Judas Priest recorded their second album in only 2 weeks in November and December of 1975. That is not much time at all, but the record label, Gull, was pretty freaking cheap and the boys were only living on one meal a day. Heck, some of the guys had to work a side job to make ends meet. Doesn’t sound like a good record deal in my book, but what do I know. It was recorded at the Rockfield Studios in Wales and finally saw its release on March 23, 1976.
The album had positive reviews, but that did not translate in to sales as the timing in the UK wasn’t the best. There was a genre that was popping up and becoming real popular. It was called punk rock. As a result, the band only released one single and the album only went to #48 on the UK Charts. What is really great about this album though, is this is really the birth of the Judas Priest sound. This is what I was expecting on ‘Rocka Rolla’, but I didn’t get. This was the real beginning of Priest.
The band was basically the same line-up with Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing and Ian Hill. They did have a new drummer as John Hinch left the band and they replaced him with Alan Moore. This was be the only album that Moore would play on because he wasn’t overly thrilled with the money situation and would soon leave the band. They seemed to have trouble keeping a drummer as I have counted around 9 different drummers over the years. Crazy!
The album track listing is set up in two different ways. On the LP and on Apple Music, the album starts off with “Victim of Changes” and ends with “Island of Domination” whereas my CD actually has Side B starting off the album and Side A ending the album. I am not sure why the change. It seems to me the CD makes more sense as the opening track is “Prelude” which means it should lead off the album because its name actually means introduction. So we are going to discuss the order in the track listing my CD has as you can see in the picture above.
“Prelude” is an instrumental opening and actually has no correlation to the next track “Tyrant”. It is done in a baroque style with piano and a lot of tom tom drums. There is some guitar, but not much worth noting. It really seems completely unnecessary and very skippable. “Tyrant” opens with a killer riff and explodes with full on energy. This is the Priest I was always expecting. Hard, heavy and full on metal bleeding from its soul. Halford’s vocals are spot on and I love the layered on vocals of his in the chorus. The guitar work between Downing and Tipton is what it is all about. They way those two play-off each other is unbeatable. I could listen to those two battle all day.
“Genocide” is another riff-laden song. It has more of a Deep Purple feel to it as I can almost hear a little Blackmore in those guitars. It is more of a mid-tempo track and chugs along with a great rhythm section from Hill and Moore. Halford sings the lyrics with a little anger as the lyrics are pretty aggressive and controversial. There is a line in it where Halford speaks and starts off with “Sin After Sin” which would become the title of the next album. The song goes gangbusters at the end with everything speeding up in a fury like the world was going to end and they wanted to play and sing every last note they could.
We then get to the first ballad, yes Priest has ballads. This one is called “Epitaph” and was written by Glenn Tipton. Tipton does play a nice piano on it, but Halford has turned to a crooner and his vocals are in a much deeper register. I will be honest, I don’t like when he sings in that register. It completely throws the vibe of those first two songs out the window. I could do without this one, but it was nice to see the softer side of the band.
The song bleeds in to the final track of the first half of the album. “Island of Domination” opens with a cool riff and Halford gives one of his signature howls. This is more like it. The song races through and has almost Sabbath vibe to it which I can get in to that. This is also one my favorite Halford performances of the album. He seems to be having a good time singing it which makes me enjoy listening to it. I love the different rhythm breaks in the song and as usual, the guitar work of both Tipton and Downing are something that needs to be heard.
The back half of the CD kicks off with the best song on the album, “Victims of Changes” which is an epic almost 8 minute track written by Halford, Downing, Tipton and Al Atkins. The song opens slowly and breaks into a cool double guitar riff. It seems to be a very complex song with lots of rhythm changes and heck even the moods and vibes change throughout. The song is so full of layers and textures that it keeps you engrossed which is needed for such a long track. The thing that clinches the song is Halford’s falsettos and that dramatic, climactic scream at the end. It is legendary!!
“Ripper” is up next and this Tipton penned track is a beast just like Jack the Ripper who the song is about…or if you like, Jack the Knife. It is an intense, riff-roaring killer track. The guitars of Tipton and Downing stab at you from every angle with such ferocity. But the final and fatal cut is from Halford’s shrills and falsettos that slice through you like butter. I can see why this was the single because it does make you sit up and take notice.
The second and final ballad is “Dreamer Deceiver”. Unlike “Epitaph”, I do like Halford’s vocal change as it is less in your face, well until those hellaciously great screams towards the end. It makes me appreciate his range a lot more. It is much slower tempo than the prior songs without losing any of the vibe as it has a more blues style and still feels like a metal song. The solo in this thing is one of the best solos on the album as it fits the song to perfection. The song is also a lead in to the final song “Deceiver” which is a complete opposite song as it is more Sabbath and even borders on speed metal in its guitar delivery. This one is also where I noticed the bass sounded a little different and laid down one nasty ass groove. It is a hell of a closing track on the CD and makes the back half of this album (first half on LP) absolutely brilliant!
- Prelude – Delete
- Tyrant – Keeper
- Genocide – Keeper
- Epitath – Delete
- Island of Domination – Keeper
- Victim of Changes – Keeper
- The Ripper – Keeper
- Dreamer Deceiver – Keeper
- Deceiver – Keeper
The Track Score is 7 out of 9 or 78% which is way better than I thought it would be after my first listen. This album grew on me and in the end I really found myself enjoying this one a lot. It still had a couple misfires, but there is no denying the last half of this disc was utterly amazing. This album is more like what I was expecting from Judas Priest and now that they are starting to find who they really are as a band, I can’t wait to get to the next album. I will score this one a solid 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars. And it is my favorite one yet, but I am only 2 albums in so we know that will change.
UP NEXT: ‘SIN AFTER SIN’ (1977)
THE COMPLETE ALBUMS COLLECTION SERIES:
- Rocka Rolla (1974)
- Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)
- Sin After Sin (1977)
- Stained Class (1978)
- Killing Machine / Hell Bent For Leather (1978)
- Unleashed in the East (1979)
- British Steel (1980)
- Point of Entry (1981)
- Screaming for Vengeance (1982)
- Defenders of Faith (1984)
- Turbo (1986)
- Priest…Live! (1987)
- Ram it Down (1988)
- Painkiller (1990)
- Angel of Retribution (2005)
- Nostradamus (2008)
- A Touch of Evil: Live (2009)