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Sad Wings of Destiny

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Album Review

The year 1976 was crucial for the evolution of heavy metal, as landmark albums like Rainbow's Rising and Scorpions' Virgin Killer began to reshape the genre. Perhaps none was quite as important as Judas Priest's sophomore effort, Sad Wings of Destiny, which simultaneously took heavy metal to new depths of darkness and new heights of technical precision. Building on the hard prog of bands like Queen and Wishbone Ash, plus the twin-guitar innovations of the latter and Thin Lizzy, Sad Wings fused these new influences with the gothic doom of Black Sabbath, the classical precision of Deep Purple, and the tight riffery of the more compact Led Zeppelin tunes. Priest's prog roots are still readily apparent here, particularly on the spacy ballad "Dreamer Deceiver," the multi-sectioned "Victim of Changes," and the softer sonic textures that appear from time to time. But if Priest's style was still evolving, the band's trademarks are firmly in place — the piercing, operatic vocals of Rob Halford and the tightly controlled power riffing of guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton.

This foundation sounded like little else on the metal scene at the time, and gave Sad Wings of Destiny much of its dramatic impact. Its mystique, though, was something else. No metal band had been this convincingly dark since Black Sabbath, and that band's hallucinatory haze was gone, replaced by a chillingly real cast of serial killers ("The Ripper"), murderous dictators ("Tyrant"), and military atrocities that far outweighed "War Pigs" ("Genocide"). Even the light piano ballad "Epitaph" sounds like a morbidly depressed Queen rewriting Sabbath's "Changes." Three songs rank as all-time metal classics, starting with the epic "Victim of Changes," which is blessed with an indelible main riff, a star-making vocal turn from Halford, explosive guitar work, and a tight focus that belies its nearly eight-minute length. "The Ripper" and "Tyrant," with their driving guitar riffs and concise construction, are the first seeds of what would flower into the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement.

More than any other heavy metal album of its time, Sad Wings of Destiny offered the blueprint for the way forward. What's striking is how deeply this blueprint resonated through the years, from the prog ambitions of Iron Maiden to the thematic echoes in a pair of '80s thrash masterpieces. The horrors of Sad Wings are largely drawn from real life, much like Slayer's Seasons in the Abyss, and its all-consuming anxiety is over powerlessness, just like Metallica's magnum opus, Master of Puppets. (Though this latter preoccupation doubtlessly had more psychosexual roots in Rob Halford's case — witness the peculiar torture fantasy of "Island of Domination.") Unfortunately, Sad Wings of Destiny didn't have as much impact upon release as it should have, mostly owing to the limitations of the small Gull label. It did, however, earn Judas Priest a shot with Columbia, where they would quickly become the most influential band in heavy metal not named Black Sabbath.

Customer Reviews

Priest's finest moment

I returned to this album recently, having seen the various manifestations of Judas Priest several times in the 1980's. Let's be frank, they were never better than this. The album still stands up as a well-crafted, masterful piece of music. The twin guitar attack of Glen Tipton and KK Downing and Rob Halford's incredible vocal range make this a true classic of the rock genre. I cannot believe a young band (and this was only their second album) could create something of this quality and originality,only to descend to the mediocrity of tosh like "living after midnight" within a decade. I would thoroughly recommend that anyone who wishes to experience just how good Priest were listen to this work before considering the later commercial albums (with the possible exception of Unleashed in the East which is tremendous fun)

Priest, British 70's metal at its best...

I am biased. I love Priest. I clearly remember meeting the band in 1976 at The Birmingham Town Hall in England when they originally played alot of this material. It was a life changing gig. Halfords vocals are amazing, it was on this album that he appeared inhibition free and confident to scream at every cadence... oh those screams! "Victim of Changes' is a classic, the awesome riff and the fabulous time changes and a build up that is frightening in intensity. The quirky 'Ripper' (it upset quite a few people at the time with its non 'PC theme...) with its glorious cross rhythms. Genocide, wonderful bombastic metal and many other moments that pre echo just how big Priest would become. This album is not perfect, but for me its the most representative priest album before they aspired more to the USA market. British Metal at its Brummy industrial camp best! I love it...and I've still got the '76 T-shirt!

Best album ever!!

Every song is amazing...the vocals are especially awesome. Priest at their best. Buy this album!!


Formed: 1969 in Birmingham, England

Genre: Metal

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Judas Priest was one of the most influential heavy metal bands of the '70s, spearheading the New Wave of British Heavy Metal late in the decade. Decked out in leather and chains, the band fused the gothic doom of Black Sabbath with the riffs and speed of Led Zeppelin, as well as adding a vicious two-lead guitar attack; in doing so, they set the pace for much popular heavy metal from 1975 until 1985, as well as laying the groundwork for the speed and death metal of the '80s. Formed in Birmingham,...
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