Sad Wings of Destiny

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Sad Wings of Destiny
Album cover; an angel struggles amidst a flaming background
Studio album by Judas Priest
Released 23 March 1976 (1976-03-23)
Recorded November – December 1975, Rockfield Studios, Wales
Genre Heavy metal
Length 39:12
Label Gull
  • Jeffery Calvert
  • Max West
  • Judas Priest
Judas Priest chronology
Rocka Rolla
Sad Wings of Destiny
Sin After Sin
Singles from Sad Wings of Destiny
  1. "The Ripper"/"Island of Domination"
    Released: March 1974

Sad Wings of Destiny is the second album by the English heavy metal group Judas Priest, released in 1976. It is considered the album on which Judas Priest consolidated their sound and image, and songs from it such as "Victim of Changes" and "The Ripper" became live standards.

Noted for its riff-driven heavy metal sound and the wide range of Halford's powerful vocals, the album displays a wide variety of styles, moods, and textures, inspired by an array of groups such as Queen, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath. The centrepiece "Victim of Changes" is a long track featuring heavy riffing trading off with high-pitched vocals; extended leads; and a slow, moody breakdown toward the end. "Tyrant" and "The Ripper" are short, dense, high-powered rockers with many parts and changes. Riffs and solos dominate "Genocide", "Island of Domination", and "Deceiver", and the band finds more laid-back moments in the crooning piano-backed "Epitaph" and the moody "Dreamer Deceiver".

Judas Priest recorded their first two albums with the independent Gull Records under tight budgets, unrelieved by the positive reception of Sad Wings of Destiny. After living off a single meal per day while working side jobs to support themselves, the group grew frustrated with the financial situation and signed with CBS Records for their next album, Sin After Sin (1977). Breaking their contract resulted in the rights to the album and demo recordings falling into Gull's hands.


Black-and-white photo of four young long-haired men
The group were inspired in part by contemporary Birmingham band Black Sabbath.

Judas Priest formed in 1969 in industrial West Bromwich, Birmingham. Co-founder Al Atkins named the band, wanting one similar to Black Sabbath's.[1] The bands were contemporaries and were both from Birmingham, though Judas Priest failed to find significant audience until Black Sabbath began to fade from the spotlight.[2] The band's guitarists Glenn Tipton and K. K. Downing have said the heavy riffing and complexity of the arrangements were inspired by the factories of Birmingham.[3]

By the time Judas Priest's first album, Rocka Rolla, was released in 1974, there had been so many lineup changes that no original member remained.[4] The first album displayed a mix of styles from a wide variety of influences.[1] Sales were poor,[citation needed] and the band found the performance and production disappointing.[5] The band gigged occasionally through 1975, at times sharing the stage with bands such as Pink Fairies and UFO.[6] Drummer John Hinch left the band for reasons that are disputed and was replaced with Alan Moore[7] in October 1975,[6] who had drummed in an early incarnation of the band.[7]

The band performed the "Dreamer Deceiver"–"Deceiver" pair on The Old Grey Whistle Test on BBC Two the year before the songs appeared on Sad Wings of Destiny. The band had yet to develop the studs-and-leather image that was to become their trademark; instead, they wore contemporary mid-1970s fashions, including high-heeled boots and frilled shirts, and a long-haired Halford donned a pink satin top.[8] By 1976, the band's singer Rob Halford joked that fans should burn their copies of the album.[9]

Finances were tight; Gull provided a recording budget of £2000 for each of the band's first two albums.[10] During the recording of Sad Wings of Destiny, band members restricted themselves to one meal a day, and several took on part-time work: Tipton as a gardener, Downing in a factory, and Hill driving a delivery van.[6] The band supported the album with a headlining tour[6] of the UK from 6 April to 20 June 1976.[11][a]


Producers Jeffrey Calvert and Max West were the main members in pop group Typically Tropical who topped the UK charts in 1975 with "I Want to Go to Barbados".[12] The album was released 23 March 1976,[13] and the same month "The Ripper" appeared as a single backed with "Island of Domination".[12] Initially published and distributed by Janus Records in the United States,[14] subsequent reissues of Sad Wings of Destiny have come from Ovation Records and RCA Records.

David Howells of Gull records commissioned Patrick Woodroffe to provide the cover art, a dark piece called Fallen Angel, depicting a struggling, grounded angel wearing a devil's three-pronged cross and surrounded by flames. Halford posed Christ-like on the reverse, and Gothic fonts adorned the front and back.[15]


"Prelude" is short baroque instrumental[16] primarily in the E♭ Aeolian mode, alternating between the tonic and dominant, and is arranged for keyboards, guitars, and tom-tom drums.[3] Despite the title, "Prelude" is musically unrelated to the following track, "Tyrant". "Prelude" did not appear on some pressings.[16]
A short track full of many parts and tempo changes, "Tyrant" expresses Halford's "aversion towards any form of control".[17]
A forward-looking, riff-heavy rocker,[18] bearing the influence of Black Sabbath, and of Deep Purple tracks such as "Woman from Tokyo" and "Burn".[19] Halford expressed hope that the song's "strong and graphic" lyrics would "be provocative and somewhat controversial and to stimulate people".[20] The phrase "sin after sin" from the lyrics to "Genocide" provided the title to the band's next album.[18]
A quiet track with piano backing and Queen-like layered vocals, the lyrics to "Genocide" express Halford's frustrations at a lack of place for the young or old in modern cities.[20]
"Island of Domination"
The side-closing "Island of Domination" is a heavy rocker with a complex riff[20] in a heavy style reminiscent of Black Sabbath.[19] Downing described the lyrics as personal to Halford, joking of their having "probably a few innuendoes".[20]
"Victim of Changes"
The nearly eight-minute "Victim of Changes" sports a wide dynamic range in rhythm, texture, and mood, with Black Sabbath-heavy riffing, melodic ballad, and extended leads. An almost classical-sounding twin-guitar introduction leads to the violent main riff. The lyrics tell of a woman whose hard-drinking results in losing her man to another woman. Inspired by Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog", the heavy riff alternates with a cappella passages,[21] Halford breaking into screaming falsettoes during the slow break and dramatic conclusion of the song.[11]
The track began life as two songs: "Whiskey Woman" was an early Priest song penned by Downing and Atkins that the band chose not to include on the first album,[13] though it had long been a crowd-pleasing opener for live shows and featured on early demo recordings.[22] To this the band wove in the slow "Red Light Lady", a song Halfod brought with him from his previous band, Hiroshima.[21]
"The Ripper"
A phantom brandishing a knife floats through a slum street
The lyrics of "The Ripper" are from the point of view of the Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper.
"The Nemesis of Neglect", John Tenniel, 1888

A busy, chugging, riff-heavy rocker, "The Ripper" features arrangements inspired by Queen–particularly in the high-pitched layered opening vocals and classical-tinged twin guitars.[23] The lyrics of the Tipton-penned track are from the point of view of Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper.[12]

"Dreamer Deceiver"

A slow ballad with crooning vocals and acoustic soloing, the song serves as introduction to the heavy "Deceiver" which follows it. Atkins originally received partial credit for both tracks, but disclaimed involvement in them; later releases removed his credit.[12] The track features one of the highest-pitched screams Halford recorded.[citation needed]


A heavy song with a chugging riff presaging the technical style of speed metal, "Deceiver" features energetic soloing and a heavy, Black Sabbath-like break with soaring, high-pitched vocals, climaxing in a repetitive acoustic closing.[24]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[14]

Sad Wings of Destiny had difficulty getting noticed due to critical competition from the rise of punk rock.[25] Despite the lack of commercial success,[14] the album was widely praised by critics, and earned the band a small, dedicated cult following on both sides of the Atlantic.[citation needed] The album peaked at 48 in the UK, and was awarded a gold record in 1989. In the heavy metal-averse Rolling Stone Kris Nicholson gave the album a positive review, comparing it favourably to Deep Purple's Machine Head of 1972.[6] The album arrived as heavy metal began to reinvigorate itself—the same year saw the release of Rising from Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow and Virgin Killer from Scorpions.[14]

The band, fans, and critics have come to see Sad Wings of Destiny as the album on which the band consolidated their sound and image.[26] Martin Popoff cites the album's "reinvention" of the heavy metal genre.[27] The technical dexterity and operatic vocals pointed toward trends in heavy metal that later in the decade New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands such as Iron Maiden were to follow, and the album's dark themes reappeared in the 1980s American thrash metal, such as in the music of Slayer and Metallica.[14] The album has come to be considered to be one of the most important and influential heavy metal albums. Tracks such as "Victim of Changes", "The Ripper", "Dreamer Deceiver", and "Tyrant" became fan favorites over the years.[citation needed] An early sign of the band's influence was that Van Halen included "Victim of Changes" in their sets before achieving fame.[28]

The band had grown dissatisfied with Gull;[29] the tight finances led Moore to leave the band a second time—this time permanently.[30] The album caught the attention of CBS Records, and with the help of new manager David Hemmings, the band signed with CBS and received a £60,000 budget for their next record, Sin After Sin (1977).[29] Downing described the disappointed feelings the group had over Gull's management influenced the dark themes that appeared on the album.[31] The signing required breaking their contract with Gull, resulting in the rights to the first two albums and all related recordings—including demos—becoming property of Gull.[29] Gull periodically repackaged and re-released the material from these albums, such as on the 1981 double album Hero, Hero.[32] For the most part, the band was to abandon the progressive rock leanings of their first two albums for a more straight-ahead heavy rock sound; the band revisited these prog elements in 2008 on the album Nostradamus.[33]

While the band lost the rights to recording royalties, they obtained copyright ownership of the songs themselves, many of which became staples for their live shows.[citation needed] "Victim of Changes", "The Ripper", "Tyrant", and "Genocide"—with an extended introduction—appear on the band's first live album, Unleashed in the East (1979).[34] During the Sad Wings sessions, Howells encouraged the band to work on a heavy metal cover of "Diamonds & Rust" by folk singer Joan Baez, but it did not appear on the album. The band had a hit in the UK with a re-recording of the cover version the following year, after they had moved to CBS Records.[35] Gull released the version from the Sad Wings sessions in 1978 on the compilation ablum The Best of Judas Priest.[36]

Photo of a long-haired man with an angular electric guitar
Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine chose heavy metal as a career as revenge against a brother-in-law who punched him for listening to Sad Wings of Destiny.

Dave Mustaine of Megadeth relates that a brother-in-law punched him in the face for listening to Sad Wings of Destiny; Mustaine called this a turning point, where he chose heavy metal as a career as "revenge".[37]

Sad Wings Of Destiny became a favorite album for live performances, with only two tracks ("Prelude" and the guitar-less "Epitaph") having never been played in concert. "Victim Of Changes" is the band's single most performed song, with 897 plays through 2012.

After Halford left the group in the 1990s, Tim Owens was hired to replace him after auditioning "Victim of Changes" and "The Ripper. Downing and Tipton thereafter nicknamed Owens "The Ripper".[38]

Judas Priest's 1990 album Painkiller features a winged figure Halford has described as futuristic version of the Fallen Angel from the Sand Wings of Destiny cover.[39] The band's 2005 album Angel of Retribution—with Halford again in the band—revives the Fallen Angel agian: the cover concept has the angel rise and seek retribution, and the song "Judas Rising" has him cast off his gloom and rise in optimism.[40]

Halford and Downing have named "Victim of Changes" as the band's peak track.[33] Al Atkins recorded the original version of the song for his album Victim of Changes of 1998. In 2011, Sad Wings of Destiny and Rocka Rolla were remastered for the first time.

Judas Priest frequently performed the song "Mother Sun" during the Sad Wings era, but never recorded it. The ballad with its Queen-like vocals has survived only in poor-quality bootleg recordings. In 2014 Swedish metal band Portrait released a cover version on a 2014 CD single.[41]

Track listing[edit]

Side A
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Victim of Changes"   Al Atkins, Glenn Tipton, Rob Halford, K. K. Downing 7:47
2. "The Ripper"   Tipton 2:50
3. "Dreamer Deceiver"   Atkins, Halford, Downing, Tipton 5:51
4. "Deceiver"   Halford, Downing, Tipton 2:40
Side B
No. Title Writer(s) Length
5. "Prelude"   Tipton 2:02
6. "Tyrant"   Halford, Tipton 4:28
7. "Genocide"   Halford, Downing, Tipton 5:51
8. "Epitaph"   Tipton 3:08
9. "Island of Domination"   Halford, Downing, Tipton 4:32

The track listing on the original Gull Records pressing puts the songs on side B before those of side A, thus opening with "Prelude" and closing with "Deceiver". Early CD releases reverted the track listing, opening with "Victim of Changes". A 1995 CD reissue by Repertoire Records had track 3 labelled as "Dream Deceiver" rather than "Dreamer Deceiver". This was later changed back to its original title on the 1998 release by Snapper Music.[citation needed] Judas Priest endorsed none of these reissues.[42] The band's Complete Albums collection of 2011 uses the "Prelude"-opened track listing for the Sad Wings of Destiny disc.[citation needed]




Cover versions[edit]

  • Overkill performed "Tyrant", on the album Coverkill.
  • Iced Earth covered "The Ripper" for a bonus track on digipak editions of their 1996 album The Dark Saga. The song later appeared on The Melancholy EP and the 2008 reissue of Something Wicked This Way Comes.
  • Steel Tyrant covered "Tyrant" on their 'Live at Jailbreak, along with other Priest's classics. .
  • Icarus Witch also covered "The Ripper" for their 2010 album Draw Down the Moon.
  • Gamma Ray covered "Victim of Changes" in Tribute to Judas Priest Album.
  • Mercyful Fate covered "The Ripper" on the Judas Priest cover album A Tribute to Judas Priest: Legends of Metal.
  • Skyclad covered "Dreamer Deceiver" for a tribute album.
  • Reverend Bizarre covered "Deceiver" for their 7" EP Dark World/Deceiver.
  • Agent Steel covered "The Ripper" on their EP Mad Locust Rising.
  • Portrait covered the unreleased demo/live track "Mother Sun" on their 2014 CD single "We Were Not Alone" [43]
  • Metal Musician Alec Sullivan released a cover of the infamously unreleased track "Mother Sun" on YouTube as a single in July 2014.[44]


  1. ^ The band also headlined a single show in July 1976 at the Roundhouse.[6]


  1. ^ a b Popoff 2007, p. 16.
  2. ^ Cope 2013, p. 109; Wagner 2010, p. 17.
  3. ^ a b Cope 2013, p. 110.
  4. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 2.
  5. ^ Popoff 2007, pp. 28–29.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Popoff 2007, p. 39.
  7. ^ a b Popoff 2007, p. 32.
  8. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 34.
  9. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 29.
  10. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 41.
  11. ^ a b Daniels 2007, p. 101.
  12. ^ a b c d Popoff 2007, p. 33.
  13. ^ a b Popoff 2007, p. 30.
  14. ^ a b c d e Huey.
  15. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 27.
  16. ^ a b Popoff 2007, p. 35.
  17. ^ Popoff 2007, pp. 35–36.
  18. ^ a b Popoff 2007, p. 37.
  19. ^ a b Cope 2013, p. 109.
  20. ^ a b c d Popoff 2007, p. 38.
  21. ^ a b Popoff 2007, pp. 30–31.
  22. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 31.
  23. ^ Popoff 2007, pp. 31–32.
  24. ^ Popoff 2007, pp. 33–34.
  25. ^ Bowe 2009, p. 39.
  26. ^ Daniels 2007, p. 100.
  27. ^ Popoff, Martin. The Collector's Guide To Heavy Metal. Burlington: Collector's Guide Publishing, 1997. p. 280–281.
  28. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 79.
  29. ^ a b c Popoff 2007, pp. 41–42.
  30. ^ Daniels 2007, p. 102.
  31. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 42.
  32. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 122.
  33. ^ a b Wagner 2010, p. 17.
  34. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 85.
  35. ^ Popoff 2007, pp. 50–51.
  36. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 377.
  37. ^ Gilmore 2012, p. 382.
  38. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 243.
  39. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 204.
  40. ^ Popoff 2007, pp. 345–346.
  41. ^ Blabbermouth staff 2014.
  42. ^ "". 2013-05-28. Retrieved 2014-05-18. 
  43. ^ "PORTRAIT Cover Unreleased JUDAS PRIEST Track; Sample Streaming". Retrieved 2014-05-18. 
  44. ^

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]