Judas Priest were the leaders of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal along with Iron Maiden. Yet, this was in the early 1980s. What most people don't realize is that Judas Priest were around way before all this. They formed in 1969 and released their debut album Rocka Rolla on Gull records in 1974. Their debut, although possessing visible potential, was basically a flop, as many songs were not well organized; they kind of threw riffs around randomly. Next came Sad Wings of Destiny in 1976. Priest cleaned up their act and wrote some very impressive material. Well organized, well written, heavy, melodic, catchy, and even experimental at times. Their first album sounded like a dark but thin and insipid Led Zeppelin mixed with some more straight out blues. This album however, was Judas Priest. No band at the time sounded quite like them. Not even Black Sabbath. Although Black Sabbath had basically invented heavy metal, Priest brought it to a whole new level. Their heavy riffs were simpler than Sabbath's, and K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton's dual lead work was way ahead of its time unlike Tommy Iommie's bluesy solos. With this album, (and their follow up to this one Sin after Sin) Judas Priest invented the generic metal riff. Another thing about Judas Priest's releases before 1979 was that they were much darker sounding than their more mainstream releases. In addition, the lyrics were much better. This album showcases a side of Judas Priest that not many people who are not Priest fans know about.
Rob Halford: Vocals
Glenn Tipton: Lead Guitars
K.K. Downing: Lead Guitars and Piano
Ian Hill: Bass
I am terribly sorry but I do not know who their drummer was at this point of their career. If anybody happens to know please tell me.
1) Victim of Changes: Starts off with a guitar harmony crescendo by both guitarists then leads into a mind-blowing riff. After a few repeats every one stops and Rob Halford sings " Whiskey woman don't you know that you are driving me INSANE!!! OHH" once he's done the main riff kicks back in. This song is basically awesome riffs galore. After the chorus, there is another impressively good riff that leads back into the verse. After the second chorus, there is a bridge section that leads into the first solo. Its a fairly decent solo but nothing special. Then, there is a softer section and Rob begins to sing again. This softer section masterfully (yes, masterfully is an appropriate word for this description) leads back into a heavy riff and Rob screams " VICTIM OF CHANGES". Barely is he done with his scream, Glenn Tipton delivers a nice solo that fits the song much better then the one K.K does before. The song finishes with Rob Screaming "NO" a few times and then ends on a power chord. Not only an amazing opener, not only the best track on the album, not only the best metal song of the decade, but one of the greatest metal songs of all time! 5/5.
2) The Ripper: Again, K.K and Glenn begin with a guitar harmony but a louder and shorter one than the one in Victim of Changes. Rob starts to sing immediately after. The lyrics are about Jack the Ripper as one might have guessed. The verse consists merely of palm muted power chords and the chorus is similar. This is a more vocal oriented song. There is a solo but it is very short and nothing special. However after it is finished there is an pretty good build up that leads back into the verse. The song ends on a scream from Mr. Halford. A decent song but nothing too exiting. 3.5/5
3) Dreamer Deceiver: A soft song that begins with a guitar chord being played note by note. Rob then begins singing very melodically. This song shows that Rob Halford can hit very high notes by actually singing and not screaming. In addition, it shows that he can sing quite low as well. The song pretty much stays on the same level until the end when Rob starts singing in a more metal way and a beautiful solo begins. The song ends with Rob hitting some more high notes and then a quick and unexpected piano fill leads right into the next song. Simply a beautiful, melancholy song. Among the best on the album and probably very overlooked. 5/5.
4) Deceiver: Heavy guitar intro leads into the follow up to Dreamer Deceiver. Basically the dreamer led the narrator into a nightmare and thus deceived him. (Thatís my interpretation and it might be totally wrong). The whole song is basically various palm muted classic Priest riffs. Great vocals by Rob to finish the song. Then, once u think its done, thereís an acoustic outro that sounds great and really goes well with the song. A very good song but not quite as good as Dreamer Deceiver. 4/5.
5) Prelude: This song is instrumental and is basically K.K. Downing playing piano (not keyboard). It has a noble and epic feel but only lasts about a minute and thirty seconds. Not a needed track. 2.5/5
6) Tyrant: Starts with a very catchy guitar intro that is moderately fast. Then the drums and bass kick in. As soon as Rob starts singing the riff becomes the usual Priest palm mute riff. For the chorus, they recorded Robís vocals twice so he can kinda overlap his first vocal part (if that makes any sense). They do the same for the strangely melodic bridge section with one of Robís voices singing and octave higher than the other. The solo that comes after is quite good although I think that at times it strays from the general feel of the song. The song ends with another insane scream. Kick ass song. A nice head banger but with lots of melody. 4.5/5.
7) Genocide: The opening guitar intro (and the rest of this song) almost brings us back to the kind of riffs Priest was creating for Rocka Rolla. Itís much more of a rock song than a metal song. Although the lyrics are not bad per say, they are a bit vague. There are a few good riffs here and there though, like the one for the chorus and all those ones before and after the solo. Nothing too special here. 3/5.
8) Epitaph: Now hereís something special! This song is very experimental. The whole song consists of Rob singing and K.K. Downing playing piano. Itís a piano and vocal duet from a heavy metal band. Thatís not something you see every day (although it has been done again by a few other bands). Now the question ďIs the song goodĒ? Yes. It is pretty far from metal or anything Judas Priest has ever done but it is a very soothing song to hear. The song is about an old man who dies and who is forgotten by everyone except the nature surrounding his tomb who ďShouts his epitaph out loud for anyone whoís passing nearĒ. Of course Rob shows off his impressive choir like singing. The opening palm muted intro riff of the next song starts immediately at the end of this one. An experiment by Priest that is quite a success in my eyes. 4/5.
9) Island of Domination: Epitaph leads right into the closing track. This song is filled with great vocals (as usual) from Rob and very good riffs all around. I think this song is about the brutality involved in slavery in the colonizing days of Brittan. (Yes, Iím probably wrong). After the second chorus there is a very heavy Sabbath type riff, a slower chunky power chord riff. After a final chorus the song ends and so does one of the greatest metal albums of the 70ís. Very appropriate and solid album closer. 4.5/5.
For Judas Priest, it was a long way to the top for them to rock n roll. Their first album, Rocka Rolla failed, their second, Sad Wings of Destiny, although was accepted as a strong album that showed the potential of the band, was not hugely success until Priest went more mainstream, their third, Sin after Sin, (which I will review some time) was again acknowledged as good but was in a way overlooked and still is to this day. Next came Stained Class, which brought them a little bit of success in 1978. It was not until 1979, with the release of Killing Machine, (Hell Bent for Leather, in the US) ten years after their band had started, that they began to get some mainstream recognition. Of course, as soon as that happened they became one of the biggest metal bands of all time, the leaders of a musical movement and so on and so forth.
Sad Wings of Destiny is probably their best album (Stained Class is a close tie) before they got super famous. As I mentioned before, as soon as they attained that level of fame, their sound changed drastically. They went from a dark, mysterious, and almost morbid band to a bright and showy band that brought motorcycles on stage and made studded leather really popular among metal heads. This is in no way bad, but itís just a huge step away from what they were doing before 1979. Now back to 1976. This album is great and has some very unique and heavy riffs (not anymore but they were at the time). In addition, Robís trademark high-pitched vocals really add power to the band as a whole. Notice I have not said ONE WORD about their rhythm section. It does exactly what it needs to do. Nothing more, nothing less. Its not outstanding or anything. This will change on their next album but thatís a different story.
Definitely download or somehow listen to: Victim of Changes, Dreamer Deceiver/ Deceiver, Tyrant
Final rating: 4/5. Definitely recommended to anyone who likes metal even if they donít like Judas Priestís more mainstream songs.