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
Producer
  • Jeffery Calvert
  • Max West
  • Judas Priest
Judas Priest chronology
Rocka Rolla
(1974)
Sad Wings of Destiny
(1976)
Sin After Sin
(1977)
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".

Sad Wings of Destiny had a positive reception but weak sales as it was released just as punk rock was dominating the spotlight in the UK. The band recorded their first two albums with the independent Gull Records under tight budgets; 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.

Background[edit]

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]

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

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] 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 group went into the studio with the intention of making an album that mixed straight-ahead rock with a progressive edge.[11]

Production[edit]

Photo of a gated wall
Recording took place at at Rockfield Studios in Wales in November and December 1975.

Recording was done over two weeks in November and December 1975 at Rockfield Studios in Wales[12] with producers Jeffrey Calvert and Gereint "Max West" Hughes, and Chris Tsangarides as co-engineer.[13] Calvert and Hughes were the main members of the pop group Typically Tropical who topped the UK charts in 1975 with "I Want to Go to Barbados",[14] Gull's first hit.[12] The band stayed sober during the recording sessions, which lasted from 3:00 pm until 3:00 am.[11] Mixing took a week at Morgan Studios in London.[12]

David Howells of Gull records commissioned Patrick Woodroffe to provide the cover art, a dark piece called Fallen Angel, depicting a struggling, grounded angel and surrounded by flames and wearing a devil's three-pronged cross,[15] which was the band's symbol.[16] Halford posed Christ-like on the reverse, and Gothic fonts adorned the front and back.[15]

Songs[edit]

"Prelude"
"Prelude" is short baroque instrumental[17] 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".[17]
"Tyrant"
A short track full of many parts and tempo changes, Halford has said "Tyrant" expresses his "aversion towards any form of control".[18]
"Genocide"
A forward-looking, riff-heavy rocker,[19] bearing the influence of Black Sabbath, and of Deep Purple tracks such as "Woman from Tokyo" and "Burn".[20] Halford expressed hope that the song's "strong and graphic" lyrics would "be provocative and somewhat controversial and to stimulate people".[21] The phrase "sin after sin" from the lyrics to "Genocide" provided the title to the band's next album.[19]
"Epitaph"
A quiet track with piano backing and Queen-like layered vocals, the lyrics to "Epitaph" express Halford's frustrations at a lack of place for the young or old in modern cities.[21]
"Island of Domination"
The side-closing "Island of Domination" is a heavy rocker with a complex riff[21] in a style reminiscent of Black Sabbath.[20] Downing described the lyrics as personal to Halford, joking of their having "probably a few innuendoes".[21]
"Victim of Changes" became a Judas Priest standard.

Problems playing this file? See media help.
"Victim of Changes"

The nearly eight-minute "Victim of Changes" displays 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,[22] Halford breaking into screaming falsettos during the slow break and dramatic conclusion of the song.[23]

The track began as two songs: "Whiskey Woman" was an early Priest song by Downing and Atkins that the band chose not to include on the first album,[24] though it had long been a crowd-pleasing opener at live shows and featured on early demo recordings.[25] To this the band wove in the slow "Red Light Lady", a song Halford brought with him from his previous band, Hiroshima.[22]

A phantom brandishing a knife floats through a slum street
"The Ripper" is from the point of view of the Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper.
"The Nemesis of Neglect",
John Tenniel, 1888
"The Ripper"
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.[26] The lyrics of the Tipton-penned track are from the point of view of Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper.[14]
"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.[14]
"Deceiver"
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.[27]

Release, reception and legacy[edit]

Sad Wings of Destiny was released 23 March 1976,[24] and the same month "The Ripper" appeared as a single backed with "Island of Domination".[14] The album was initially published and distributed by Janus Records in the United States.[28]

The album had little commercial success at first[28] and had difficulty getting noticed due to critical competition from the rise of punk rock.[29] The band supported the album with a headlining tour[6] of the UK from 6 April to 20 June 1976.[23][a] 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.[28] Over the next several years the band became a prominent example of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.[30]

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.

The band had grown dissatisfied with Gull;[31] the tight finances led Moore to leave the band a second time—this time permanently.[32] 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).[31] Downing described the disappointed feelings the group had over Gull's management influenced the dark themes that appeared on the album.[33] 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.[31] Gull periodically repackaged and re-released the material from these albums, such as on the 1981 double album Hero, Hero.[34] For the most part, the band was to abandon the progressive rock elements 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.[35]

Fans, critics, and the band have come to see Sad Wings of Destiny as the album on which the band consolidated their sound and image.[16] Martin Popoff cites the album's "reinvention" of the heavy metal genre.[36] 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.[28] An early sign of the band's influence was that Van Halen included "Victim of Changes" in their sets before achieving fame.[37] 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".[38]

Black-and-white photograph of a woman with a guitar
Judas Priest recorded a cover of "Diamonds & Rust" by Joan Baez (pictured) during the Sad Wings sessions; another version in 1977 got the band their first airplay.

"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).[39] 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.[40] Gull released the version from the Sad Wings sessions in 1978 on the compilation album The Best of Judas Priest.[41]

Judas Priest's 1990 album Painkiller features a winged figure Halford has described as a futuristic version of the Fallen Angel from the Sand Wings of Destiny cover.[42] The band's 2005 album Angel of Retribution—with Halford again in the band—revives the Fallen Angel again: 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.[43]

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".[44] Judas Priest's original singer Al Atkins recorded a version of "Victim of Changes" for his album Victim of Changes of 1998.[45] 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.[46]

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 sleeve of the original release has the sides reversed, opening with "Prelude". With the exception of the Sad Wings of Destiny disc of the seventeen-disc Complete Albums Collection in 2012, all CD releases follow the track listing above. "Prelude" did not appear on some pressings.[17]

Personnel[edit]

Band[edit]

Black-and-white photo of five young men
The Sad Wings line-up, from left to right: Ian Hill, K. K. Downing, Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, and Alan Moore.

Production[edit]

Notes[edit]

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

References[edit]

  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. 99.
  12. ^ a b c Daniels 2007, p. 96.
  13. ^ Daniels 2007, pp. 96–97.
  14. ^ a b c d Popoff 2007, p. 33.
  15. ^ a b Popoff 2007, p. 27.
  16. ^ a b Daniels 2007, p. 100.
  17. ^ a b c Popoff 2007, p. 35.
  18. ^ Popoff 2007, pp. 35–36.
  19. ^ a b Popoff 2007, p. 37.
  20. ^ a b Cope 2013, p. 109.
  21. ^ a b c d Popoff 2007, p. 38.
  22. ^ a b Popoff 2007, pp. 30–31.
  23. ^ a b Daniels 2007, p. 101.
  24. ^ a b Popoff 2007, p. 30.
  25. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 31.
  26. ^ Popoff 2007, pp. 31–32.
  27. ^ Popoff 2007, pp. 33–34.
  28. ^ a b c d Huey.
  29. ^ Bowe 2009, p. 39.
  30. ^ Hammond 2008.
  31. ^ a b c Popoff 2007, pp. 41–42.
  32. ^ Daniels 2007, p. 102.
  33. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 42.
  34. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 122.
  35. ^ Wagner 2010, p. 17.
  36. ^ Popoff 1997, p. 280–281.
  37. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 79.
  38. ^ Gilmore 2012, p. 382.
  39. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 85.
  40. ^ Popoff 2007, pp. 50–51.
  41. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 377.
  42. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 204.
  43. ^ Popoff 2007, pp. 345–346.
  44. ^ Popoff 2007, p. 243.
  45. ^ AllMusic staff.
  46. ^ Blabbermouth staff 2014.

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]