Sad Wings of Destiny was Judas Priest's second and final studio record made while under contract with Gull Records, an independent UK company. Despite critical acclaim, the band was struggling financially due to lack of support from the label. Shortly after changing management, the band severed their ties with Gull and signed with Columbia Records. Consequently, Judas Priest lost all rights to the recordings on their first two albums and to all demo recordings made during the sessions while under contract with Gull. Sad Wings of Destiny was initially published and distributed by Janus Records in the United States.
Whilst the band lost the rights to recording royalties, they obtained copyright ownership of the songs themselves, many of which became staples for their live shows. "Victim of Changes", "The Ripper", "Tyrant" and "Genocide" appear on Judas Priest Unleashed in the East, a live album released by CBS in 1979. "Diamonds and Rust", a Joan Baez song originally recorded for Sad Wings, but omitted from the final album, was re-recorded for Sin After Sin, their first CBS release, and also on Unleashed. Gull later released the band's original recording of "Diamonds and Rust" on a 'best of' album and their rerelease of Rocka Rolla.
The track "Genocide" mentions the title of the next album, Sin After Sin, in the middle of the song. Glenn Tipton's piano playing features prominently on Sad Wings of Destiny, especially on "Epitaph," a song that features no guitar.
On the Judas Priest Live video, filmed in 1983, Rob Halford introduces "The Ripper" as "a little Victorian melodrama with a surgical incision here and there".
- "Victim of Changes" - 7:47
- "The Ripper" - 2:50
- "Dreamer Deceiver" - 5:51
- "Deceiver" - 2:40
- "Prelude" - 2:02
- "Tyrant" - 4:28
- "Genocide" - 5:51
- "Epitaph" - 3:08
- "Island of Domination" - 4:32