on 22 November 2012
I would have to say that Sin After Sin is my favourite Priest album and here's why. Lately i have felt a very strong urge to dig up all my old Priest vinyl as thats the only medium i have of theirs and after much deliberation it came down to three; Sad Wings Of Destiny, Stained Class and Sin After Sin. I don't know what's come over me lately, i guess the band announcing their farewell tour and KK leaving got me all dewey eyed. To be honest i hadn't listened to JP in ages and moved on in to other areas of music, especially alternative and electronic, dance etc, but the mighty Priest always fascinated me as they defined my early teenage years of growing up etc and have always been dear to my heart.
Sin After Sin was their third album released in 1977 with their third drummer Simon Philips and is similar in production to Sad Wings. You could almost argue in hindsight its a continuation of its themes. Title track Sinner is simply stunning and flawless heavy metal played with conviction. It features a breathtaking solo from KK Downing which gives it its epic status and is propelled along by some absolutely amazing drumming which is prevalent throughout this record. Next up we have Diamonds And Rust which sounds nothing like the original i am delighted to say. When Priest do covers, they do it their way and like all their others they almost re invent the song, making it their own, and its a brilliant showcase for Rob's vocals too that take on a classical edge. Next up we have Starbreaker which features a simple but effective riff that showcases their more gothic side and is another heavy tune with some tasty leads from Glenn and KK with Rob cutting through again with his operatic voice. Side one ends with probably my favourite Priest song, and its the ballad Last Rose Of Summer. I often sing this song out aloud at times as it helps me through the winter. Its just a beautifully crafted song thats timeless and shows a very different side to the band.
Side two opens with a speed metal epic Call For The Priest and drives along on a jagged riff which twists and turns at every opportunity. Once again the famous harmony leads of KK and Glenn climax the song which displays most of the octave range of Halford, and its breathtaking. Raw Deal is more relaxed but just as intriguing with some rather revelatory lyrics about Rob's hidden sexuality at the time!! The second ballad is Here Come The Tears and is another heart stopping song about loneliness and despair coming in with lovely acoustic textures before developing into a more sinister tune as the riffs cut in. The album ends with arguably their greatest song from a creative/artistic perspective, Dissident Aggressor! From its eerie beginning it builds on chugging riffs and you don't know what's coming until it erupts into the most gargantuan chords ever conceived or put on record coupled with some thunderous drumming. This is Priest laying the gauntlet down and screaming at the world that they indeed had arrived! They won a grammy for it and you can see why, and i love the way Rob screams out in defiance to the Cold war
"I KNOW WHAT I AM. I'M BERLIN!!".
on 7 November 2003
Sin After Sin is often received with mixed emotions. Firstly, it isn't a commercial music product at all, which makes it fascinating. A masterpiece to be slowly digested. This album is one of Priest's most intriguing, yet brilliant productions. It touches many musical ranges... it is heavy (ie. the Sinner), brutally heavy (Dissident Aggresor), furious (Call for the Priest), soft and moody (Last Rose of Summer), atmospheric and soulful (Here Come the Tears), et all.
Rob Halford's vocals and lyrics are at their peak here. Glenn and KK's guitars are imaginative, skillful and impressive. Ian Hill's bass is... mmmh, let's better skip that with Simon Phillip's incredible drumming!! Until this day I still can't believe some of the prodigious and intricate drums parts he laid down for those sessions (sadly, he only acted as a session player). Simon started a whole thrashy drum movement with his dexterity in Sin After Sin. Roger Glover's production here is frequently critized for not achieving a heavier sound, but I disagree with that, as the end result is just what was needed musically.
The real beauty of Sin After Sin is that one can actually listen to many new subtle things each time one listens to it, no matter how many times played back... and that simply doesn't happen often these days. IT HAS MAGIC ALL OVER IT. This is a must item in any rock CD collection. A timeless classic!
After several years of slogging their guts out on the live circuit and living on the breadline, signed to small label Gull and in dire need of corporate support to catapult them to megastardom, Judas Priests' Reading Festival slot in 1976 saw them blow away the crowd and the other bands present. CBS came knocking with the chequebook.
The making of 'SIn after Sin' (a reference to a lyric from "Genocide" from their previous album, the progressive-heavy metal monster 'Sad wings of destiny', arguably the best album in the history of the HM genre) wasn't all plain sailing. Drummer Alan Moore was sacked, initial input from Roger Glover (former Deep Purple bassist and producer for 'Sin') was unwelcome and the clock ticked. But ace session drummer Simon Phillips came on board and at last the rest of the band had a rhythmic foil who was their musical equal. Phillips is still regarded as the drummer's drummer, as a poll of famous rock skinsmen revealed a few years ago - incidentally, if you want to hear more of his superb work, check out '801 Live' by 801 ( a shortlived supergroup comprised of session players, Francis Monkmand of Curved air and Eno & Manzanera of the classic lineup of Roxy Music), easily one of the best live albums ever recorded.
Things were then patched up with Glover and the results were excellent. However, as much as I love this album, it is not as good as the records that bookend it - both 'Sad Wings' and 'Stained beat 'Sin' into the ground sonically. 'Sin' just doesn't jump out of the speakers the way these other albums do and for this, I have to blame the production and mixing. Don't get me wrong, it sounds great, but it doesn't do the songs and musicians justice - it should sound ferocious. Maybe it's my Glover bias - I always felt he was the lightweight in Deep Purple mk 2, he never seemed the musical equal of Blackmore, Lord and Paice to me.
With 'Sad Wings', Priest had established themselves as the most eloquent heavy metal band both lyrically and musically. Taking the classic dark, doomy obsessions of Sabbath and merging them with a more articulate role as Miltonian outsiders - Satan's famous line in Milton's 'Paradise Lost' is the underpinning of heavy metal philosophy in a straight world of hypocrisy and institutional corruption ("Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven,") - Priest railed against the evils of the world and left the Dionysian partying element of HM to AC/DC, to my way of thinking the other definitive HM band, the flip side of the coin. In his book 'The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music' (usually abbreviated to 'the birth of tragedy', Nietzsche argued that great art was born of the clashing of Apollonian ideals with Dionysiac fury. In HM, Priest articulate the Apollonian ideal of consummate skill and light, but import enough of Dionysus to create a perfect vehicle for their Miltonian viewpoint. Sabbath did this before them of course, but Priest were, as I've said, more eloquent and refined lyrically and melodically, plus the presence of two guitars (rather than overdubs) meant they represented the HM formula as copied by many others - while UFO, Wishbone Ash and thin Lizzy all used twin-guitar attack, it was Priest and AC/DC that occupied the two poles of Appollonian/Dionysian in their lyrical fixations that made them the twin foudners of the HM formula. UFO come a close third, to my way of thinking after their initial psychedelic incarnations, to forming the lite-metal subgenre that sprang up in the States after Girl and Def Leppard took UFOx fixation on lithe, sexy numbers to ever bigger crowds after 'Phenomena'.
I digress. 'Sin After Sin' opens with 'Sinner', which treats us to six minutes of uptempo riffing, wonderful acid-drenched Hendrixian soloing from KK (Glenn was always the bluesman in Priest, Ken the psychedelic freakout merchant) while Bob delivers a number dripping with revelation imagery. This kind of material was only starting to become a cliché - BOC had said some wonderfully tongue-in-cheek things about Lucifer a few years earlier (always arch, who the hell knew what BOC were really on about on 'Screaming Diz-Busters', you have to love their early obscurantism!), Sabbath had that stuff down pat, but it was priest who put it to the best use here. Halford's uttering of 'God and the Devil, God and the Devil' here hints at a more serious moral questioning rather than the cartoon apocalypse later, poorer pretenders started outing on their album sleeves soon afterward. It's a great, galloping monster, but as ever with Priest, the devil is in the detail (pun intended), with the final closing tympani roll. You don't get this sort of instrumental thoughtfulness from anyone else in the HM genre- and its this sort of thing that differentiates priest from everyone else and makes them the HM band for everyone who otherwise dislikes the genre to listen to.
'Diamonds and Rust' is up next, the first Priest cover, the single from the album and a re-recording of a number tried out for Gull but not released until a year or two later on the 'The Very Best of Judas Priest' compilation. I love this song - it's so typical of Priests' originality that they cover a Joan Baez number (a love song at least partially about her relationship with Bob Dylan) rather than some dull blues standard. The moments when Halford sings '..and I see you standing all around/with snow in your hair...from the window of the crummy hotel on the Washington square' are so moving. Priest were not afraid to tug at the heart strings and this was to their merit - 'you were so good with words and at keeping things vague/for I need some of that vagueness now, it's all come back to clearly'. They may have struggled with articulating these feelings in their own lyrics ("Better By You" by Spooky Tooth, from 'Stained Class' is another amazing cover about heartbreak is also better than the original by miles), but got there eventually with 'Before the Dawn' on "Killing Machine". However, I don't think either version of 'Diamonds' is produced well enough, it's a shame it never got the 'Stained Class' treatment. Seeing Priest doing it live, with acoustic guitars, some years ago was a dream come true for me.
'Starbreaker' may be SF hokum, but it's marvellous. The stateliness of the riff, the tone colours of the guitars and that marvellous drum intro are a joy - good fun!! Live, the synth/guitar pedal effects from the start of "Invader" (from 'Stained Class') would introduce the number and it became a seven minute leviathan, with drummer Les Binks (who took over from Simon P) including an awesome drum solo. In my opinion, Binks was a better drummer for priest than Phillips - and he has been wasted in Glitter-Pop outfit Fancy, who enjoyed a couple of hit singles.
Side one of the album (you can tell I first owned it on vinyl in the late 70s) closes with the lovely ballad 'Last Rose of Summer', which gives Halford the opportunity to sing in middle and lower registers. More focused than the kind of thing Zeppelin turned out in this mode, this is lovely stuff. Play it at your hippy girlfriend! To me, it was always a foil to the "Winter" suite from 'Rocka Rolla'.
'Call for the Priest/Let us Prey' is tightly wound thrashy mayhem - important in the evolution of taking HM toward the faster metal of the 80s. All good clean fun. As brilliant as this track is though, it's 'Raw Deal' that provides much of the real intellectual meat on the album -and it is arguably the most controversial song in the HM canon. The song can be interpreted as about a man picking up another man in a bar - close examination of the lyrics is advised (the reference to 'fire island' is particularly telling). Musically, the song is unusual too, with sections at different tempi and Halford delivers some fantastic vocals here. tense, impassioned and slightly queasy in a psychedelic manner, this is the moral precursor of tracks like "Beyond the Realms of Death", "Heroes' End" and "Stained Class". "Raw Deal" is a work of genius - slightly ambiguous, odd, brilliant. It's strange to think that there was ever any doubt about Halford's sexuality - as soon as I saw him on TOTP in 1978, it was clear to me and all my friends that he was gay, or at least bisexual. in "Raw Deal", while he doesn't exactly spell it out, it's clear. Kudos to the rest of the band for being so brave in recording this song in a world as defiantly heterosexual as HM was then.
"Here Come the Tears" sees Tipton returning to piano for the last time in Priests' 70s recordings. A simple but affecting ballad about loneliness, it is tragic stuff, building and segueing into the magnificent "Dissident Aggressor", a song about the Cold War. Halford's impassioned cry of "I'm Berlin!" puts Priest in the same post-war art-school ball park as Bowie, The Sex Pistols, The Stranglers, Japan - Berlin was a kind of spiritual capital for the Eurocentric art rockers, True Glam stars and original Punk Rockers of the late sixties and 1970s. No other HM act ever really addressed the Wall and the hangover of world war 2 it represented until Scorpions' anthemic "Wind of Change" - and that was when the wall came down, years later. Musically, "Dissident" has long been admired as an influence over thrash, but I wonder how many latter-day metalheads have ever attended to its Eurocentric lyrics?
'Sin After Sin' is a dark album. Like all Priests' early stuff, there's very little -or no -happy go lucky stuff here. And that's not a bad thing, for once the 80s arrived, the band produced a lot more good-time crap than many can forgive them for. For every "Locked In" there were half a dozen embarrassments I'd rather not mention. But HM is best when it is dark and moralising, and 'Sin After Sin' ticks all the right boxes, despite the flawed production. One of the great - if not greatest albums - I love it and believe every intelligent fan of rock music should own and worship it.
Sin After Sin was British Heavy Metal band Judas Priest's third studio album, released in 1977 following up the Sad Wings Of Destiny album. The album saw a few changes for the band; it was their first album on Columbia Records as they escaped from their original label Gull Records, the position of drummer changed from Alan Moore to the talented session player Simon Phillips and finally the production job was handled by Deep Purple's Roger Glover.
Musically there is a lot going on, the tracks cover a lot of ground; are flashy and virtuosic and still manage to actually rock hard. For example the opening track `Sinner' has impressive vocal performances, great guitar work and even impressive drumming, especially when it slows down in the middle; all individual areas shine yet don't compromise the song's energy or attitude for the sake of showing off.
Sin After Sin is also interesting to listen to from a vocal stand point as Rob tries out dozens and dozens of different voices, from lows to highs, hard to soft and sometimes adding in surprising emotional weight too. The amount of territory covered really is rather surprising and more and more variety is revealed upon repeat listening.
With such great vocals, improved drumming and the ever wonderful twin guitar approach of Downing and Tipton, Sin After Sin is a very strong and enjoyable record. In addition to the aforementioned `Sinner,' other highlights include the heavy `Dissident Aggressor,' the catchy mid-paced `Starbreaker' and the speedy Queen influenced `Let Us Pray/Call The Priest.'
Interestingly, the album features the concert favourite Joan Baez cover song `Diamonds & Rust' which was previously recorded but eventually omitted from previous albums. This was the first of the few cover songs that the band would officially release, alongside `Better By You Better Than Me' and `Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)' which came out on the next two records.
Overall, Sin After Sin is a great record by Judas Priest with a few absolute classics and a mixture of interesting ideas, noteworthy drumming and a huge range of vocal approaches by Rob Halford. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the band or early metal in general.
**** If you get the version with bonus tracks, you are treated to another cover song called "Race With The Devil," which was recorded during the sessions of their next album Stained Class in addition to a live version of Defenders Of The Faith era song `Jaw Breaker' recorded live in 1984. ****
on 27 August 2009
I bought Sin after Sin (SAS) on vinyl back in the early 80's. Like a lot of early 80s metal converts my introduction to the record came from the blistering versions of Sinner and Joan Baez's Diamonds and Rust on the live CD Unleashed In The East. I immediately fell for the mysterious gothic cover but on first spins the record didn't come up to the expectations set by Unleashed or the great cover artwork. The aforementioned Sinner and Diamonds and Rust had a more 70's musical feeling to the guitar sound (rather unsurprisingly) as did the two quirky ballads, replete with Led Zeppelin wailings from Halford, and the somewhat glammy and camp Starbreaker - the less said about the hand claps the better.
Moving on twenty years and the record has a depth and intricacy that engages more and more from repeated listens, particularly with the trademark twin guitar attack in restrained evidence and some powerful drumming from notable session drummer Simon Phillips, particularly on the proto thrash pairing of Call For The Priest and Let Us Pray. In the mid 80's Dissident Aggressor later got the Slayer stamp of approval, highlighting the fact that it is actually brutally heavy for its time (albeit again with a 70's edge). Sinners cleaner clipped sound adds a different dimension to the live classic, particularly as Rob's vocals sit behind the dual guitar and percussion attack instead of up front as is the case in the later live versions of this ever green classic, and you have the gay romp of Raw Deal, with its jarring social commentary (perhaps Priest's most personal song, given the anger and anguish in its closing refrain).
It's not a perfect record, as it is searching for a definitive style, but it does have this surprising depth and complexity that perhaps later Priest gonzoid offerings possibly lack in comparison (Painkiller! Hell Patrol! Loch Ness - say no more...). My enduring impression is that you cannot tire of repeated playing of this. This technicality is assisted enormously by this re master and played LOUD Starbreaker, Sinner and Diamonds and Rust are as enjoyable now as they were twenty years ago - different perhaps, dated maybe but enjoyable, definitely.