ratings
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Likely owing to the amount of line-up changes they've had since the release of their second album Underwatermoon in 2010, Israeli progressive black metal act Winterhorde have certainly made their fans wait for the release of their third album. Entitled Maestro, it was finally released in 2016. It's been out a while now, and it's been clear to me for some time that the wait was definitely worth it, as I love this album. But the more I listen to it I can't help wonder if this won't end up, in hindsight, feeling like a transitional album for the band.

This is still a black metal album, melodic/symphonic black metal specifically, but it sounds to me like Winterhorde are taking steps toward leaving black metal behind in comparison to Underwatermoon. The changing sound of the band is even more evident if you listen to their first album Nebula and Maestro back to back and skip Underwatermoon. This album may bring back Nebula's vocalist Zed “Z. Winter” Destructive to the fold after being replaced by Horeph for Underwatermoon (Horeph still guests on Maestro's title track though) but they've also decided to bring in a second vocalist, Igor "Khazar" Kungurow, to sing clean vocals, probably because Horeph used both cleans and growls, which makes it a very different release to Nebula. While Zed certainly doesn't hold back from using his growls on any of the songs here and the vocals are more or less evenly shared (with a few guests showing up here and there), the album does feel as if it's Zed supporting Igor, who shows himself the surprise star of the album. In extreme metal artists mixing growls and cleans isn't unheard of but the clean singing usually plays second fiddle to the growling and that's not my impression of this album. That the music is also very polished for black metal only furthers my belief that in time, perhaps even on their next album, they'll have left black metal behind and fully embraced a progressive metal sound.

Of course I might be completely wrong about that, but I can only write about my own experience with the album and to be based on how this sounds it seems likely. But whether I'm right or wrong the one thing I'm definitely sure if is that Winterhorde is a class act who've produced another excellent release. It's excellent from start to finish, but the key tracks for me are Worms of Soul, where the band add the distinctive sound of a theremin to their music, the 11:30 long epic The Heart of Coryphee and the brilliant closing track Dancing in Flames.

OATHBREAKER Rheia

Album · 2016 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 3.73 | 7 ratings
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The Belgian band Oathbreaker have up until now been known as a crust punk act but on their third album Rheia they've made a jump into black metal instead. At first though this isn't apparent as the record starts up. Vocalist Caro Tanghe starts singing unaccompanied. She sounds gentle and sweet. Gradually the band join her, playing equally soft and not at all indicative of the onslaught that is about to be unleashed. Two minutes eleven and it's just enough time to wonder if you've somehow got the wrong album on.

Then all hell breaks loose.

That shift between the short opener 10:56 and the first full metal song, Second Son of R. is a defining moment of Rheia, but it's only just the beginning of this black metal journey. Rheia seems to usually get described as a blackgaze album but I'm not sure I agree with that. I find most blackgaze to represent the extreme soft end of the black metal genre and while this album does have it's fair share of soft sections like 10:56 the full on metal sections feel far too intense to be accurately described as blackgaze. There is a sludge metal influence in here too so I'd personally call it post-black metal, of the most aggressive kind rather than the traditional atmospheric kind. I guess the blackgaze term may come from the amount of softer sections of music on the album, as even Second Son of R. turns softer before its conclusion, or the fact there's metal songs with mostly clean singing like Being Able to Feel Nothing, but then again Myrkur is like that and no one calls that blackgaze, so it's puzzling why this has been lumped into the same movement.

While the music itself doesn't ultimately show itself to be as out there and unusual as what some black metal acts have been delivering albums in the last few years, Rheia is delivered with such fire and conviction that I couldn't help but instantly be won over by the band. Caro Tanghe is the obvious star here, equally comfortable with the gentle clean singing and the frantic screaming. A brilliant record overall.

METALLICA Hardwired... to Self-Destruct

Album · 2016 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.63 | 29 ratings
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For the first time in my life, I actually found myself excited by the prospect of Metallica releasing a new album. I'm as much a fan of their first four albums as anyone, and I quite like the self-titled so-called Black Album too, but I was born in 1986, the year Master of Puppets came out and was only five by the year of the Black Album, so there hasn't really been anything to change that in all my years since. Death Magnetic didn't excite me too much, though I do enjoy the record. However the singles leading up to the release of Hardwired... to Self-Destruct (Hardwired, Moth Into Flame and Atlas, Rise!) made me pay attention to what was going on in Camp Metallica. James Hetfield sounded his best in years and it seemed like we were going to get the closest we ever were to the classic Metallica of old.

Those singles though, in my view at least, were deceptive.

Hardwired... to Self-Destruct isn't a bad album. I'd say it's about on par with Death Magnetic, which is to say it's good but not great, with a few true smile moments. It's more worth owning than most of Metallica's post-Black Album output. The trouble with this album is that Metallica seemed to choose the singles that would most appeal to old school fans, meaning the thrashiest stuff, but when you get the full album in your hands, you find that as a whole, the music on Hardwired... to Self-Destruct doesn't reflect what the singles lead you to expect. In reality we find an album that is much less thrash metal than expected or advertised, which draws strongly on heavy metal and even some hard rock, really putting it closer in style to the Black Album than anything.

It's still a decent release from Metallica; this probably still in their best since the Black Album to be honest, but they built this up in such a way that I expected the album I'm sure other fans have wanted to hear from them for years and then didn't deliver.

ETERNAL CHAMPION The Armor of Ire

Album · 2016 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.26 | 3 ratings
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Austin, Texas based US heavy metal band Eternal Champion sound like a band out of time, bringing old school metal sounds into the present day. They've been around for a few years now and released a demo called The Last King of Pictdom in 2013, but now they're ready to really make their mark with The Armor of Ire, their debut full-length album released in 2016. It's not a long album, being a little short of thirty-five minutes, much like many albums from the time this sounds like in ought to be from.

Touches of traditional doom metal flavour the album opener I Am the Hammer, which introduces us to Eternal Champion's epic heavy metal sound. Things quickly change with the following title track though which is a much faster song more akin to speed metal/early power metal. The songs are generally more the pace of the former though. Everything about the band says old school metal and comparisons to big name US heavy metal bands like Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol aren't out of line. For a more recent comparison if you enjoyed last year's Visigoth debut The Revenant King you'll probably want to give these guys a listen too. For my part I think I actually prefer The Armor of Ire though. Eternal Champion know how to deliver great track after great track. I could do without over five minutes of the already short running time given over to instrumentals (Blood Ice and Shade Gate) that don't really add much to the experience though.

The Armor of Ire comfortably stands as one of my best traditional metal finds for 2016, alongside the newest one from the UK's Dark Forest of course. This is classic sounding metal as it was supposed to sound. No modernisms like unnecessary harsh vocals in ear shot and not too over-polished either. I think that's what makes this one sound that much more genuine and passionate. I'm eager to here what they'll come up with to follow it up.

OBLOMOV Mighty Cosmic Dances

Album · 2005 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 3.60 | 11 ratings
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MMA Reviewer's Challenge: September 2016

Mighty Cosmic Dances, the 2005 debut album of Czech melodic black/death metal act Oblomov, comes across as the sound of a band who don't quite know what they want to do. With a sound that blends elements of the two extreme metal styles more or less evenly, they haven't produced a bad album per se, but it is one where most of the time they seem to be doing one thing, but every so often a different band escapes and takes charge. And this other band is much more willing to step outside of the comfort zone established by the other one.

Obviously the band's music is at its most interesting during these parts. A key track to my ears is Lost Between Emotions, which shows the extent of what Oblomov are actually able to pull off. Their more straight-forward work is not bad music, they deliver a decent enough black/death metal song, but once I've heard that track and have realised what they can do when all the stops are pulled out, sitting through the more normal sections feels like I'm just waiting for something to happen. It's kind of like how you feel when you make a telephone call but get put on hold: it gets boring after a while. Something may happen again sooner or later, but ultimately you get put on hold again. It doesn't make for a too enjoyable listen because of that.

In summary this isn't a bad album from Oblomov, just a disjointed one. It does enough to make me curious about the following album Communitas (Deconstructing the Order), from 2009, but doesn't give me too much pleasure in and of itself.

BURZUM Filosofem

Album · 1996 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 3.75 | 47 ratings
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Out of all the big name black metal bands that came out of Norway as the genre was being pioneered, which include Mayhem, Immortal, Darkthrone and Emperor, there's one artist that I've always struggled to really enjoy or understand: Burzum.

Burzum is among the most infamous of black metal bands because of the actions of its sole member, Varg Vikernes, who has been convicted of both church burnings and murder (of Mayhem's guitarist Euronymous), making him one of metal's most notorious figures. Despite that, or perhaps even because of it, Burzum's music has retained a particularly high level of regard even after two decades, with two particular albums being the most noteworthy; this one, Filosofem, and the previous one, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss. They are both often counted among the best black metal releases ever created, especially Filosofem, which is often ranked as the best, not just one of them. It's the kind of high regard that, despite my continual struggles with them, has me every once in a while trying one or both of these albums again in hopes of finally getting what all the fuss is about.

However I've come to the conclusion that if I haven't got it by now, I probably never will.

I'll be fair, Burzum presented an early example of atmospheric black metal with these early releases, which were all recorded in the 1992-1993 period before Varg ended up in prison, and then steadily released over the next few years, with Filosofem (1996) also being the last black metal Burzum album until Belus in 2010. His work was groundbreaking and I think his stuff could even be considered an early blueprint for depressive black metal as well as atmospheric black metal. However this is a case in point where groundbreaking doesn't necessarily mean the best or even the most interesting music, at least in my opinion.

You see, I find the music on Filosofem to be extremely minimalist. I think that was in fact Varg's intention, but his drawn out style of songwriting means that here he is stretching his ideas out into complete snooze territory as he repeats the same ideas over and over again. There isn't a track here that's under seven minutes. There's even a pure ambient track that goes by the twenty-five minute barrier, continually repeating the same patterns. I just find that ridiculously long for the low amount of musical ideas on offer. Sure, the atmosphere on the album is pleasant enough, as paradoxical as that may sound, but even in atmospheric black metal I guess I'm just looking for something more than what this album offers, and I don't think I'll ever understand why this is so well regarded. I've heard more much interesting newer black metal albums than this get blasted for being repetitive and amateurish. This is supposed to be the best black metal album ever made if its ranking on music sites to be believed, yet that's exactly what this sounds like to me: repetitive and amateurish. Released today without any of the notoriety surrounding it and I seriously doubt that this would even make a blip on the black metal scene.

1 Star.

TIMELESS MIRACLE Into The Enchanted Chamber

Album · 2005 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.38 | 10 ratings
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MMA Reviewer's Challenge: July 2016

Swedish power metal act Timeless Miracle are one of those bands who have seemingly been on my list of artists to check out for forever. Released in 2005, Into the Enchanted Chamber is the band's first and so far only full-length album. Perhaps if they had been more active so as to get mentioned in the metal circles I frequent more often I would have given these guys the time of day before now, but better late than never I suppose. Apparently after more than a decade there actually is a follow-up album in production, though I don't know when it's due to be released, but now does seem a pretty good time for those who, like me, haven't given Timeless Miracle a try yet to do something about it.

For my part though, I'm surprised to be left a little underwhelmed by what Timeless Miracle offers up on Into the Enchanted Chamber. I wouldn't call it a weak album by any means, in fact if I'm being completely fair its a very well done power metal with strong symphonic elements and a penchant for folk melodies. Being one of my favourite genres of metal, on paper I should be all over this album. After all it ticks all the boxes. The music is energetic. Their sound is reasonably varied. The songs are catchy to listen to. The singer has a clear voice to carry the music. The ballad isn't atrocious. So what exactly is the problem?

Well for me its that I don't find too much of the album to be all that memorable after I finish listening to it. Give it an hour or two and I look at most of the track names and even after at least half a dozen listens to Into the Enchanter Chamber I can't remember anything about some of the tracks. I enjoy it a lot while I'm listening to it and I've got good lasting impressions of the early songs which includes the opening Curse of the Werewolf, which neatly sets up what Timeless Miracle's music is all about, as well as Witches of Black Magic and the title track that immediately follow. But after that the album starts to suffer from a problem that I find a lot of power metal albums to have; it falls into monotony. Not in a way that the songs are no good, as that isn't the case, but every time I listen to it I do start to feel my interest waning after a time, and as such I don't remember much about the later songs after a point, nor does the album have me rushing to give it another spin. The album is quite long, which I normally don't have an issue with, but it doesn't help my experience here. I will mention Return of the Werewolf as a highlight though, as it feels a bit more aggressive than the album typical serves up, with some harsher, more edgy, vocals used as well (not growls), which make it stand out more. Into the Enchanted Chamber could do with a few more of moments like that, as by the time of the final song The Voyage I've just about had my fill of the album.

A difficult album for me to rate fairly, as there's technically nothing wrong with it, but as it didn't completely click with me, I'm going to go with 3.5 stars.

PANOPTICON Kentucky

Album · 2012 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 3.62 | 13 ratings
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MMA Reviewer's Challenge: May 2016

Panopticon's Kentucky is one of those albums that doesn't belong to just one genre. This isn't an uncommon occurrence in metal with all the acts out there that cross, to name just a few examples, heavy metal and power metal, black metal and death metal, or symphonic metal and gothic metal. You also get a lot of progressive metal bands that are just as much progressive rock bands. Less common would be albums like Kentucky which has Panopticon crossing atmospheric black metal with bluegrass.

I wouldn't call this bluegrass black metal (which I guess would make it blackgrass?) as such, as mostly the two genres are presented as separate entities. Bluegrass does crop up in the metal songs but it's mostly heard as shorter songs between the metal tracks. The experience of the album is almost like switching between two different albums track after track, so this cannot be called bluegrass metal in any way. Now I'm going to have to admit to not really knowing much about bluegrass music (I find those tracks quite pleasant though) so I'm going to review Kentucky as a metal album. There are actually more tracks here that aren't metal but because the metal ones are much longer compositions this album still ends up being more metal than not.

Black metal being one of those love it or hate it genres I don't think that Panopticon does anything in the three black metal songs that is going to convince a naysayer and the music here is certainly not some of the more accessible black metal out there, but for those of us who enjoy the genre I find these to be three great black metal tracks, especially Bodies Under the Falls. I know a bit of Panopticon's other material, and I'd say that this is one of the project's best songs. Black Soot and Red Blood and Killing the Giants as They Sleep both feature extended voice-overs which I know some (and often myself) find off-putting but I actually quite liked them in the former at least, though I'm more neutral to those in the latter.

Kentucky overall may veer into the bluegrass stuff a bit too much for some listeners but I personally found it a nice and unusual touch. I can't really comment on the quality of the bluegrass though I do know that three of these songs are actually covers of traditional songs, presumably done faithfully, but as a black metal album I find it excellent. 4.5 stars.

RUNNING WILD Victory

Album · 2000 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.31 | 14 ratings
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Victory is the eleventh Running Wild album from 2000. The last album in their good versus evil trilogy sees the band dropping most of the power metal sound that they'd stuck with since 1987's Under Jolly Roger and becoming, more or less, a straight traditional metal act. There are still a few power metal elements here and will continue to be on further albums, but overall this one marks a new chapter in the band's career. And not one for the better.

Actually that's not fair, as there is nothing wrong with being a traditional heavy metal act. Running Wild always were a heavy metal band along with first a speed metal and then a power metal band. They've made a great number of excellent heavy metal songs over the years. Victory just happens to also be the point where Rock 'n' Rolf and his ever changing crew of bandmates seemed to run out of creative steam. It's not a bad album by any means, just rather bland, but I think it was definitely their weakest at the time it was released, with further releases also proving it to mark a turn for the worse, with only diminishing returns to come until the band's split in 2009. Since reforming in 2011 things haven't been much better either. One day I hope Running Wild manages to reach the heights of their best work again, otherwise starting here their output is like a stain on an otherwise quite excellent legacy. And I find that rather sad.

IRON MAIDEN The Book Of Souls

Album · 2015 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.07 | 49 ratings
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Iron Maiden is a band that (should) need no introduction; a band that have long proven that they are something special. Despite a poor showing in the 1990’s, the band have certainly been back on form since Brave New World in 2000 and although they have slowed down a lot in terms of how long they leave between full-length releases (though let’s remember that they tour hell of a lot in support of each album), they show no sign of being content to just relive old glories or even to age gracefully and deliver albums that are simply passable that don’t come anywhere near to the greatness of their past work. No, Iron Maiden are a band who keep pushing their sound forward, trying new things on each new album and The Book of Souls, their sixteenth, is not only no exception to this, it also pushes them forward more than any of its immediate predecessors.

A double disc CD/triple vinyl album, The Book of Souls is the longest Iron Maiden studio album so far, with a total time of about 92 minutes. There are however only eleven songs, which is only one more than either The Final Frontier, A Matter of Life and Death and Brave New World, and the same amount as on Dance of Death. You know, therefore, that the album contains some very long Iron Maiden tracks. The notable one, of course, is the final song, Empire of the Clouds, which usurps Rime of the Ancient Mariner (from 1984’s Powerslave) as their longest song, being a whopping 18:01 in length. But there are also a couple of others which pass the ten minute barrier while the opener If Eternity Should Fail hits 8:28. The musical ideas themselves are typical Iron Maiden for the most part, but Empire of the Clouds stands out again for its use of piano. It’s easily my favourite from the album, not only for being different but also being excellent from start to finish. I can say that about the whole of The Book of Souls though. Despite the long length this is a very easy album to take in one go. As with most albums there are highlights that stand above the rest, but no actual low points. There’s no temptation to play one disc and then take a break before starting the second one, although apart from Empire of the Clouds my personal favourites are on the first one; If Eternity Should Fail, Speed of Light, and The Red and the Black.

It’s been almost a month now since The Book of Souls was released and while it may still be too early to really say it, I think that this one may well have got one up on my previous post-Dickinson/Smith reunion favourite, Brave New World. I’m not fully confident yet to say that it does, but either way, it’s a really close call. It’s at least a stronger album than The Final Frontier, although I enjoyed that one more than many seemed to.

RUNNING WILD The Rivalry

Album · 1998 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.95 | 13 ratings
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The Rivalry is the tenth Running Wild album from 1998. Conceptually it carries on with a good versus evil theme that began on the previous album Masquerade. I personally see The Rivalry as both the last rather decent Running Wild album and also their last actual power metal album.

Musically there isn't really a lot for me to write about Running Wild's music that I haven't already done in my run through reviewing their albums. There were never a band to really mess with their formula too much aside from the shift from speed metal to power metal in the late 80's and the shift towards a more dominant traditional heavy metal sound that occurred following The Rivalry. This album is closest certainly to Masquerade and is overall about on the same sort of level in terms of quality. A few standouts including fan favourite Ballad of William Kidd, but largely another typical Running Wild release. I have no problem with that, as it's better than what happened next. 4 stars.

RUNNING WILD Masquerade

Album · 1995 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.87 | 18 ratings
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Masquerade is the ninth Running Wild album from 1995. Masquerade marks the beginning of a conceptual trilogy for Running Wild, with a theme on good versus evil. Some versions of the album include a couple of bonus tracks taken from the band's early days, namely the ones that appeared on the reasonable well-known Death Metal split from 1984 that also featured Helloween, Hellhammer and Dark Avenger.

While Masquerade has always seemed to be quite a big step back from Black Hand Inn for me, this is still quite a strong release from the band. I find that Running Wild became a bit more modern sounding when it comes to producing power metal with this album, opposed to the distinctly old-school vibes that they'd maintained up until this point. There are several highlights, my personal favourite being Wheel of Doom closely followed by the title track or perhaps Lions of the Sea, but overall it's just another solid release from a band doing what they do best; neither a masterpiece like Black Hand Inn or Death or Glory, but overall more memorable than an album like Blazon Stone. 4 Stars.

RUNNING WILD Black Hand Inn

Album · 1994 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.59 | 27 ratings
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Black Hand Inn is the eighth Running Wild album from 1994. While I do enjoy the group's next two albums quite a bit as well, as far as I'm concerned Black Hand Inn is the last really excellent Running Wild release. It's also, in my opinion, their very best work.

The reason that I consider this one their best is because it just feels so quintessential for the band's classic period of pirate themed power metal. It's a concept album so no pirates for the sake pirates malarkey, their power metal side is dominant in the song writing (lots of fast paced, melodic tracks with catchy choruses) and the traditional heavy metal side is still there to add some variation to the album. After setting the scene with the introductory track The Curse the album is basically smooth sailing (pardon the pun) as Running Wild do what they do best track after track. It's not the sort of release that will offer experienced Running Wild listeners any surprises, but if you were to only ever hear or own one release from these guys, you'd do well to make it this one. 5 stars.

RUNNING WILD Pile of Skulls

Album · 1992 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.32 | 25 ratings
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Pile of Skulls is the seventh Running Wild album from 1992. Much like Death or Glory and Black Hand Inn, the album is usually ranked as one of the band's best. While not my favourite, it's certainly still quite high up there and is also a massive step forward after the rankly disappointing Blazon Stone from the year before.

After starting off with the folk introduction track Chamber of Lies (this is a very nice addition to the album by the way, it's a pity Running Wild never experimented in this direction more), Running Wild starts delivering high class power/heavy metal songs one after the other. The back to back duo of Whirlwind and Sinister Eyes are two of the very best, along with the title track and the eleven minute Treasure Island. There are neither no down points to the album and I wouldn't say it has any fillers either, just about an hour's worth of classic sounding heavy/power for your enjoyment. You really can't go far wrong with this one if you like your metal that stands up for the traditional values. 4.5 stars.

RUNNING WILD The First Years of Piracy

Boxset / Compilation · 1991 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.48 | 5 ratings
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The First Years of Piracy is a re-recordings album by Running Wild released in 1991, sometimes counted as an additional studio album but officially considered a compilation. It presents an updated take on tracks by the band that were first released between the years 1984 - 1987.

The selection of tracks on the album are pretty good. Many of my personal favourites from the band's early releases are represented here; Prisoner of Our Time, Under Jolly Roger, Diamonds of the Black Chest, Soldiers of Hell, Branded and Exiled; all are here and redone to be closer to Running Wild's then current heavy/power metal sound, though some speed metal roots are still evident. Most of their versions are stronger than the originals to my ears, especially the ones from the Branded and Exiled album, but I don't find that to be a big enough draw to make The First Years of Piracy the most essential Running Wild purchase, although I do enjoy this release more than their main studio album of 1991, Blazon Stone. The songs originally from Gates to Purgatory are about on the same level while I have mixed feelings on the new version of Under Jolly Roger. On one hand the song is better produced but also sounds a bit strange to listen to with the original's cannon fire sound effect completely missing. 4 stars.

RUNNING WILD Blazon Stone

Album · 1991 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 19 ratings
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Blazon Stone is the sixth Running Wild album from 1991. It is the first of two major releases by the band during the year as they also decided to release the re-recordings album The First Years of Piracy a few months later. Although Blazon Stone is their main release for 1991 I can't help but think that The First Years of Piracy ended up being the more interesting album by Running Wild in 1991.

The reason for this is that although Blazon Stone is very much a business as usual release for Running Wild there are very few tracks here that really manage to stand out among the band's best works. The only ones that I find at all memorable are the title track, Lonewolf and Little Big Horn. The music is still good, with more of their traditional heavy metal side to be heard than their last album Death or Glory had. but overall Blazon Stone is an album I find to be a weak link in the band's otherwise pretty strong 90's work and a massive decline in quality after Death or Glory, which I find to be one of their best albums. 3.5 stars.

RUNNING WILD Death or Glory

Album · 1989 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.17 | 36 ratings
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Death or Glory is the fifth Running Wild album from 1989. The album is usually consider to be one of Running Wild's very best releases and I agree with that assessment. For me this is the album where Running Wild took everything that they'd learned along the way and became one of the best bands in the then still relatively new German power metal scene. Later versions of this album add the Wild Animal EP from 1990 as bonus tracks.

The music on Death or Glory isn't very typical sounding power metal to my ears. It still has a very strong traditional metal element to it, though it features more actual power metal styled guitar riffs than any of their previous albums. As expected of a Running Wild album the vocals of Rock 'n' Rolf point more towards what one would typically expect to hear in traditional heavy metal over power metal. The production work is the biggest improvement on their previous album Port Royal, while the song-writing is of a high level throughout. Especially the opener Riding the Storm is a clear Running Wild classic. Other favourites of mine are the title track, Tortuga Bay and Bad to the Bone. In short, Death or Glory is one of the finest releases of 80's power/heavy metal that you're likely to find. 5 stars.

RUNNING WILD Port Royal

Album · 1988 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.05 | 29 ratings
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Port Royal is the fourth Running Wild album from 1988. The album sees the band continuing with the pirate themes of Under Jolly Roger, but returning with a more fully developed power metal sound compared to that album, which they would stick with over the course of their next half a dozen or so albums, though without ever completely abandoning their traditional heavy metal side.

Much like my experience with their second album Branded and Exiled when put up next to their debut Gates to Purgatory I find Port Royal to be a step back for Running Wild after Under Jolly Roger. While there are several great songs here such as Uaschitschun, Conquistadores and Calico Jack, enough to push my regard for the album up above that of Branded and Exiled and onto the level of Gates to Purgatory, I find that the song-writing isn't as consistent (I find the title track in particular to be a letdown) and that the production is a bit of a detraction from the album's good qualities. What worked on earlier speed metal based releases and even on Under Jolly Roger doesn't suit their new power metal sound all that well. It's still a good album, but there's lost potential that could have made it a great one. 4 stars.

RUNNING WILD Under Jolly Roger

Album · 1987 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.14 | 28 ratings
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Under Jolly Roger is the third Running Wild album from 1987. As you can probably tell from the album's title and cover artwork, this is the point that Running Wild discovered pirates. It is also the point that their transition into a power metal band begins. But only begins, as sound wise this is quite a transitional sounding album from Running Wild.

That doesn't mean however that Under Jolly Roger wasn't their best album up until that point, or at least for me, it was. The band sticks with the rather short eight track album formula, but the level of song-writing is the highest they'd had so far, with almost every track being memorable. The sound of the album is traditional heavy metal mixed with some faster ideas that closer resemble a very early European style power metal sound rather than the speed metal of earlier releases. This is most evidence in the final song Merciless Game but others, notable the opening title track, also feature guitar riffs in more of a power metal vein. The title track for me is the album's best and most addictive song but the two that immediately follow it, Beggar's Night and Diamonds of the Black Chest also deserve recognition. Like much of the early Running Wild material a good portion of Under Jolly Roger was later re-recorded but I don't find either version of the songs overly better this time around, which certainly wasn't the case with the band's last album Branded and Exiled, where I find the later versions much stronger. While I do like the band's debut Gates to Purgatory quite a bit, Under Jolly Roger is the first true must own for any fan of the band. 4.5 stars.

RUNNING WILD Branded and Exiled

Album · 1985 · Speed Metal
Cover art 3.87 | 24 ratings
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Branded and Exiled is the second Running Wild album from 1985. This album marks their last one before their pirate themes take over and also the last album of their speed metal period.

This album is essentially more of the same as their first album Gates to Purgatory. Traditional heavy metal/speed metal, a relatively short running time (approx 36 minutes) and quite a raw sound. The only big difference for me when put up next to their debut is that the songs aren't overly as memorable as ones like Prisoner of Our Time and Soldiers of Hell from Gates to Purgatory. I like the title track and Fight the Oppression quite a bit, the real trouble with them is that Running Wild would later re-record both of those songs among others from both this album and the first and it's especially the case with the Branded and Exiled songs that the later versions are much better. The final song Chains and Leather is quite the anthemic track that sounds designed for singing along in the live environment and is a pretty fun track, though like with the majority of this album has been at one point or another the band re-recorded it, though I don't find either version vastly superior in this case. Branded and Exiled is a good album overall, but for me a step backwards for the band. 3.5 stars.

RUNNING WILD Gates to Purgatory

Album · 1984 · Speed Metal
Cover art 4.14 | 28 ratings
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Gates to Purgatory is the first Running Wild album from 1984. While Running Wild will always be better known for their pirate themes that stuff didn't actually start until a few albums into their career, so on Gates to Purgatory we find what is essentially a very different band. That not only applies to their lyrical themes, but also their sound.

Running Wild's sound later took a turn towards power metal (and then even later towards a more straight traditional heavy metal sound) but their early works operate more within the traditional/speed metal area. The lyrics deal with more typical heavy metal themes such as Satan. It's a rather short record of approx 34 minutes and eight songs, though later editions add bonus tracks from the prior Victim of States Power EP, which also features Gates to Purgatory's lead song, which is an excellent speed metal track that sets the bar high for the album to follow. This isn't classic Running Wild in the sense that it's from the time period that they're most known for, but it is a really good debut album with several highlights that deserve recognition amongst the band's very best songs, not least the album's closing track and my personal favourite from the album, Prisoner of Our Time. 4 Stars.

ANUBIS GATE Horizons

Album · 2014 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 18 ratings
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Anubis Gate's sixth album Horizons sees them losing the last of their original members, Jesper M. Jensen and Morten Sørensen. Rather that spell the end of the band they've continued on with new members Michael Bodin and Morten Gade Sørensen and the change doesn't seem to have fazed their vision in any way, in fact I see this as a step back up from their self-titled from 2011.

Whereas I felt that the self-titled didn't break the band any new ground, the only real difference being a vocalist change from Jacob Hansen to Henrik Fevre, Horizons sees the band progressing again. This is, in my opinion, a more atmospheric release from Anubis Gate, featuring some progressive rock elements and a reduction in symphonic stuff, though that still has a presence in the sound. They prove that they're quite capable of producing some intense power metal based stuff too though, such as the song Revolution Come Undone which numbers amongst their heaviest songs. With A Dream Within a Dream they've also produced their longest and one of their best songs. Overall, Horizons is my third favourite by the band.

ANUBIS GATE Anubis Gate

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.14 | 34 ratings
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With their fifth and self-titled album Anubis Gate cut their line-up down to four. Henrik Fevre, their bassist and occasional lead vocalist, assumed the frontman role full-time from this point. He actually briefly held the same role before the arrival of Jacob Hansen, but only in the live environment (itself a rare thing for this band). His style of singing is more like Jacob than original singer Torben Askholm, but I think his voice isn't an acquired taste like Jacob's. His melodic singing suits the Anubis Gate sound perfectly. He is actually my favourite voice this band has had.

Though moving away from the concept album structure this time, the album is probably the closest the band have came to a 'more of the same' kind of release. Like The Detached before it Anubis Gate is a polished sounding modern melodic progressive metal album that uses both power metal and symphonic metal elements. It's an excellent album but other than the vocalist change it doesn't bring anything new to their sound and is also the first time where I've found an Anubis Gate release to be weaker than the last one, though to be fair The Detached is a league above most records I'd rate with 5 stars, so that was to be expected. I'd say this one is about on the level of A Perfect Forever; a little better for me personally based on taste.

ANUBIS GATE The Detached

Album · 2009 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.25 | 32 ratings
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Anubis Gate's fourth album The Detached, their only one so far to feature the exact same line-up as the previous one, is easily my favourite release by the band. They've had a strong run of incredible albums starting with their second A Perfect Forever which has still continued to date, their latest release being their sixth, Horizons, but none of those other releases can really touch this one. The Detached shows off every element I've come to expect from an Anubis Gate record.

They've always been a progressive metal band, but this is easily their most progressive sounding release. While still focussed on writing songs over extra long and complex stuff they've left more room for high level playing and instrumental sections. They've always used some power metal elements but here they are more prominent than ever before. It's the closest they've ever come to the prog/power metal branding the band usually gets labelled with actually being justified. There are some symphonic elements in the music which are quite effective too. The album is another science fiction concept piece like Andromeda Unchained, but the music flows even better than it did on that album. Several songs standout as being worth their own mentions, but I'm not going to. The album deserves to be listened to from start to finish without interruption. A masterpiece of modern, melodic progressive metal.

ANUBIS GATE Andromeda Unchained

Album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.05 | 34 ratings
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The third Anubis Gate album Andromeda Unchained is the point that for me they really hit their stride. Their last album A Perfect Forever was excellent but this is the point that the band fully morphed into the melodic progressive metal act they are today. Jacob Hansen takes over the lead vocal duties at this point with occasional lead from Henrik Fevre (who after one further album would become the lead singer himself), who also plays the bass for the first time on this album. It really feels like more of a band effort now.

This is a science-fiction concept album, the story of which is available to read on the band's website. That's a good thing as it's not the easiest of concept albums to follow the plot with. What's important though is that the music continues Anubis Gate's increasing strengths. Sacrificing some of the less polished riff based music of album's past for a clearer modern progressive metal sound with power metal elements, which become more distinct in the sound although not any more common, Andromeda Unchained was their best album up until that point. Jacob Hansen's voice might be an acquired taste though and he's quite different to Torben Askholm who sang on the first two albums. He fits the changes in style though whereas I'm not sure Torben's voice would have worked as well as it had done up until this point.

ANUBIS GATE A Perfect Forever

Album · 2005 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.15 | 12 ratings
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A Perfect Forever is the first Anubis Gate album to credit a full band, though bassist Henrik Fevre didn't actually play on the album for some reason, only providing backing vocals and additional lead vocals on a couple of tracks. This was their last release with singer Torben Askholm. Their next vocalist Jacob Hansen guests on the album but not as a lead vocalist.

A Perfect Forever shows a big improvement over Anubis Gate's debut album Purification. The traditional metal roots heard on the debut are all but gone. The music is more progressive, the riffs better and the song-writing more memorable. There are also a few more power metal elements to be found, but this is still most firmly in the progressive metal camp. People seem to always call the band prog/power metal but I think that's misleading. What they are at this stage is a guitar driven progressive metal act that uses but doesn't overly rely on keyboards (that starts to change after this album). I think it will appeal to progressive metal fans who don' necessarily want an over-polished production. I personally prefer the stuff that was still to come at this point, but A Perfect Forever is also a must own progressive metal record in my book.

ANUBIS GATE Purification

Album · 2004 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.63 | 12 ratings
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The first Anubis Gate album Purification is a pretty much by a different band compared to how the band exists today. I'm not talking about how the album sounds precisely, as Anubis Gate's releases show a steady evolution across each release, but the band membership. If you ignore the guest musicians on this album you won't find any of the same musicians that appear on their sixth and most recent album Horizons.

Purification is a bit less reliant on keyboards than the later work, though they're still featured. The guitar sound tends towards a less polished tone as well. Though Anubis Gate often get branded as progressive power metal the music on Purification is usually fairly mid-paced stuff with only a rare burst into power metal. I'm more inclined to call it progressive heavy metal, as it's neither as progressive as their later work but does display some quite strong traditional metal roots. The album is good but I think this is a classic example of a 'still fining their sound' release. It's an album worth owning if you enjoy the band, but for me their weakest release. They come on by leaps and bounds with their next release A Perfect Forever though.

JUDAS PRIEST Redeemer Of Souls

Album · 2014 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.54 | 30 ratings
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Judas Priest's seventeenth album Redeemer of Souls, the first without guitarist K. K. Downing, sees the band moving away from the concept album style of the previous release Nostradamus and back into more familiar territory; standalone heavy metal songs as you may expect a long running band like this to be making this far down the line. The results are not exactly spectacular but Redeemer of Souls offers up one of the more satisfying releases of the band from their post-Painkiller years and it's a lot less patchy than Nostradamus was, though in the previous album's defence, it's not as adventurous either.

For me, Redeemer of Souls is a good album but not a great one. It's just a classic band showing that they can still get the job done even if it doesn't rival their best work. And to be honest I don't ask any more of Judas Priest. Sure it would be nice if they, like Iron Maiden, continued to deliver upper tier goods in their later years instead of the rather patchy run they've had from Jugulator onwards but if they didn't do enough for you between the years 1974 - 1990 then I guess you're just the kind of person who is never satisfied. With that said I have read some stuff that implies this will be the last album of the band, but I hope not, as it would be nice for the leather rebels to bow out with something really spectacular as their epitaph.

JUDAS PRIEST Nostradamus

Album · 2008 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.26 | 67 ratings
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For their sixteenth album Judas Priest decided to once again do something a little different to their norm. 2008's Nostradamus is a double disc concept album, based on the life of the supposed French seer, who lived in the 16th Century. This is the last Judas Priest album with guitarist K. K. Downing before his retirement from the band in 2011.

This isn't a great swansong for K. K. in my opinion. The impression I get when listening to Nostradamus is that it's drawn out to a grand total of twenty-three tracks just for the sake of presenting a complete concept, which results in an album that features more filler than killer tracks. The band are well playing as always and the use of some symphonic elements adds something new to the Judas Priest sound, but with such hit and miss song-writing Nostradamus is ultimately a pretty middle of the road Judas Priest album. I think with a bit of editing down to a single disc they could easily have come up with a 4 star record but as it is it's quite a step back from the previous, return to form album, Angel of Retribution. I guess it's telling that I even prefer their Jugulator album to this one. They've done weaker records in my opinion, but this for me remains one of the most disappointing.

BLIND GUARDIAN Beyond the Red Mirror

Album · 2015 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.29 | 19 ratings
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Blind Guardian are undeniably one of the biggest power metal bands to have ever existed. But despite the high regard that I and many others have for them if they have one fault it's that they're pretty slow at making their albums, just ten in the twenty-seven years since their debut Battalions of Fear, the latest of which is 2015's Beyond the Red Mirror. They get away with this because when they do release an album it's of a higher quality than pretty much any other artist in the power metal genre. This one is no exception, in fact for me it's their best in twenty years.

Most people seem to be describing this album as Blind Guardian's foray into symphonic power metal territory but I really don't get that. They're been using symphonic metal elements for a while now and there aren't any more here than on any of their other albums, a few very symphonic tracks like The Ninth Wave but overall it's too varied between different takes on power metal to pigeonhole it like that. Maybe someone stole them from my copy, because I'm not hearing what other people seem to be hearing. A good chunk of the album is more in line with Imaginations from the Other Side, especially The Holy Grail which could easily be a lost track from that album. That's probably why it's my favourite, along with Twilight of the Gods, Ashes of Eternity and Sacred Mind. There aren't any bad tracks, though the album did take quite a few spins to grow on me whereas others they've done were more immediate.

CRUACHAN Blood for the Blood God

Album · 2014 · Folk Metal
Cover art 4.47 | 8 ratings
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Back around 2008 time, perhaps a little later, Irish folk metal band Cruachan made a decision about their future that I expect didn't really go down well with most of their fans. Their lead singer, Karan Gilligan, had left and the band opted not to replace her. Instead their original vocalist Keith Fay, who'd been getting increased vocal time with each album after 2000's Karan dominant The Middle Kingdom, took the helm full time again and the group made a black metal based folk metal album, Blood on the Black Robe, in 2011. Karan returned as a guest, but the album was a statement. Cruachan wanted to return to extremer pastures.

Their latest release Blood for the Blood God is quite a surprise after that last album as while this is still more black metal influenced than any of the album's with Karan, I wouldn't call it a black metal album overall. Keith continues as the lead singer but varies his vocals a lot more, which also allows the style of songs to vary as well, between black metal ones like the title track and more fully Celtic flavoured ones. There's even a lively cover of a traditional folk song. The composition is a lot stronger to my ears; I did enjoy the last album but it hasn't stood the test of time the last few years have given it and I still find myself listening to the band's first three albums a lot more than the next three. I can see that changing with Blood for the Blood God though. This is, to me, clearly their most accomplished work in quite a while and quickly became a favourite of mine for 2014.

As a bonus track the band re-recorded the song Pagan from the album of the same name released in 2004. I'm not really fond of this new version. It's better produced, Pagan as an album's biggest problem has always been a not so great production, but the guest female singer doesn't have as nice a voice as Karan, and Cruachan kept the new version faithful to the original. I think I'd have preferred to have heard them redo it with just Keith singing. It would have been more in keeping with the main album, if nothing else.

THE GENTLE STORM The Diary

Album · 2015 · Symphonic Metal
Cover art 3.88 | 10 ratings
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Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen is back with his new project The Gentle Storm, this time with singer Anneke van Giersbergen (formerly of The Gathering) as his partner in crime. They've worked together before on Ayreon. Their first album together is the double disc release, The Diary. Lucassen is no stranger to the double album, most Ayreon albums are doubles. The Diary is a little different though as the two discs both contain the same songs, done in very different styles. Disc one is the Gentle version and disc two is the Storm version.

The Gentle version of The Diary is a progressive folk release, drawing on both Asian and Celtic influence. The Storm version on the other hand is best described as symphonic metal, but the same folk influences creep in giving it a folk metal edge while both progressive and power metal leanings can also be found. Regardless of version, The Diary is probably one of Lucassen's more accessible albums, as it's full of catchy songs, sung beautifully by Anneke. Both discs are impressive work but ultimately I personally find I prefer the Gentle version, despite being more of a metalhead. My favourites are Heart of Amsterdam, The Greatest Love and Shores of India.

JUDAS PRIEST Angel Of Retribution

Album · 2005 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.82 | 65 ratings
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Judas Priest's fifteenth album Angel of Retribution from 2005 marks both the band's return to the Painkiller line-up, Rob Halford now being back at the front of the band where he belongs, but also their much needed return to form after the career low point that was the second Tim Owens fronted effort Demolition (though to reiterate my review for that album I lay no blame at Tim's doorstep). It's also rather back to basics traditional heavy metal without the band doing any messing around with the more modern groove metal sounds of the Owens era, but that's exactly what they needed to do at that point in their career.

The songwriting is at its highest level since Painkiller on Angel of Retribution although the album as a whole is still a way off from that sort of top tier standard. There are many excellent songs that stand out for me from the album though including what I'd call the aptly named opener Judas Rising as well as Deal with the Devil and Hellrider. With the closing Lochness Judas Priest also try their hand at an epic and although it's far from a favourite of mine from the album, I think that's pretty decent as well. In my view the track actually flirts with traditional doom metal at times. It's got some quite different vibes to the typical Priest song. Overall this won't ever be a favourite of mine from Judas Priest, they have too much stronger work from the 70's in particular for that but it's one of the better post-Painkiller albums.

JUDAS PRIEST Demolition

Album · 2001 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 2.64 | 39 ratings
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Judas Priest's fourteenth album Demolition from 2001 is the album that, for me, represents the band's all time low. Out of the group that I consider their lesser albums (Point of Entry, Turbo and Nostradamus being the others) this is the only one that I'd consider truly avoiding. It's the second and last album to feature Tim "Ripper" Owens on vocals before the return of Rob Halford but like with the previous album Jugulator Tim isn't the reason for me why his two albums with Judas Priest aren't up to standard. I actually like Jugulator to a point. Demolition however is a different story.

You see Jugulator is a good album based on its own merits. Of course Priest without Rob up front will always be wrong to some listeners but if you pretend for a moment that everything from Rocka Rolla through Painkiller didn't exist or was by a different band, Jugulator wouldn't have been a half bad debut. It's strong groove metal sound is very un-Priest to me but that's the point I think, it doesn't sound like they tried to clone themselves. On Demolition though while the groove element is still present Judas Priest seem to be trying to push back towards the more traditional metal sound that most of their work fits in. Like Tim being here instead of Rob though that isn't really the reason why Demolition doesn't cut it for me, the simple fact of the matter for me here is that absolutely none of the thirteen tracks stand out as being up to standard (even when only comparing to Jugulator) and as an approx 70 minute record, it's quite a drag. I almost never listen to this album these days either as a fan of Judas Priest or of Tim Owens singing.

JUDAS PRIEST Jugulator

Album · 1997 · Groove Metal
Cover art 3.19 | 52 ratings
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1997's Jugulator was Judas Priest's comeback album of sorts as it was their first release since 1990's Painkiller. This album marked the first release to feature Tim 'Ripper' Owens on vocals following Rob Halford's exit from the band in 1992. Rob Halford is a vocalist of the sort of calibre that makes him difficult to replace and the fact that Judas Priest is one of the biggest and longest running names in metal didn't really help the band when they needed to do just that. For metal fans, being the fickle bunch that we are, whoever the band brought in was never going to cut it for most of Judas Priest's followers. Personally though I think they made a great choice in Tim Owens. His career has been rather marred by the fact he replaced an iconic frontman in not one but two metal bands (the other being US power metallers Iced Earth), only to later be replaced himself by the very guy he replaced. But he's a great vocalist in his own right and I personally think he held his own while in Judas Priest. He's definitely not the reason why Jugulator isn't the most worthwhile Judas Priest record.

Actually, this isn't a bad album. It's even a good album. I think that Judas Priest have made weaker records even with Rob up front but it certainly is one of their oddity records, in that it features a much more modern groove metal sound as its primary element. While oddities have actually been a feature of their discography, the others aren't really too much of a far cry from their usual traditional metal sound. Rocka Rolla was a finding their sound album. Point of Entry and Turbo really just play up the hard rock influences that have been present on nearly every Judas Priest album ever released. Even Painkiller could be described as simply turning things up to eleven. But Jugulator is more difficult to think of as the work of Judas Priest. Some of the riffs here sound like they'd be more at home on a Pantera album. As I said, I think Jugulator is a good album; definitely not their weakest effort, so long as one is prepared to judge it on its own merits. The songs aren't classics but they are all enjoyable. I can't help thinking that the album may have been better received though if it didn't have the Judas Priest moniker on it.

JUDAS PRIEST Painkiller

Album · 1990 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.43 | 117 ratings
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The twelfth Judas Priest album Painkiller, released in 1990, marked the end of an era (at least for a time) for the band. It was the last album they'd put out for seven years and afterwards singer Rob Halford left the band. In hindsight this could well have been the last Judas Priest album. In my opinion even though they've managed to put out a further five albums in the years since (two with replacement singer Tim Ripper Owens), this is also the last truly great Judas Priest record. Painkiller is a fan favourite, something not many artists can say about their twelfth album. Yet the oddest thing about Painkiller is that it's actually one of the oddities of Judas Priest's seventeen album discography. Judas Priest are a heavy metal band, but Painkiller is Judas Priest's only power metal album. Some (or perhaps most) might like to refute that statement (it's Judas Priest so it's got to be heavy metal right? - wrong) and I have to admit, this is very old school sounding power metal (but consider this, (Euro) power metal technically wasn't that old in 1990), and maybe it wasn't called power metal at the time (I couldn't tell you either way, as I was 4 in 1990) but I like to think that I've heard enough power metal bands of all shapes and sizes in my 28 years to recognise a power metal album when I hear one. And I certainly hear one when I listen to Painkiller.

Of course Ram it Down did offer a sneak peek of what was about to be unleashed on Painkiller, notably with the song Hard as Iron, but I don't think anyone could have expected the band to produce such a career defining album that even eclipsed early favourites like Sad Wings of Destiny and Stained Class in 1990. K. K. Downing and Glenn Tipton deliver fast riffs against new drummer Scott Travis's impressive drumming while Rob Halford delivers what is, in my opinion, the vocal performance of his career. Lyrically Painkiller is actually a bit, well, silly if you know what I mean, but man Rob is in his element screaming his head off on the title track. It's a Judas Priest album with no bad track (there are usually one or two on even their best albums are aren't quite as good in my opinion) and it's also their most in your face metal release. While the title track will always be the absolute must hear from the album, Leather Rebel, All Guns Blazing, Metal Meltdown, Night Crawler and One Shot at Glory are all equally good, with the rest of the album only a marginal step behind.

Should twelfth albums really be this good? Should band's best records really be so different to their established style? Probably not on both counts, but these leather rebels did it, giving fans a metal meltdown with all guitars blazing. You can't stop the Painkiller. An oddity in their discography for sure, but also the best Judas Priest album, easily.

Attribution: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/judas-priest-painkiller-t3832.html

JUDAS PRIEST Ram It Down

Album · 1988 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.34 | 68 ratings
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666sharon666
Originally conceived as the heavy half of the Twin Turbos concept, Ram It Down is Judas Priest's eleventh album and final 1980's record. It also brings to an end a period of line-up stability, with drummer Dave Holland experiencing health problems that led to his exit from the band. It's for this reason that some of Ram It Down uses a drum machine rather than a real drummer. There's definite resistance to the idea of a drum machine being used in metal (and not without good reason) which may go some way to explain why Ram It Down isn't exactly a well regarded Judas Priest album. Personally though I think it's quite overlooked within their discography.

But then again, that may be in part because I don't think the previous album Turbo is all that good, being one of my least favourite records from the band. Ram It Down on the other hand really injects the metal back into Judas Priest's sound, and to my ears is their most metal album up until that point, though it would be quickly superseded by Painkiller a couple of years later. Okay, so it's not the best bunch of songs Judas Priest ever put together on record by a long shot, but it's pretty far ahead of being a bad album. The title track and Hard as Iron (a power metal song) are two of the best here. I also really like their cover of Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode even if it is an unusual choice for a metal band. It would unfair not to at least give a mention to Blood Red Skies too. Overall not the best album Judas Priest ever did, but far from the worst too. Faulted yet underrated at the same time.

Attribution: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/judas-priest-ram-it-down-t3833.html

JUDAS PRIEST Turbo

Album · 1986 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 2.89 | 73 ratings
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666sharon666
The tenth Judas Priest album Turbo from 1986 was actually originally conceived as a double album that would have been called Twin Turbos. The idea was that one disc would focus on the hard rock side of Judas Priest and the other would be their usual heavy metal style. Because of record label resistance (or maybe that should be influence) Twin Turbos was scrapped and the result of that decision was Turbo, the next album Ram It Down and a bunch of tracks that ended up put out as the bonus material for the 2001 remasters of many of the first twelve Judas Priest records.

Turbo itself plays on the hard rock side of the Twin Turbos idea which stylistically puts this album closest to 1981's Point of Entry rather than any other Judas Priest album. It's a bit different too though, in fact I would call a good portion of Turbo glam rock/metal. So in that sense both it and Point of Entry can still both be considered oddballs of Judas Priest's largely traditional metal based discography despite some similarities. Turbo is not a bad record by any stretch of the imagination but as is the case with Point of Entry it's just not an album I personally wanted to hear from Judas Priest (especially not after them getting back on track after that album with Screaming for Vengeance and Defenders of the Faith) which makes it a fans only release in my book.

Attribution: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/judas-priest-turbo-t3834.html

JUDAS PRIEST Defenders Of The Faith

Album · 1984 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.00 | 89 ratings
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666sharon666
I've stated before in my reviews for the previous Judas Priest albums, I think their 80's work is really quite patchy. For me this is a time when the band produced a couple of lesser records (Point of Entry and Turbo) accompanied by generally strong but overall unremarkable albums. Their ninth release Defenders of the Faith from 1984 is no exception, but in my opinion this one is the best of the 80's work.

Most fans seem to prefer the previous Screaming for Vengeance over Defenders of the Faith and I guess I can see why, as it does have a few songs that greatly eclipse anything present on Defenders of the Faith but by virtue of being more consistent I prefer this album. In my opinion Judas Priest were leaning into speed metal territory a bit with this one but it's mostly a heavy metal album with plenty of energy. The tracks Freewheel Burning (most Judas Priest records have hell of an opener) and Eat Me Alive are my personal favourites. To balance though I'm not so fond of the last two tracks Heavy Duty and the title track (though it is little more than an outro piece) but the first eight tracks are in my opinion the most consistent material Judas Priest did in the 80's.

Attribution: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/judas-priest-defenders-of-the-faith-t3828.html

WINTERHORDE Underwatermoon

Album · 2010 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 4.51 | 8 ratings
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666sharon666
Israeli black metal act Winterhorde really pulled out all the stops for their 2010 sophomore effort Underwatermoon, creating one of the most progressive black metal records I’ve ever heard. I’m a firm believer that you can in fact do pretty much anything with black metal, and Winterhorde show themselves here to be a band that doesn't care about any rules.

You’ll mostly hear melodic/symphonic black metal ideas here to form the base of the album’s sound, but Winterhorde throw in a lot of complex playing too as well as unusual song structures. They draw on folk music a little bit and mix the usual black metal shrieks with deeper, more death metal-like growling as well as clean singing, which ranges from epic to downright mournful. The acoustic guitar playing used is one of the most effective things they do though, creating some great melodies. There’s perhaps no finer example of that than Wreckages Ghost. The individual songs are all amazing (even the interludes are done well) and have their own identities, but Underwatermoon is the sort of album that deserves and commands your attention from beginning to end; to give it anything less really ought to be a criminal offense. I seem to recall people talking about the releases of Alcest and Agalloch as the best black metal albums of 2010, but right here is an album that, at least in my opinion, outshines both of them.

Attribution: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/winterhorde-underwatermoon-t3826.html

JUDAS PRIEST Screaming For Vengeance

Album · 1982 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.12 | 107 ratings
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666sharon666
After the disappointment that was Point of Entry Judas Priest returned to more familiar and altogether more metallic territory for their eighth album Screaming for Vengeance in 1982. And for me given that Point of Entry has always given the impression that it's anything but a really worthwhile Judas Priest release that's definitely a good thing.

Many fans of the band seem to uphold Screaming for Vengeance as one of Judas Priest's very best albums. That's not a sentiment that I find I agree with but this one is most certainly a very redeeming effort to follow Point of Entry. I would also say it's one of the best album's the band released during the 1980's (though my personal 80's Judas Priest preference is to the following Defenders of the Faith) but overall I can't associate Screaming for Vengeance as a masterpiece. Sure it has its share of the Judas Priest classic tracks like the opening duo The Hellion/Electric Eye as well as fantastic title track but I do not think that level of quality is matched by the whole album. A very good return to form for the band, but nothing more than that.

Attribution: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/judas-priest-screaming-for-vengeance-t3822.html

JUDAS PRIEST Point Of Entry

Album · 1981 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 2.94 | 72 ratings
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666sharon666
When I started writing my series of reviews on the Judas Priest discography I mentioned right at the start, in my Rocka Rolla review, that despite most of their work fitting the traditional heavy metal genre that there are also a few oddities present. Albums that are a bit different (or very different in some cases) than most of their stuff. Their seventh album Point of Entry from 1981 is one of them. This is not a good thing in this album's case.

Point of Entry is the most hard rock orientated Judas Priest release since their debut and one of their most commercial sounding albums. I wouldn't go as far to say that it is my least favourite record by the group but it's certainly in the bottom three along with Turbo and Demolition. It's not that it's actually a bad record based on its own merits, in fact I really like the song Desert Plains, but it's not really a record that I really expected to hear from Judas Priest. And it certainly doesn't sit too well between British Steel and Screaming for Vengeance, both of which are stronger efforts although not top tier Judas Priest by any means for me. I suppose this one is worth hearing if you enjoy hearing the different sides that Judas Priest sometimes display but it's not a record I stick on too much and one of the reasons that I consider 1980's Judas Priest to be so inconsistent. Fortunately this one marks the end of the declining quality heard on the few records before it.

Attribution: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/judas-priest-point-of-entry-t3809.html

JUDAS PRIEST British Steel

Album · 1980 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.00 | 102 ratings
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666sharon666
Released in 1980 British Steel marks the start of Judas Priest's 1980's work and is their sixth album. The 1980's represent the most stable time in Judas Priest's history in terms of line-up. With the introduction of Dave Holland on drums the band would keep the same line-up up to and including the 1988 album Ram it Down, putting out six full-lengths during the decade. The trouble is that I find the 80's to also be quite an inconsistent time for Judas Priest although I guess that's true of every decade they've been active and it's certainly better than the 2000's. The 80's do however have two of my least favourite Judas Priest albums, however those are stories for forthcoming reviews.

There was a time when I would have counted British Steel amongst the very best albums of Judas Priest but my regard for the album has declined over time and I now consider it to be a step down from Killing Machine, the last 70's album. Given that Stained Class before that was also even better this period in Judas Priest history represents a declining quality for me. This one is still a pretty great album overall though. Breaking the Law is of course one of their most well known songs and that one is indeed top quality work, but the other hit which is Living After Midnight I'm quite indifferent to these days. Rapid Fire is a great song though.

To be honest, at least for me I think Judas Priest's 80's work was mostly eclipsed by the growing New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement, particularly by Iron Maiden, whose debut shares release date with British Steel. Of course the NWoBHM might have turned out very different without bands like Judas Priest preceding it, so that's why I'd recommend newcomers to Judas Priest to start with the 70's work (plus 1990's Painkiller) before exploring this era. British Steel may be one of their most famous records and is a solid Judas Priest album overall, but a classic? I think not.

Attribution: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/judas-priest-british-steel-t3805.html

JUDAS PRIEST Killing Machine

Album · 1978 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.00 | 83 ratings
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666sharon666
The second of Judas Priest's two full-length's from 1978 is Killing Machine, their fifth album overall and the first to feature exactly the same line-up as the previous album (Stained Class). In the USA Killing Machine was delayed until 1979 and when it was released it was re-titled as Hell Bent for Leather and given an extra track, a cover of The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown) by Fleetwood Mac. Later Killing Machine reissues also include the song though including the 2001 re-master which is the version I have.

While I don't find that Killing Machine is quite up to the level of Stained Class there are still quite a few songs here that I'd put on a hypothetical custom best of Judas Priest album. Those being Delivering the Goods, Rock Forever, Hell Bent for Leather and Running Wild. That last is definitely one of my favourite Judas Priest songs overall. The one song I don't like so much from this one is Take on the World. Sounds to me as if they wanted something for the crowd to sing along to in the live environment rather than getting down to business and doing as the opener says. That's the main reason why Killing Machine is ever so slightly lesser than Stained Class for me. It's still a high quality Judas Priest album though to close off their 70's work, though this is the start of a period of decline in the quality of their records in my opinion.

Attribution: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/judas-priest-killing-machine-t3803.html

JUDAS PRIEST Stained Class

Album · 1978 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.20 | 106 ratings
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666sharon666
1978's Stained Class, the fourth album of Judas Priest is actually one of two full-length albums that the band released that year, the other being Killing Machine. Les Binks become the first drummer of the band to play on two of their albums between these two. Stained Class is probably the most infamous album of Judas Priest due to them being put on trial many years later, in 1990, accused of putting an subliminal message (saying do it) in the track Better by You, Better Than Me, cited as a trigger for the suicide attempt of two American men in 1985 (one successful the other dying a few years later). The case was rightly dismissed.

Where the previous album Sin After Sin has always been a disappointed me to me, Stained Class represents the exact opposite. Judas Priest sound absolutely on fire here. While there are a couple of songs that I don't enjoy so much, most of the album is classic Judas Priest for my money. Especially the opening trio of Exciter, White Heat, Red Hot and Better by You, Better Than Me (which is actually a cover song, originally by Spooky Tooth) are really strong work and how can I also not mention the title track and Beyond the Realms of Death? While out of their 70's releases I think I will always prefer Sad Wings of Destiny Stained Class comes in at a very close second.

Attribution: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/judas-priest-stained-class-t3790.html

JUDAS PRIEST Sin After Sin

Album · 1977 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.94 | 99 ratings
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666sharon666
Sin After Sin, the third album of Judas Priest, was released in 1977. This is the only Judas Priest album to be recorded with the actual band only as a four-piece as the drums were handled by session musician Simon Phillips. It also marks the band's move to CBS Records which resulted in them getting a much bigger budget for the album, at the cost of breaking their contract with prior label Gull. For this album Judas Priest included a cover of the song Diamonds and Rust, originally by Joan Baez. It's not actually their first attempt at the song though, a previous version was made during the Sad Wings of Destiny sessions but only released on later releases including a reissue of Rocka Rolla.

Perhaps because of the massive budget increase that the label move gave them, Sin After Sin is quite a different sounding album to the previous Sad Wings of Destiny. The sound quality is a lot more polished (though it should perhaps be noted that I am listening to the 2001 re-mastered version here). The music is a little different as well and in some ways feels like both a step forward and a step back for Judas Priest in that it's got more of their hard rock roots going on than Sad Wings of Destiny, which I consider a pure heavy metal album (ballads aside). Sin After Sin crosses the line between hard rock and heavy metal a lot more. While a decent follow-up for Sad Wings of Destiny it's my opinion though that Sin After Sin is one of the least interesting Judas Priest records. I really like the Diamonds and Rust cover (to this day I have never checked out the original) and the opening song Sinner is as classic Judas Priest as you can find but the album doesn't include any other songs that I'd deem absolutely essential listening for the band, though Starbreaker comes close.

Attribution: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/judas-priest-sin-after-sin-t3789.html

JUDAS PRIEST Sad Wings Of Destiny

Album · 1976 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.42 | 141 ratings
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666sharon666
Despite only being released a couple of years after Rocka Rolla, and still containing some material credited to original vocalist Al Atkins, the second Judas Priest album Sad Wings of Destiny is markedly different to their debut. Where Rocka Rolla was a blues based hard rock album typical for the time, Sad Wings of Destiny marks the first example of the heavy metal act that Judas Priest have become one of the best known examples of. As was the case for a lot of their early work there was a drummer change from John Hinch to Alan Moore for this release. Most versions of the album begin with the classic Victim of Changes but others begin with Prelude, which of course actually makes the most sense. I've played the album using both versions of the tracklist and I personally prefer the more well known Victim of Changes led version though, but of course the album still flows pretty well with the other one.

For me Sad Wings of Destiny represents the very best of the 70's Judas Priest work, as well as being one of my favourite records of the group all told. I'd go as far to say that Sad Wings of Destiny is the epitome of 70's heavy metal in general. Victim of Changes is an early example of a metal epic and easily one of the best songs that Judas Priest have ever recorded while in following song The Ripper is an equally good but more to the point style of song. The duo of Dreamer Deceiver and Deceiver are also excellent. The only track I've never been so fond of is the ballad Epitaph actually. It simply pales next to Dreamer Deceiver and not being too much of a ballad person I guess I didn't need two of them on the same album as well. The rest though can still be counted as some of the best Judas Priest songs to date and while many of their albums no doubt deserve classic status, Sad Wings of Destiny, along with the later album Painkiller, is one of the most deserving. It shows off a massive jump in quality from Rocka Rolla and in my opinion is one metal album everyone should own.

Attribution: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/judas-priest-sad-wings-of-destiny-t3779.html

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