This is the second edition of my S-Tier songs. Simply put, these songs are the best of the best.
Now that I’m going more into this, with several futher additions to come in the next few months, I have created a page to catalog these songs. On the page you’ll also find some parameters I’ve outlined for this exercise. It’s a bit of a “hall of fame” but I chose not to use that terminology, that page gives more context for what I’m doing here though.
No need for a bunch of exposition though – let’s get right into it. The second S-Tier song is a choice cut straight from the Metal God and one of heavy metal’s most iconic bands.
Judas Priest – The Sentinel
The Sentinel comes from Priest’s 1984 classic Defenders Of The Faith. While Judas Priest elicit wide debate with what are considered their best albums, a fair number of people will point to this one as among the best.
And from the album I’m far from alone in highlighting this song. It catches the attention of many people and I’ve heard several say it’s their absolute favorite Judas Priest song. I am among those – this is my favorite Priest song, from a super rich catalog of songs that I’m deeply attached to. Saying it’s my pick is no small matter.
The song tells the tale of some silent warrior out for vengance. It’s a theme as old as time and was ever-present in 1980’s culture. We watched movie after movie about one man, often Chuck Norris, defeating an entire country with a machine gun and a cold, calculating attitude. Our protagonist here uses throwing knives, which is also very ’80’s and very badass.
This song gives the same vibe as some seminal movies of that time – though The Warriors was from the ’70’s it helped set the stage for the ’80’s. And Escape From New York – hell, The Sentinel could almost be Snake Plisken’s theme song.
The musicianship on the track is top-notch. The song is able to set itself apart even from other songs from Priest’s heavy metal period of the early ’80’s. It has both a grit and melodic flow, with this perfect guitar tone that both bends the ear and stands out. The song also has hints of symphonic elements that would come to define the band’s next era, for better or worse. While Iron Maiden will get a lion’s share of credit for kickstarting the subgenre of power metal, a listener would be unwise to ignore The Sentinel as another guidepost along the way.
The twin guitar attack of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing is in full force, with the use of pitch harmonics to add an edge to the song’s delivery. There is a fine line between a melody and a sharp edge that both walk with precision during the song. The solos are brief but in an important spot that lends urgence to the song’s plot.
Rob Halford doesn’t necessarily “go off” on The Sentinel the way he does on other songs but he delivers a smooth presentation while still occasionally showing off his prowess. He lets his timber and the weight of the words deliver here as opposed to a showcase of his range. He is almost whispering, at least in his style, the lengthy bridge before one more chorus at song’s end.
Why is this an S-Tier song?
The Sentinel gets everything right about early 1980’s heavy metal. It is a nod to the dystopian future we would watch on screen, and a bit later in person. It’s a tale of some badass, unnamed warrior carving up vengeance on his foes, just as we did it back in the day. The band doesn’t offer any one standout performance – instead all their elements combine for one precise attack that works on all levels. This song is the masters of the craft making sure everyone knows they are still in the game just as everyone and their mother is getting on the heavy metal train.
Enjoy your weekend, perhaps an extra long one if you’re like me in the U.S., and make sure you stock up on some throwing knives for your next badass revenge encounter.