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If you were to ask a random metal fan to name the one album that they believed defined metal music, chances are many would reply “Number of the Beast”, “Paranoid”, “British Steel” or even “Master of Puppets”. Few would reply with Judas Priest's 1978 masterpiece “Stained Class”, an album heavily underrated by all but the more dedicated Priest fans for reasons unknown. Sabbath may have played the first metal riff ever back in 1970 but it was Judas Priest's “Stained Class” which stripped away the blues influence and pushed metal in a new direction. From the blazing fast opener “Exciter” to the thrashy mid-paced “Saints in Hell”, one can see/hear the huge influence this album alone has had on metal.
“Stained Class” features in my opinion, the band at its peak. Halford's voice may not be as high as it is on Painkiller but he sings with such energy and passion (check out that scream at the very end of Beyond the Realms of Death for evidence!) that one can overlook that small detail. This album also holds some of Glenn Tipton's and KK Downing's best solos and riffs. No one can deny the the quality of Tipton's solos in “Beyond the Realms of Death” or “Exciter”, nor can they deny the influence on thrash metal of that intense riffing around 3 minutes into “Saints in Hell”. Les Binks' drumming is also top notch. While the vastly underrated Binks may not hit the drumkit as hard as Scott Travis would 12 years later, his fills are always interesting without being self indulgent. Ian Hill's bass unfortunately is barely audible in the majority of the tracks although it is solid, if not spectacular on the few songs it can be heard in.
Another strong point of this album are the lyrics. After listening to British Steel, Ram it Down or even Painkiller one could be forgiven for thnking that the band were incapable of writing meaningful lyrics. However, that was not always the case. With the lyrics touching on topics such as colonialism in “Savage” and suicide in “Beyond the Realms of Death” this would be the band's last album before the lyrics would move in a more commercial direction.
In conclusion this is a heavy metal masterpiece that every metal fan should pick up, even if only to hear the influence it has had on whatever their favourite metal band may be. It is consistent from start to finish and there is bound to be something in it for everyone. Make sure to pick up the remastered version as it features the only official live version of “Better By You, Better Than Me” (the infamous “suicide song”) that the band has released.
As mentioned previously, this album is consistently strong but “Exciter”, “Stained Class”, “Savage” and “Beyond the Realms of Death” would be the songs that stick out to me personally.
None, although “Invader” is the weakest track of the album in my opinion.