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The great Judas Priest. Ah...anyway. Well the greatness of the British metal output seemed to grow stronger with each of their solid 70's releases, culminating with the finale of their unholy trilogy of 70's classics, "Stained Class". "Sad Wings of Destiny" was something fantastic with its immense and emotionally-charged songs, while the frankly overrated "Sin After Sin" brought on an inconsistent array of songs ranging from wimpy ballads to electrifying proto-thrashers. But "Stained Class" is something special. Judas Priest's 4th full-length studio album is THE roaring, blazing blueprint for modern speed, power and thrash metal as we know it. With its dark lyrical content, throat-grabbing dual guitar assault, hammering double bass and Rob Halford's signature nightmare wailing, there was never an album like it at the time, and arguably never will be again.
Yes, the members of Priest are truly firing from all directions on then some on this LP. Rob Halford's piercing wails and hum-laden mid-level singing just sound fantastic, plain and simple. KK Downing and Glenn Tipton have fully-perfected their signature duel guitar assault on here, and bring the attack into full force like on the back-and-forth slicing on "Exciter" or the spirited textured solos of "Beyond The Realms of Death". Ian Hill, so often buried on a many Priest record to come, gets his moments on here, particularly some booming riffing on the title track or "Saints In Hell". Last but absolutely not least is the group's 2nd greatest drummer, the incomparable Les Binks. While maybe not as aggressive as the band's later skin-basher Scott Travis, he at least matches him stick-to-stick for technicality and speed alike. Just listen to the guy's legendary double bass intro (a rarity for the 70's) to "Exciter" and you'll be a true believer in this guy's abilities.
Nine songs is not enough for "Stained Class", but you bet your sorry mortal ass that Judas Priest is gonna make the best of that and then some! The only major downside to this album as many have pointed out is the somewhat lousy production, mostly in that the guitars can sound too wimpy and the drums are a bit hollow at times. Shit, if this album had the production of "British Steel" or even "Hell-Bent For Leather"...aw fuck, it would be fucking UNREAL! Hell, it'd probably be my favorite Priest album instead of "Painkiller" even! But that's that; can't change that shit so MOVING ON!
Some highlights? Basically every-fucking-thing, though one of the best and a fan favorite would have to be "Exciter", the speed metal song to end all speed metal songs. From it's speed riffing and relentless drums to the blazing proto-power metal soloing and Halford's madman wailing it kicks down doors and rapes mortal skulls for every millisecond of its 5 1/2 minutes runtime. Not to mention it's got one of the best breaks in a metal song ever: "FALL TO YOUR KNEES AND REPENT IF YOU PLEASE!" The title track is also really fucking wicked, with some cool as hell galloping riffage that beat Maiden to the punch; Halford's shrieks are totally capable of breaking down a tower of glass on this track. Then we have a personal favorite and very underrated bit o' awesomeness in "Saints In Hell". It's black metal before black metal with lyrics a telling of holy men burning and all a manner of man and beast going to apocalyptic war; a very cool track with a catchy main riff and a Sabbath sort of relentlessness. Let's not forget the best metal ballad of all time, "Beyond The Realms of Death". It's acoustic verses never fail to mesmerize me before the song breaks into a rushing mid-paced chorus, not to mention the spirited, creative Tipton-Downing solos are one of the best things ever. Other solid songs include charging closer "Hero's End" (which I think should have been second last to "Beyond The Realms of Death" instead") or the morose, stomping cover of the Spooky Tooth song "Better By You, Better Than Me". Hell, even lesser cuts like "Invader" or "Savage" are worth merit as well; they're that good!
Literally the only things I have wrong with "Stained Class" is that the production could be better, and that I wish the positions of the last two songs could have been switched. That's it. This album is a true masterpiece of the genre and easily of the best Priest albums ever, not to mention one of the greatest metal albums. If you don't own this yet, first you repeatedly hammer your genitals with a rusted crowbar for several hours straight for not owning it already. Then, if by some miracle you're still conscious or even alive, then maybe you'll be deemed worth for the greatness that is "Stained Class". Metalheads and music-lovers alike, you won't be sorry.
PS- Sorry about your genitals.