4.5 out of 5 Stars!
Sin After Sin was the platter that “introduced” me to the mighty Judas Priest, thanks to the song “Starbreaker,” which I chanced to hear on an underground radio station here in Chicago upon the album’s release. As a high-school junior at the time and a fledgling singer in my first “garage” band, I was blown away and inspired by the song and the performances on this album, especially Rob Halford’s vocal delivery and awesome range.
Needless to say, after absorbing the metal power, the dual-guitar onslaught, of tracks such as “Raw Deal,” “Sinner,” “Let Us Prey,” and the blazing and screeching “Dissident Aggressor” with it’s layered vocal harmonies, I could barely contain my excitement for the U.K. group. Even the album’s two lighter moments, “Last Rose of Summer” and “Here Come the Tears,” had the power to mesmerize me, especially the latter, due to Halford’s gut-wrenching wails and a highly emotive guitar solo. And of course, the band’s now-classic cover of Joan Baez’s “Diamonds and Rust” proved the perfect tune to blare in the high school parking lot as I tore out of the “prison” each afternoon with my middle finger raised high in the air. (The track also prophesied things to come for the band, the shift in a more commercialized direction, but more on that below.)
Anyway, in retrospect, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that Sin After Sin had such a profound and immediate effect on my teenaged self, considering Deep Purple’s Roger Glover handled production duties. The man had produced Nazareth’s 1973 breakout album Razamanaz, for pity’s sake, a platter that also stirred and inspired me upon initial hearing and became another of my all-time favorite albums in history, so why should his work on Sin After Sin have any lesser power, right?
Therefore, once hearing this album I became “Priest-crazy” and soon afterward purchased the band’s previous Sad Wings of Destiny, then even dished out the extra bucks for the import-only Rocka Rolla. Of course, the album Stained Class came the follow year and proved to be a masterpiece, in my opinion, just before Priest got “discovered” by the masses and, thus, became more commercial and “leather-friendly.”
Thank goodness I had the early, more experimental Priest albums emblazoned on my soul so I had learned to appreciate the true magnificence of the band before the “sell out” phase began. Certainly, I enjoyed much of Killing Machine (or Hell Bent For Leather, as it’s known here in the States), but with this shift toward shorter, three-to-four minute anthem-like tracks aimed directly for the MTV crowd, I could never fully embrace the band afterward, never automatically snatched up future albums upon release, at least not for many years. Indeed, the same exact shift in style happened with Scorpions, a band I discovered at the same time as Priest (therefore, the groups are forever connected in my head)—once Scorpions got a taste of success (and record executives made demands), much of the former experimentation with songwriting or lengthier arrangements got kicked aside in favor of churning out shorter, hit-based tracks. In the case of both bands, this shift happened in the same year (curse the rise of Disco and Punk), and no longer did either group feel like my “personal discovery,” my “best kept secret,” but instead had suddenly become the “world’s darlings.” Damn, I hate commercialism and the effect it continues to have on bands regarding style and songwriting…
Regardless, from my early years of musical discovery and high school rebelliousness, Sin After Sin will always remain one of my favorite Priest albums, falling easily within my “Top Five” from the group’s vast catalogue.