Thursday 28 November 2013

Choice Cuts : Judas Priest - Sad Wings of Destiny

Judas Priest- Sad Wings of Destiny

Judas Priest Line-up for this recording was :

Rob Halford | Vocals
Alan Moore | Drums
Ian Hill | Bass
K.K. Downing | Guitars
Glen Tipton | Guitars

Review :

The term “classic album” is bandied about a lot. In truth, there are not too many classics in metal. There may be records you are fond of for reasons of circumstance. There are certainly excellent records out there by many, many bands. There are few albums that define and in doing so advance the genre, though. “Sad Wings...” is one such album. Priest, prior to its release, were a heavy rock band with blues inflections. However, with this monumental effort they came to define the metal genre going forward. That they did so again with “Stained Class” a couple of years later further elevates their status as metal gods, but this is the album that brought so much to what we know as metal today.

Taking a look at what the record contains, the list is easy to write: twin guitars trading solos and riffs, screaming vocals with an aggressive bite to the lower range, dark and sinister vibe, baleful artwork and the very metal subject matter of serial killers, massacres, wizards and so on. Sabbath created metal, in my humble view, with their single guitar attack combined with down-tuned heaviness, occult inspired and dark lyrics and the general horror movie vibe they carried (particularly the first four albums). Priest, in bringing in another guitar and vocals of more range and aggression brought a more dynamic forging of metal to the table.

The running order of the record is a matter of debate. There is a song called Prelude but this opens side two of the vinyl I own and sits mid way through on the re-issued CD. By logic, it would indeed start the album, but as the debate has never really been settled I will go with the current running order as printed. Victim of Changes thus opens the record with strange distant guitars giving way to a powerful and plodding riff. The guitars play off each other, the vocals soar and a downbeat ambience is created. The drums of  Alan Moore are perhaps the weak point of the album- he is no Les Binks who graced the aforementioned “Stained Class” and “Killing Machine” along with the “live” set “Unleashed in the East”- but he does an adequate job using simple grooves that allow guitar and vocals to take a front seat. The middle section is sombre and spacey before the vocal finale that Halford delivers with considerable aplomb.

The album follows with another classic; The Ripper really manages to capture a kind of Victorian melodrama atmosphere with its gas lamps and cold damp air. The track is concise and features excellent lyrics and hooks along with superb riffing. Tipton wrote this one alone and its focus perhaps indicates a singular writer. Halford's delivery is again excellent with “I'm a nasty surprise... a devil in disguise” being particularly unpleasant in its delivery. Could the themes of death metal have been established here? Maybe so.

For me, the album's highlight follows. Dreamer/Deceiver is a stunning suite; maudlin and mournful with Halford displaying an unbelievable range. The track is very atmospheric and evocative of space and time, or even bleak landscapes- check it out and hear for yourself. The track gives way to Deceiver that has a metal riff of galloping nature that has been repeated so many times by so many bands; anyone who is anyone has played a variation. Metal had not been this direct or aggressive before. Prelude follows with classical sounds to introduce Tyrant- another precursor of thrash and more extreme fare- which features an excellent riff, lock tight rhythm section and good lyrics delivering one of the albums key themes; that of the powerful and powerless or the oppressed and the oppressor. Other albums have certainly used this too; “Master of Puppets,” “Crack The Skye,” “Rust In peace,” “Vulgar Display Of...” the list goes on. I am guessing that that the band felt somewhat powerless in their lives in the industrial Midlands, but by playing powerful music, well, the circle gets broken does it not? For Halford in particular, self expression would have been one of the benefits of playing heavy and aggressive music- like so many of us, metal allowed him to express and even exorcise the frustration that he no doubt felt at being an outsider in a dreary and socially conservative time. Genocide carries this motif to a larger scale before the stunning Epitaph ruminates on the ravages of age and time. Island of Domination is both comic and sinister in its subject matter and again explores more of Halford's psyche (to do and to have done).

With that, the album is over. Heavy, fast, slow, ballads, classical inflections- the album has got it all. With Sad Wings of Destiny Judas Priest assured themselves a place in metal's pantheon of greats, introduced elements of the genre that would be writ large by some of the biggest bands of the following decades and established themes and elements that would forever remain part of metal. The faster songs hint at thrash, the slower songs have a mournful and doom laden vibe. Truly a classic metal album, then.

Words & Recommendation by : Richard Maw

Album Details :

Sad Wings of Destiny is the second album by the English heavy metal group Judas Priest, released in 1976.  Sad Wings of Destiny was Judas Priest's second and final studio record made while under contract with Gull Records, an independent UK company

Sad Wings of Destiny, track listing :

1). Vicitim of Changes 07:54
2). The Ripper 02:51
3). Dreamer Deceiver 05:54
4). Deceiver 02:43
5). Prelude 02:02
6). Tyrant 04:29
7). Genocide 05:46
8). Epitaph 03:08
9). Island of Domination 04:24

On the sleeve of the original pressing by Gull Records (shown here), the tracklisting puts side B before side A, suggesting that "Prelude" would serve as the opening song. However, the actual LP opens with side A, possibly due to an error from Gull Records.

The CD first pressing by RCA (cat.-no. 4747-2-R) opens with Prelude.
Later CD versions open with Victim of Changes instead of Prelude. The Ovation Records version on vinyl does this as well.
The band's official discography begins with Victim of Changes.

The original Spanish vinyl edition was titled "Tristes Alas del Destino" and was released by Gull (LP 0088, 1976) in gatefold cover (with a huge promo photo and some description in Spanish).

Recorded at Rockfield Studios, Wales, November/December, 1975

Tracks 2, 5 and 8 by Glenn Tipton
Track 6 by Rob Halford and Glenn Tipton
Tracks 4, 7 and 9 by Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing
Tracks 1 and 3 by Al Atkins, Rob Halford, Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing.

If you haven’t heard this band or this record, go check em’ out. We’ll be back next time with yet more, Choice Cuts!! So until then, stay metal and Doom On!!

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