Judas Priest ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ continues to rock through the ages

It’s easy to say that Judas Priest is considered one of the greatest heavy metal bands in music history. Their songs, like “Breaking the Law”, “Electric Eye” and “Painkiller,” blast through stereos to this very day. And their live performances? Godlike. 

Their career-defining accomplishments have been hailed for generations. From  the late 70s (Stained Class, Hell Bent For Leather), throughout the 80s (Screaming for Vengeance and Defenders of the Faith) and into the early 90s (Painkiller). Even today, they are still performing and rocking out to fans of all ages.

Judas Priest originated in 1969, founded by guitarist KK Downing and bassist Ian Hill. Following the departure of the original singer, perhaps the greatest metal vocalist of all time, Rob Halford joined the group along with Glenn Tipton as fellow guitarist and songwriter.

When Judas Priest issued their first record, “Rocka Rolla,” the album received mixed to scathing reviews, being called “a sketchy and under focused debut” by AllMusic’s Steve Huey. The record also became a dud, having only sold a few thousand copies due to the reception. 

After their debut album flopped, Judas Priest changed their production, applying a melodic texture and rhythm with the band’s eventual famous heavy riffing. It was exactly the sound that the group was looking for. Combined with the songwriting, this laid the groundwork for some of the best songs Priest has ever recorded with “Sad Wings of Destiny”. 

For starters, the album opens up with the hard-hitting, melodic eight-minute epic “Victim of Changes,” which is considered an all-time classic and a fan favorite. From the fantastic build-up of fading-in harmony sections by Downing and Tipton, to the catchy solos, to Halford providing some of the vocals of his entire career and from the opening lyric to the final shriek.

Speaking of shrieking, track two, “The Ripper,” is where Halford’s screams pierce through your ears. Based upon the Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper, this song is a punchy, wickedly atmospheric song that never overstays its welcome.

Aside from “Sad Wings”’s two heavyweight headliners, the album does contain a few underrated breakneck metal tunes like “Tyrant”, “Genocide”  and “Island of Domination” which are fast, fluid and have all of the heavy metal goodness Priest has to offer. 

However, the album does fall a bit short with some songs that meander and mess with the flow of the record such as the short ballad, “Epitaph” a track that sounds less like Priest and more like lazily produced, plodding Queen worship. 

“Sad Wings of Destiny” remains a bona fide classic in the band’s catalog, and has been lauded by metal maniacs ever since. According to Louder Sound, Halford himself said that the fans’ admiration looking back at the album as being a classic was a response they accepted with gratitude.

If it wasn’t for this album’s release, nothing in the metal genre or Judas Priest’s own legacy from that point forward would be the same again.