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Does Not Live Up To The Hype - 88%

Luvers666, August 7th, 2007

I know Stained Class has been reviewed eight times, with the lowest being a 90% and some would think that everything has already been said about this album. It's rich in substance, powerful, epic and a concept album with a very uplifting theme underlying it. While I will agree that this album is concept and does have substance in parts and is powerful in parts, I think the ratings people give it is juiced up. In other words I don't think this album is as good as people make it out to be, it is vastly overrated and deserves the 88% I am giving it. This was the first Judas Priest album I ever heard back in 1978 and at the time I thought Judas Priest was awful, loud, obnoxious and had no right covering Diamonds And Rust, which is the song that introduced me to the band first. But listening to Stained Class my interest was sparked to at least give the band an opportunity. There is a few tracks here that I would agree are totally brilliant and deserve every bit of respect that is placed upon them. But to say this is where Judas Priest's final intelligent piece came is about as insipid as some of the songs themselves.

Exciter is a song that upon my first listen I could only stomach half of, in fact it wasn't until I heard the Unleashed In The East version where I could finally respect this song for all it's worth. Les Binks was the first drummer to be substantial for Priest and his presence is felt right from the beginning with his powerful double-bass drum work. The guitar tone is very dark, powerful and played at breakneck speed. The vocals soar with poetic metaphors throughout about a mystical creature who comes and destroys the world only to return to save it, in other words it is 'Painkiller' only twelve years earlier. The solos are in your face and blistering, plus the tune is somewhat erotic, setting it apart from anything else at the time. Everything about this song works and is one of the few cases on this album where Rob's high-pitched vocals do not sound forced.

White Heat Red Hot was another song, which upon first listen I could not stomach. It's a mid pace burner with the opening riff somewhat reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love just way better and a lot more intricate. This is perhaps Rob's most evasive lyrics, no one can ever truly pin-point what is being talked about. But no matter the content the verses and chorus' are powerful and delivered with a lot of emotion.

Better By You, Better Than Me follows and is the song I credit for making me love Judas Priest. After barely getting through the first two songs I was almost fed-up with the album but then this song came on and my view of the band was changed. The song is rather simple and direct, yet if you listen closely you will hear the production is far better than any other song on the album, thanks in part to James Guthrie. The lyrics are slightly altered from the Spooky Tooth version and this version is way better, 29 years later this song is still one of my favorites by the band.

Then comes this albums namesake and we are given the biggest let-down. Nothing against Rob Halford and his high-pitched vocals, which dominate this album, but here they come across as forced and lifeless. The music is great, soaring and powerful and the chorus is amongst the best on the album, but if not for the bloodless and lifeless vocal delivery in the second verse this song would be an epic.

Invader comes next, starting with an eerie sound effect that is meant to come across as an alien ship landing on earth. The main riff was cruelly ripped off by Van Halen on the song Mean Street from Fair Warning, but going by how great that song is, so is this one. The bridge in the middle is probably the best contrast on the album, orgasmic and superb is every aspect. Then comes a brilliant fiery solo by Glenn, which is one of the best on the album, bound to get you inspired to play. Overall one of the most underrated songs on the album.

Then comes another letdown in the terms of Saints In Hell, though not as bad as the title track. The main riff is bloodless and reeks of repetition, coming across as boring midway through. Boring story-line, insulting vocal delivery and a rather grotesque chorus. No solo but a boring breakdown in the middle. The only highlight of this song is the final two and a half minutes, which finally finds a form of identity and the French spoken lyric line of "Abattoir, abattoir, mon dieu quelle horreur", which means "Slaughter-house, slaughter-house, my god what horror" in English was amazing touch.

Then comes the second 'underrated' gem on this album, where everything about this song works to the up most perfection, the spellbinding story of torture and enslavement. Rob's vocals are out of this world in the chorus and gives us another opinion on how the band feels about the 'Modern Man', calling them 'Savage', 'Bloodthirsty' and 'Primitive'. The true highlight here is the amazing solo by K.K., what an epic piece. The tone and delivery is bound to get anyone just as inspired as the thirty second solo is. The second verse is repeated in higher register and sun with a ton more aggression before finally ending in an 'epic' climax.

Then comes the song most people call the best on the album, which I couldn't disagree with more. Sure it has a beautiful acoustic guitar riff in the verse, a heavy metal riff in the chorus, which sounds like Bad Company's Feel Like Making Love. Sure is has two of the best solos by Glenn and KK, but something is missing here. It's not a bad song by any means but a tad bit overrated by other great songs the band has done, including on the album. However Glenn's solo is amongst the best he's ever done and is about as timeless as any other solo this hugely underrated guitarist has laid down. The final lyric is also another highlight, delivered with such emotion, it comes across as heartbreaking yet uplifting at the same time.

Heroes End is another underrated song, which is due to following the overrated predecessor. The lyrics speak about three heroes who were not recognized for their contributions to their respective fields in life until their death. The song overall is great, but should not have closed out the album.

The bonus tracks are two of the best on the Re-Mastered series, first with the touching ballad Fire Burns Below. Nothing about this song is bad as it is an emotionally-driven inspired tale of love for an audience, easily being able to shed a tear. All three solos, including the acoustic one, gives this song a surreal epic feel and should have been included on Turbo, for which this song was recorded for.

Then we have a rather splendid version of Better By You, Better Than Me. This version is a must-have for fans, for this is the only 'known' live version of this track. It was recorded live during the KNAC broadcast at Foundations Forum, Los Angeles, California on September 13, 1990, only a month or so after the trial, which dealt greatly with this track, had finally ended.

So despite the weak tracks this album is quite good, however it is not as good as 'Sad Wings Of Destiny', 'British Steel', 'Demolition' or 'Turbo'. Although I do credit this album with at least sparking the interest I now have in the band.