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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Judas Priest

Sad Wings of Destiny

Review by Gary Hill

Few would call Judas Priest a progressive metal band. Certainly the bulk of their career has been devoted to pure metal. However, they have often flirted with pushing the envelope, and the first time I remember hearing the term "progressive metal", it was in reference to Priest`s Point of Entry album. This album (Sad Wings of Destiny) has many progressive elements and is a fine piece of work.

Early Judas Priest (this is their second album) had a guitar sound which was very unique. In later periods of the band`s career, their sound became more like the others (probably more from Priest being imitated than Priest imitating), but this early stuff had a sound all its own. Personnel on this album was Rob Halford, K.K. Downing, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill and John Hinch.

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Track by Track Review
Victim of Changes
A quirky fade-up leads into a riff based verse that seems to tip this way and that in a nicely off-balance manner. Although seeming to address how the changing of an individual alters the status of their relationship, it is hard to tell who is leaving whom. The number is certainly metal, but full of unique meanderings in all directions that keep it far from cliched. The song drops into a balladic form which builds slowly in intensity (including some unusual vocal work) before leaping head-first back into the energetic main song structure. Rob Halford`s to-the-stars vocal style shows up in the latter parts of the composition.
The Ripper
This track does a wonderful job of capturing musically the psychotic menace of the lyrics (a tale of Jack the Ripper). Insane sounding guitar opens the piece, and, as the song continues, little sounds feel as if they jump at the listener frequently, seemingly from here and there. The effect is that of adding a slightly paranoic edge to the cut. "Hear my warning, never turn your back on the ripper". A short song, The Ripper seems to come, do the work it set out to do, then fade back into the shadows.
Dreamer Deceiver
This composition, along with the one that follows it, seem to represent a two-piece suite and Priest`s most solid stab at prog. It is a fine attempt and can stand beside much of the music of many bands traditionally called "progressive rock". Beginning in a folky prog manner, the number begins building. Halford`s vocals start the track in very low tones, eventually making their way quite high into the register. The band keeps reinventing the main theme and it becomes increasingly intricate and more layered. The entrance of piano signals the transition to the Deceiver portion of the piece.
Deceiver
Definitely an extension of Dreamer Deceiver, this cut begins with the Halford scream that ended that piece. Based in a solidly metallic pattern, Deceiver is a great counterpoint to the progish intricacies of Dreamer Deceiver. The number closes with the acoustic guitar mode that began that last track.
Prelude
A dramatic and pretty piano-based instrumental, Prelude`s ending segments are quite lush.
Tyrant
Based on that seemingly unique old Priest sound, Tyrant is heavy metal, but not the generic variety. Although not a real standout, this is a strong track. The guitar solo is inspired and exciting. "Mourn for our souls, pressed in fear, chained and shackled, we are bound, freedom choked, in dread we live, since tyrant was enthroned".
Genocide
This is a catchy metal number whose melody reaches out and grabs the listener. The speaker shift in the later part of the song is a lot of fun, particularly with headphones. "Sin after sin, I have endured, yet the wounds I bear, are the wounds of love". Those lyrics are done as part of a very dramatic spoken word segment.
Epitaph
A short poem as song set to piano melody, this is a major change of pace from the rest of the album.
Island of Domination
The guitar and vocals scream out after the mellow break that Epitaph offered. This piece contains plenty of off-kilter vocal tricks and strong guitar work. After a good deal of full out metal mayhem, the track drops back into a blues based groove, much slower, but still quite crunchy. The original mode returns to see the song, and the album, out in force.
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