Friday Full-Length: Judas Priest, Sad Wings of Destiny

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Judas Priest, Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)

I’m reasonably certain that in the 41 years since its release enough has been said about Judas Priest‘s Sad Wings of Destiny — positive, negative and in between — to make anything I have to offer on the subject entirely redundant. Still, looking at the Birmingham outfit’s ultra-classic 1976 second album, its status as a landmark only seems to further emphasize how much classic metal is rightly stewarded by modern heavy rock. I had much the same feeling last time I saw Priest live in 2011 (review here), but it comes through even more on the studio recordings of songs like “The Ripper,” “Deceiver,” “Tyrant” and “Island of Domination” just how closely linked to heavy ’70s the roots of metal actually are. It wasn’t a change that happened overnight. Neither Black Sabbath, nor Deep Purple, nor Led Zeppelin, nor Priest or anyone else flipped a switch and said, “now metal exists,” but as they flew in the face of popular culture on any number of levels and reacted to the rise of arena rock and punk (and one could argue as well punk was a reaction to the grandiosity of arena rock and glam), metal gradually solidified from the molten heavy rock that preceded and Sad Wings of Destiny‘s nine-track/39-minute stretch captures an essential step in that process. Decades later, it’s easy to put a bow on an insular narrative and call it history, but there can be no question that the accomplishments of Judas Priest — comprised then of vocalist Rob Halford, guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing, bassist Ian Hill and drummer Alan Moore — in this era were imperative in setting the stage for what heavy metal became in their wake, in the NWOBHM, the US and German thrash movements, and beyond.

Priest made their debut with 1974’s Rocka Rolla, an often — and, I’ll gladly argue, wrongly — maligned collection of heavy rock tunes indicative of the era in which they were released. Maybe a year or two too late to be really innovative, there was nonetheless a tightness in their execution that foreshadowed the drive that would emerge in the band’s sound on subsequent outings. Though it leans decisively harder in its impact, Sad Wings of Destiny still holds to many of these rocker elements. Extended opener “Victim of Changes,” the sharply-produced balladry of “Dreamer Deceiver” and side B’s piano-led, semi-Queen-derived “Epitaph” might pull back on the throttle as opposed to the soaring tension of “The Ripper,” which serves as a formative moment for Priest‘s core approach to songwriting, but there’s still rock to be found at their foundation. Likewise, “Genocide” leads with its riff and an almost deceptive amount of rhythmic swing giv en its ultimately forward heading, and while Halford‘s trademark growls and screech put “Deceiver” squarely in headbang territory, if one listens to the guitars and bassline backing him, it’s a classic-rocking shuffle if ever there was one.

This is barely an insight, but it’s worth pointing out in terms of finding the moment and moments when heavy metal grew out of the harder end of rock and roll and became its own genre. Is that “The Ripper?” Or even “Victim of Changes” at the outset? It’s hard to know — and even harder when one steps back and looks at the overall context of what was happening in the UK and elsewhere musically at the time — to say, “Yes, this is when it happened,” but if one wanted to hold Sad Wings of Destiny forward as a case for how it happened, the album makes a strong argument for itself as pivotal in that movement from one side of the line to the other. Because ultimately it’s both and neither. All the more, then, does it seem to be the domain of modern heavy rock and doom, which largely eschew the aggression of metal — though there’s plenty of dudely chest-thumping, depending on the style of a given act, and plenty of that in Priest as well; underground rock’s perpetual reaffirmation of insecure masculinity is a subject for a different time — in favor of a style of groove that seems to play directly off the same influences as Sad Wings of Destiny-era Priest. Taking the heavy rock that came before and trying to make something new from it. What’s that if it’s not a genre-based approach?

Any band with the stature of Judas Priest is going to foster divided opinions: Lovers, haters, fans, the indifferent, etc. What’s undeniable is the multifaceted nature of their influence, and as the metal of our age has become a showcase for self-indulgent mathematicians and splintered along an ever-increasing swath of border-fenced subgenres, it seems all the more the task of doom and underground heavy in general to embrace the classicism of records like Sad Wings of Destiny and their continued relevance to the shaping of modern aesthetic. It may be one of many, but it’s a touchstone nonetheless, and time has only added to its fortification as such.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Some ups and downs this week, I guess, but on the whole I suppose I’m less inclined to complain than I might otherwise be. I got to see my son’s face in a 3D ultrasound and he looked pissed about not being born yet, so I take that as an encouraging sign of The Pecan being imbued from the start with a strong personality. My hope at this point is he has inherited his mother’s capacity for sleep. Really, anything he could get off her in terms of inheriting traits would be a boon. It’s those fatherly learned behaviors — “this is how you make an ass out of yourself in a social situation, boy; pay attention” — he might want to avoid.

But anyway, that was good. My laptop kind of sort of shit the bed. Less good. The fancy blender I had to make protein shakes also shit the bed. Less good. My plan for today and the early part of the weekend likewise. Some you win, some you lose, as Orange Goblin tells us. Big picture shit — positive. Little annoyances that cost money — negative.

I have some work to do on a project the Borracho guys are putting together this weekend, so I expect that will take a decent portion of my time, but should be an interesting if time-consuming venture. I got to interview all three of them together and it was great to hear how they interacted with each other in that we’re-really-close-so-we-only-need-to-speak-in-half-sentences-to-get-our-point-across kind of way. That sort of conversationalism and musical chemistry go hand-in-hand in my opinion. Each is a symptom of the other and I think you can hear that in how tight they’ve become over their three albums.

Digression. Sorry. The Patient Mrs., the impending Pecan, the Little Dog Dio and I — the whole fam — came down to hazy Connecticut yesterday to take care of some administrative stuff, donating an old car to National Public Radio, etc., and we’re heading back north this morning. Meh. I don’t know about hers or the dog’s, but my tail is tucked thoroughly between my legs. I got a grilled salmon caesar salad from the diner down the way for dinner last night though (they deliver; it took longer than usual, but still, they deliver) and that was glorious.

I had a whole other paragraph here about dinner preparations, cooking, and so on, but I guess the bottom line is I’m still enjoying being unemployed. Money has indeed gotten tighter the last couple weeks — we’re already charging things like gas and groceries — but we’ll make it through. Baby preparations continue. I did a very large amount of very tiny laundry earlier this week that will need folding this weekend, and we’ve moved some furniture to allow for a nursery and we’ve begun hoarding baby wipes from Costco, so there you go. October will be here soon, but progress takes many forms.

Speaking of — next week is crammed as ever. Here are my notes as they stand; subject to change as always:

Mon.: Radio Adds (delayed from this week), plus a slew of news I’m already behind on.
Tue.: Review/lyric video premiere for the Eternal Black record, which I think a lot of people will dig once they hear it.
Wed.: Review/track premiere for the new Papir; Six Dumb Questions with Beastmaker.
Thu.: Review/track premiere for the new Howling Giant.
Fri.: Review of the new Zone Six live album.

If you’ve emailed me and not heard back this past week, it’s because (1:) I suck and (2:) my busted laptop has my Outlook account on it and I don’t have access to webmail outside of that. Just my phone, which is a pain in the ass and, frankly, no way for humans to communicate with each other save for the most urgent of circumstances. I’ll do my best to get back to as many people as possible, but in the meantime, hit me up on Thee Facebooks if you haven’t yet. Keep in mind though I’m behind on messages there as well. As noted, I suck.

But hey, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’m gonna head back up to Massachusetts in a little bit, dig last night’s baseball game this afternoon and try and have a couple quiet hours leading into a couple solid days of chores and varying degrees of whatnottery. Enjoy the Priest above and please check out the Forum and the Radio stream and we’ll be back here on Monday for more good times.

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Saturday Full-Length: Judas Priest, Stained Class

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 27th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Judas Priest, Stained Class (1978)

The Judas Priest catalog has a few classics in it, or I guess they wouldn’t be Judas Priest, and while they’ve joined the ranks of those metal bands who seem to retire as often as not, there’s little arguing one can do with their early years — they’re the raw building blocks on which heavy metal would be constructed. And as much as Black Sabbath gets credit for inventing the sound, listening to a record like 1978’s Stained Class, there’s little doubt Priest played a major role in shaping the style and visual aesthetic of the genre.

Stained Class is the fourth Judas Priest album, following 1977’s Sin after Sin, 1976’s Sad Wings of Destiny and their 1974 debut, Rocka Rolla, which gets slagged a lot for not being as “metal” as what followed, but offers plenty for fans of heavy ’70s rock. Songs like “Better by You, Better than Me” (a cover of Spooky Tooth), “Exciter,” “Invader,” the ultra-badass “Saints in Hell” and “Beyond the Realms of Death” are monuments of the soon to rise New Wave of British Heavy Metal, arriving two years before Iron Maiden released their first album and roughly concurrent to Motörhead‘s 1977 self-titled debut. Sabbath at this point were falling apart, releasing Never Say Die in ’78 before the big split with Ozzy, and while early metal seemed to be floundering all around them, Judas Priest would emerge to lead the style into the ’80s, to what many still regard as its peak era.

Not a bad legacy to wind up with. Of course, the mob went wild when Priest issued British Steel in 1980 (1978’s Killing Machine appeared between Stained Class and that album), and that helped propel the Birmingham five-piece to their iconic status, but a couple years earlier, when Stained Class hit, it did so with more of a workman feel. Comprised at that point of guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing, vocalist Rob Halford, bassist Ian Hill and drummer Les Binks, they were a band who knew what they were going for and who knew who they were even as pop consciousness shifted toward the rawer and less superficially pretentious punk of the day. I won’t take anything away from that either — if you ever hear me badmouth the Ramones, please alert the authorities that I’ve been kidnapped and replaced by a cyborg with shitty taste — but I think time has proved Judas Priest were right in sticking to their guns.

This is the last week-ending full-length of 2014, so I hope you enjoy.

Why Saturday and not Friday as usual? Well, The Patient Mrs. and I got home a little bit after midnight from about 72 hours straight of Xmas family time. It was delightful, and draining. A final two-hour trip north from Connecticut and by the time we got in, we didn’t even have energy enough to bring in presents from the car. It’ll happen today. Of course, not closing out the week before I went to bed wound up being the wrong choice since I was up until two and then up again from about 5:30 to 8 this morning — something just didn’t feel right — so I got mine in the end for veering from the routine even in this small way. Take that, me.

If you celebrated, I hope you had a good ol’ time. This week coming up is New Year’s, so things get even crazier. The Patient Mrs. and I will head back down to New Jersey in the middle of the week (Tuesday night, I believe) for more festivities and wahthaveyou, but I’ve also decided to close out 2014 with a bang around here. I’ve got stacks of CDs on my desk that have come in for review and it’s time to get them gone, so what I’ve decided to do is a series I’m going to call “Last Licks.” It’ll be 10 reviews per post (obviously each writeup will be relatively brief), Monday to Friday this coming week, rounding up stuff I want to get in before the year ends, and that’ll be that for 2014. Yeah, I know it’ll be 2015 by next Friday, but just roll with me on it. It’ll be good.

So that’s 50 reviews next week. Keep an eye out. Ha.

I also have some news to catch up on, so I’ll work that in where and when I’m able, and we’ll have the results of the Readers Poll — did you get your list in? — hopefully on the first, but maybe the second if Slevin is busy or tells me to screw off, which he’d be well within his rights to do. It’s been a close race the whole month and has been exciting to watch, and I’m thankful to everyone that’s taken part so far.

Thanks also to everyone who shared the lists that went up this week and the podcast as well. I know it wasn’t much for quantity of posts the last couple days, but I hope the quality made up for some of that.

Alright, I’m going to get more coffee and spend the remainder of this lovely day sitting on my ass. Enjoy the holiday weekend. Be safe, have fun, and we’ll see you back here Monday to close out 2014 in style.

Please check out the forum and radio stream.

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Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Columns on October 13th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Woody is right. It’s been a minute since the last time there was a Spine of Overkill column featured here, but truth be told, his stint has lasted much longer than any of the other contributors in that little experiment, and since his stories are so cool, I’m happy to post them whenever he wants to send them over. Once every six months? Fine. Not like I’m working on a schedule. I’ll take what I can get.

This time around, the Mighty High guitarist/vocalist brings us a quality tale of seeing Iron Maiden and Judas Priest together at Madison Square Garden in 1982. Enjoy:

Jeez, it’s been six months since the last time I did anything for the Obelisk? Sorry H.P. You deserve better than that so I’m coming back with a big one. I could have sworn that I already wrote about the Judas Priest/Iron Maiden U.S. tour of 1982 but I did not. Thanks for your patience and to the dude on Twitter who reminded me of my metal duty to the Obelisk.

I’ve been a full blown Priest fanatic ever since hearing a live radio broadcast on WLIR from the British Steel tour. (I Rippled about that monumental day here). Next to Motörhead, Judas Priest was THE band for me. Every time I went to the record store I would discover yet another great album from them. The string of records they pumped out in the ’70s and early ’80s is fuckin’ impressive — Hell Bent for Leather, Sin After Sin, British Steel, Sad Wings of Destiny and so on. Not to mention the monumental live powerhouse of Unleashed in the East. Come on! It doesn’t get any better. 1981’s Point of Entry was a pretty big disappointment. “Heading out to the Highway,” “Solar Angels,” and “Desert Plains” kicked ass but crap like “You Say Yes” and “Troubleshooter” was totally bogus. When they played the Pier on the west side of Manhattan that tour I didn’t bother to go see them.

Then in July of ’82 Judas Priest released Screaming for Vengeance. I could tell by the album cover that it was going to be a lot better than Point of Entry and the opening priest and maiden-1400double barreled assault of “The Hellion/Electric Eye” confirmed that. The title-track, “Riding on the Wind,” “Devil’s Child,” “Bloodstone” and, of course, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” were added to the list of my mother’s least favorite songs to hear thudding through my bedroom door. I usually skipped over “Fever” and “Take These Chains.”

Earlier in ’82 Iron Maiden released their third album, Number of the Beast. The first two Maiden albums were flat out incredible and this was the first one with new singer Bruce Dickinson. While I preferred the raw vocal stylings of Paul Di’Anno I had no problem rocking out to the new album. Hearing songs like “Number of the Beast,” “The Prisoner,” “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” and “Run to the Hills” for the very first time was special. It was obvious Maiden were influenced by Priest but they had a Deep Purple/Rainbow/UFO angle that made them totally unique.

Priest started getting some pretty heavy radio airplay with “You Got Another Thing Comin’.” One day at the end of the summer I hear a radio ad that Judas Priest was coming to NYC to play Madison Square Garden. Who’s opening? Iron Maiden. Holy shit. My heart was pounding. It seemed to good to be true — the two best metal bands on the same bill and it was happening on a Saturday night, Oct. 2. A couple days later I’m at work. The plan was to hop on the MetroNorth train into Manhattan as soon as I got paid at the end of the day. My friend Gavin (R.I.P.) from school was working with me that day and he decided to come along with me. He asked me who I was going to the show with and I said I didn’t know. Then he came up with the idea that he would go to the Priest show if I went to see Santana with him, also at the Garden. Alright, what the hell. I always liked the first few Santana albums even if I wasn’t into their current album Zebop, featuring the big hit “Winning.” We hit the city, scored our tickets and most likely bought lousy pot in Bryant Park.

That Santana show turned out to be really cool. The crowd was full of rowdy Mexican low riders and ’60s burnouts. Just about everyone had a massive afro and a thick mustache (even some of the ladies). I will never forget the enormous cloud of pot smoke hovering over the crowd at the top of the arena. Still the biggest cloud I’ve ever seen. Carlos and his band boogie’d hard with plenty of percussion discussions amongst the drummers. As good as it was, I knew Priest would be even better.

Saturday October 2nd finally rolled around and I was fuckin psyched. I’d played the hell out of my Maiden and Priest albums all Zeptember but didn’t listen to any of them all day Friday and Saturday. That remains a rule for me – never listen to the band you’re going to see on the day of the show. It’s bad luck. For some reason Gavin decided to bring along a girl named Pam to the show. Nice girl but not metal at all. Neither was Gavin. He was into Neil Young (UGH) and the Grateful Dead (BLECH). Suddenly I realized this wasn’t such a great arrangement after all. I didn’t want to be the third wheel on their stupid date! At least they brought some weeeeeeeeed and shared it with me. The train was full of wasted teenagers screaming out band names and song titles. One guy kept yelling “lick my butt!” I thought it was hilarious but my companions thought it was atrocious behavior.

I got my usual Fosters oil can when we hit Grand Central for the walk over to the Garden. The streets were clogged with metal heads and peddlers selling nickel bags, mesc and bootleg shirts. I bought a killer black jersey with red sleeves. On the front was the cover of Screaming for Vengeance and the back had Number of the Beast. Later when I unrolled mine I discovered that it said “IRON MAID” on the back and “EN” was silkscreened on the elbow. It must have been folded under when they made it. Fuck it, I didn’t care. It was still mint as hell.

Finally the lights went down and Iron Maiden hit the stage. Ourpriest ticket seats were pretty crappy — up high and off to the side but I could care less because the sound was loud as hell. Maiden opened up with “Murders in the Rue Morgue” and everyone went nuts. Everyone except for the two people I came with. They sat their holding hands and trying to talk. I ignored them and just rocked out. “Wrathchild,” “Run to the Hills” and a few more from the new album were blasted out. Then Eddie himself came out during the song “Iron Maiden.” I had seen lots of pictures of him onstage in Kerrang magazine but had no idea he’d make an appearance. So cool. They finished up the set with a big singalong on “Drifter.”

The crowd was so fired up on metal and you could hear a lot of headbangers say that Priest might not be able to top that. Soon enough the lights went down and the opening notes of “The Hellion” blasted the Garden. The stage set up was massive. Two levels with the drummer upstairs and the rest of the band downstairs. All you could see was stack upon stack of Marshall amps. Since my seats were on the side I could see Halford crouching down behind the amps on the upper level ready to make his entrance. “Up here in space I’m looking down on you” he sang as he rounded the corner. Dressed completely in black leather he had the cover to Screaming for Vengeance painted on the back of his vest. Impressive.

Priest’s set was flawless. “Riding on the Wind,” “Heading out to the Highway,” “Metal Gods,” “Sinner,” “The Ripper,” and so on. The regular set finished with an absolutely stunning “Victim of Changes.” “Livin’ After Midnight” was the first encore and they left the houselights on so everyone could see how hard the crowd was fist pumping and singing along. The pot cloud hovering above was not as big as the one at Santana but still impressive. “Green Manalishi” was up next and, finally, the Harley revved up and hit the stage for “Hell Bent for Leather.” Fucking unreal.

Over the years I’ve discovered that some of my friends were at the show before we knew each other. My friend Vinny came to the show from Queens. He said there was a girl behind him who screamed “K.K. I wanna have your baby” all night. Another friend Eric was there and enjoyed lighting banners on fire with his crew of derelicts from Brooklyn.

32 years later, almost to the day, Priest will be playing Brooklyn. Vinny and I will be there. It’s going to be a great night but a far cry from ye olde ‘82. You just don’t get nights like that anymore.

Iron Maiden, “Drifter” Live in 1982

Judas Priest, “Victim of Changes” Live in 1982

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Live Review: Judas Priest in New Jersey, 11.18.11

Posted in Reviews on November 21st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

It had been at least a half-decade since I was last at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford for a show — long enough for the name of the arena to have changed from Continental Airlines Arena to the Izod Center — but beyond that and the price of parking ($25!), not much was different. The inside was still the same dismal beige, the setup roughly the same, the predominant smell in the corridors still sauerkraut and beer piss. I felt like I’d never left.

The show — a stop on Judas Priest‘s “Epitaph” alleged retirement tour — boasted openers Thin Lizzy and Black Label Society, but I arrived in time to catch only the final song and a half of the latter. I wasn’t heartbroken, and watching the beard-braided Zakk Wylde tebow and thump his chest like a circus gorilla following the end of “Stillborn,” was even less so. That guy’s come a long way to be a cartoon character, but the place ate it up, and I saw more than a few BLS vests in the crowd, so far be it from me to judge. Even though I just did.

There was a decent amount of changeover time between Black Label and Priest, which, like being surrounded by tens of thousands of people at a show, was something I genuinely wasn’t used to. Thoroughly out of my element and just one day removed from watching Premonition 13 rock the Saint Vitus bar in Brooklyn, I watched as a giant “Epitaph” flag was lowered in front of the stage, which was but the first in an unfolding series of grandiosities. I guess if you’re Judas Priest 40 years into your career and on what you’ve said will be your farewell tour, you go big. So be it.

I was lucky enough to scam a photo pass, and prior to the show starting, a collection of professional photographers and I (very much not a professional photographer) were collected and brought into the photo pit. They were playing metal classics over the P.A., Metallica, AC/DC, and the last song they played before Priest took the stage was Sabbath‘s “War Pigs.” I noticed one of the crew who was in position to catch the giant “Epitaph” flag was singing along and we exchanged a quick chatter about the brilliance of playing Black Sabbath before the start of metal gigs. I said it was like the national anthem before a baseball game.

Priest‘s set was an impressive two hours and 20 minutes. There were breaks in there, and vocalist Rob Halford seemed to make the most out of his various costume changes throughout, but they did an excellent job of keeping the momentum going. We were allowed to shoot for three songs, and I did, catching “Rapid Fire,” “Metal Gods” and “Heading Out to the Highway” up close before being unceremoniously booted back to my floor seat, which was — of course — occupied by the time I got there, leaving me to stand awkwardly at the end of the row and get bumped into for the rest of the set. I could’ve raised a stink, but screw it.

New guitarist Richie Faulkner, who seems as much a replacement for K.K. Downing physically as for guitar playing, was at stage right and seemed to be in charge of entertaining that entire side of the venue, which he did by playing extensively to the crowd — facial and hand gestures, waving, smiling, making faces, posing out, etc. — and of the rest of the band, he and bassist Ian Hill were probably the most into the show, the latter looking well satisfied during both newer songs like “Judas Rising” and “Starbreaker” from 1977’s Sin After Sin album.

Glenn Tipton and Rob Halford were more professionally detached, which is fair, but they still played well and everything was impeccably presented. Where I stood meant I got a lot of Scott Travis‘ kick drum; could feel it in my chest for the duration, and there were times where it was grating, but for the most part, the balance was as dead on as one might expect. Some of my favorite moments of the show, though, were in Halford‘s stage banter between the songs. While Tipton, Hill and Faulkner were changing out their instruments, Halford gave little snippets of perspective on the band’s landmark tenure in metal, including gems like, “In 1971 in Birmingham, there were only two heavy metal bands: Black Sabbath and Judas Priest” (bit of revisionist history there since Priest weren’t really playing metal until the middle of the decade), and an expression of how the growth of metal has led to the splintering into subgenres — he named black, death and nü metals, among others — and that each generation that’s come up has revised what it means to be metal, and that he approved.

He said of Judas Priest, “We are a classic metal band.” This is indisputably true. As much as anyone ever could be, they are. Their influence over what the genre became, particularly in the ’80s is measured in the number of pretenders to their throne who fell by the wayside while they — in one form or another — persisted. I think though it’s high time doom owned classic metal. In terms of groups to whom the work of Judas Priest and is still relevant, I hear much more of it in traditional doom than I do even in power metal, which seems more bent these days on progressive influences and technical showiness.

So “classic metal,” such as it is — Sabbath, Priest, the whole NWOBHM and the acts from around the world who followed — belongs to doom now. No one else is using it anyway, and while I have no idea what entitles me to make such ridiculous proclamations, I’m pretty sure I’m the only one doing it, so screw off. Let the doomers be the keepers of the old. We are anyway.

Though it’s sacrilege to say, “Turbo Lover” was a high point of the set, despite it being one of several choruses Rob Halford elected not to sing or to sing in part, letting the crowd pick up the slack — of course, they were more than happy to do so. Perhaps most egregious in that regard was “Breaking the Law,” which he didn’t sing at all into the microphone, instead just walking around the stage and putting his ear to different sections of the Izod Center, letting the noise come to him. I probably wouldn’t want to be singing that song anymore either, but man, I can sing along to Judas Priest any time I want. I didn’t pay $25 to park my car to do that with however many other people were there. I paid to watch them perform those songs. Minor gripe, but still.

That was toward the end of the set, following “The Green Manalishi (with the Two-Pronged Crown),” “Blood Red Skies” and “Beyond the Realms of Death,” which was one of several standout ballads included. The Joan Baez cover “Diamonds and Rust” was beefed up at the end, and was the finishing piece of a trio that included “Victim of Changes” and “Never Satisfied,” the latter from 1974’s Rocka Rolla. They closed out the regular set though with “Breaking the Law” into “Painkiller,” which set the stage for two encores and seemed to be the end of Halford‘s voice for the night.

And to be fair, if he blew it out there, it’s understandable. “Painkiller” is a tour de force for a metal vocalist, and Halford sounded excellent throughout, but right at the end, in that series of wails, there was one that made me cringe, and sure enough, his voice wasn’t the same afterwards. I don’t know and won’t speculate on whether he was using any kind of backing track or modulation other than the natural compression that comes from a wireless mic, but he sounded right on in his higher screams, and even the mid-range verses had presence and force in the delivery.

Everything was crisp, clean. The lighting was perfect, the fire, the periodic blasts of lasers, the sequined robe Halford donned with a Priest-logo trident for “Prophecy” from the Nostradamus record. It was all tight, flawlessly executed and built for maximum metallacy. Even as the band members were introduced it was, “Glenn Tipton on the heavy metal guitar,” “Richie Faulkner on the heavy metal guitar,” “You’ve been a great heavy metal audience,” and so on. And all around me, husbands and wives, fathers and daughters, fathers and sons, dudes and dudettes, rocking out till the dawn. Or until a little past 11PM, anyway. It was heavy metal utopia.

Two encores, like I said. The first was “Electric Eye” into “Hell Bent for Leather” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’.” They brought out the motorcycle for “Hell Bent for Leather” — as if there was any doubt — and Halford draped himself in a sewn together American/British flag before “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” walking around the stage doing a sequence of “Whoa, whoa, whoa, yeah” and “Yeah-yeh-yeah, yeah, yeah” vocalizations that the audience matched note for note. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure they were just vocal warmup exercises (one could see also throughout the set that he was metering his breaths before and after the highs), and if that’s the case, the people answering him back were already plenty warmed up. Still fun.

Faulkner took a surprising solo during “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” and when the band left the stage again, Travis got on a mic and told everyone that if they made enough noise, the guys would come back out and do one more song. Chaos ensued. Heads rolled. Limbs flew like it was Mos Eisley. Glasses shattered, dogs within a 10 mile radius of the Izod Center howled, and finally, Tipton, Halford, Hill and Faulkner retook the stage for the finale of “Living After Midnight.” Another epic sing-along, some extended soloing, and a massive heavy metal finish later, and they were done. I was home by midnight.

I’ve seen Priest before, and if Scorpions‘ farewell tour is anything to go by (three years and running?), I’ll have an opportunity to see them again, but it’s hard not to read something special into catching Judas Priest with even the possibility of it being the last time. Make no mistake, there were parts that were so flat-out silly that I laughed out loud — some of Halford‘s costume changes, the giant Priest trident logos with the motorcycle lights in them, etc. — but if there’s one thing I’ve learned to recognize in this world it’s that just because something is silly that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of meaning or that it can’t also be important to you or, say, 10,000-plus people around you.

Music is as close as I come to religion, and there was a point at which I did a side-to-side sweep of the venue and said to myself, “This is the life I’ve chosen.” I’m not going to say “no regrets,” because I have plenty, but it could’ve been way worse.

Extra pics after the jump. Click any to enlarge.

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Buried Treasure Where I-75 Meets I-280

Posted in Buried Treasure on July 25th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Though we drove through Canada to get to Michigan, the plan for the trip back to New Jersey was to make it happen as quickly and as painlessly as possible. That meant jumping on I-75 and meeting up with I-280 in Toledo, Ohio, and from there, picking up I-80 East, which The Patient Mrs. and I would be on for the next however many hours until we could get off 80 literally 10 minutes from home. Toledo to home on one road. Not an exciting drive, by any stretch of the imagination, but easy enough to navigate.

And wouldn’t you know that in Toledo there resides Ramalama Records, from whose logo alone I knew was someplace I wanted to shop? As The Patient Mrs. and I paid for our breakfast at the newly-remolded Original House of Pancakes and the girl behind the counter asked us what we were doing in town, she recommended Culture Clash, another shop that I probably would have wanted to stop at had the wait at said pancakery been the 20-25 minutes we were quoted and not the 45-50 it was. Nonetheless, arrival back in the valley would just have to wait, because Ramalama wouldn’t.

About a minute after I walked in the shop, the dude working there put on YOB‘s The Great Cessation, and I knew that in the whole stretch of Toledo, Ohio — which, like a lot of Midwestern cities, reminded me viscerally of Rt. 46 in Parsippany, NJ — I was in the right place. The store’s used metal section was more than impressive. There weren’t any discs in it, but the fact alone that they had a spot for Trouble was massively encouraging, and the general vibe was that the place was well organized and reasonably priced. A store like that is always a welcome find, even if I don’t end up buying anything.

That, however, would not be the case at Ramalama. I picked up a slew of goodies from the aforementioned used section, up to and including a copy of the self-titled Sod Hauler EP, which was a surprise, since I wouldn’t necessarily expect to find a Seattle local band’s disc at a store more than halfway across the country. Noosebomb‘s Brain Food for the Braindead, released on Shifty Records, from Akron, made more sense. I grabbed both, as well as the Southern Lord reissue of Burning Witch‘s Crippled Lucifer, just for the hell of it.

I made my way through the alphabet in reverse and was surprised to find both Enslaved and Opeth discs. I didn’t buy them, because I didn’t need to, but usually people who purchase those records do so with the intent of keeping them. It was that kind of store; had me thinking at several intervals, “Who gave this up?” The 2000 Koch reissue of Judas Priest‘s Sad Wings of Destiny sounds poorly remastered, but the original issue Screaming for Vengeance is just right. And in light of their being a band I always kind of overlooked and the swirling rumors of a reunion at next year’s Maryland Deathfest, I snatched the Hydra Head reissue of Cavity‘s Supercollider. I own the original, but figured it was a chance to revisit the record, and seriously, how often do you see a used Cavity CD sitting around?

At that point, I could have wrapped it up and let it stand at that, but honestly, after finding that much good shit, I wanted to support the store, and so I picked up new (unused) copies of The Local Fuzz by The Atomic Bitchwax and the 2011 Heavy Rocks by Boris. I probably could have gotten those discs somewhere else, or online, but for a brick and mortar independent store to be featuring both in its “recent releases” section, and to be playing YOB, and to have the Cavity, the Sod Hauler, the Burning Witch — well, at that point, here, please take more of my money. Just keep doing what you’re doing.

I’d brought more than a handful of discs along for the rides to Detroit and back, but I was more than glad for the additions to the playlist. Cavity tested The Patient Mrs.‘ titular virtue, but Boris was most welcome alongside the Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath, Buffalo and Dio albums that — along with the Cleveland Indians losing to the Chicago White Sox — provided accompaniment for our long ride home.

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