Ether Feather’s latest EP, Leather Feather, out May 22, is all old-school metal covers, all the time. We chatted with them about the record and why they love Judas Priest so much.
“Cataloguing a short list of favorite Judas Priest songs is a tall order,” the band explains. “With bands like Priest who have massive, diverse catalogues plus a multi-faceted evolution, it seems like the favorites are always rotating, so this is pretty much an acknowledgement of the songs closest to the heart at the time of compilation. We probably could have had a blast compiling separate lists of early, mid, and late Priest, but here are five tracks in no order that have inspired Ether Feather.”
Out In The Cold (Turbo, 1986) One of the best love songs Priest did during this period between Defenders… and Painkiller (and there were quite a few). The side-two opener is definitely a divider among fans, but it’s an amazing use of production as a writing tool for a stadium rock band. I get the sense they could totally imagine how huge it was going to be, live in a packed arena, when the song fully kicks in after that synth intro and endless snare drum set-up. Heavy Metal Parking Lot is shot on the tour that would have first included this song, and I love imagining that kid in the Zebra leotard completely losing his mind to “Out In The Cold.”
Exciter (Stained Class, 1978). Certainly among the songs most influential in crafting the blueprint for what was to become thrash. The riff is so tight and hypnotic with the double bass work mirroring the guitar rhythm. This is some phenomenal Les Binks drumming. His contributions to the feel on the Live in Japan record is a big part of why we wanted to cover “The Ripper.” It’s way hipper than the studio version. This cut sort of does what “Painkiller” does in ’90, where they introduce Scott Travis via this completely psychotic break right at the top of the record.
Nightcrawler (Painkiller, 1990)
In true Halford fashion, he croons about a supernatural entity that visits its victims under the cloak the night (in the midst of a tempest no-less). “Nightcrawler” was our soundtrack of choice in the late ’90s for stoned speeding around Lower Wacker Drive in Chicago like River’s Edge meets Thief. The whole Painkiller record is amazing and damn near any song could be on a list of favorites. It totally has a fuck-off attitude to everyone after the subliminal message trial. The record as a whole introduces Priest version 3.0, and they demonstrated that they could easily play shows alongside the younger thrash acts at the top of their game like Death Angel and Pantera.
Dissident Agresor (Sin After Sin, 1978)
This one has it all: a weird, non-sequitur shuffle, a quintessential, Halford scream, and one of the best opening lines ever: “Grand canyons of space and time universal.” Another amazing, proto-thrash masterpiece. Simon Phillips is drumming on this one, and the whole rhythm section delivers an amazing canvas for Rob to paint these long, sumptuous phrases over. I could make a list of just my favorite Priest songs that incorporate progressive rock, and this one definitely be included on that. The alternating solos between KK and Glenn are among their most savage, and you can see why the Slayer cover of this song shines so bright. Also, Sin After Sin has some of the best pre-Screaming For Vengeance cover art.
Love Bites (Defenders Of The Faith, 1984) This is kind of a recent re-discovery, and another great example of Halford’s supernatural, nocturnal imagery. I think as a younger listener I was always a little deterred by the title, but the post-bridge breakdown of this song has been knocking me out the last few years. It’s a good example of how Priest uses tempo, and especially rhythm section feel, as writing tools. I love the delicate, upper-register guitar work that floats over what is basically a krautrock groove. There’s not that much happening apart from the beat, and that makes it all the more brutal when the riff returns after an epic build. Live, it perfectly sets the tone for downstage trio formation and iconic unison head-banging choreography. Masterful arena rock.
Ether Feather are the brainchild of L.A. drummer/vocalist Dylan Ryan, who has also played with Man Man, Cursive, Red Krayola, and more. The newly-minted trio include guitarist Tim Young (guitarist on the Late Late Show and studio player: Mike Patton, Fiona Apple) and recently added bassist/vocalist sylvia Black (Lydia Lunch) who makes her debut on their cover of Judas Priest’s “The Ripper.”
Previous band members who also appear on the recording include Devin Hoff (Sharon Van Etten) and Chris Welcome (The Flying Luttenbachers.)
Band photo by Marfa Capodanno