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In another review I made the assertion that the finest metal album ever was Priest's "Sad Wings of Destiny" album. This one, though, comes so close it's scary. "Sad Wings" was a more diverse album, and was closer to their blues-rock origins, but "Sin After Sin" showed the band progressing more towards the style of modern metal that we're all accustomed to now, and "Stained Class" was like a refinement of it. Right off the bat, the proto-thrasher "Exciter" kicks off the LP in a way different from most thrash bands only in degree, really - fast (for the time) double-kick drums, then in comes the hard-chugging main riff and BAM! Over the whole album, the riffs are more lean and heavy, the solos more fierce, the vocals more intense than had gone on before. The album really only slows down once, with the second-side (remember when albums had sides?) ballad "Beyond the Realms of Death", featuring some nice acoustic verses, a heavy chorus, and one hell of an extended solo section in which Glen Tipton once again proves why he's the greatest heavy metal guitar soloist around. Other noteworthy songs are the closer "Hero's End", the title track, and the Spooky Tooth cover, "Better By You, Better Than Me" (just don't listen to it backwards :).
The only drawback to the album is the technology of the time, which kept the guitars from coming out in all their raging fury (compare the songs on this to the ones on Unleashed In the East to see what I mean), but the performances on all counts can't be faulted in the least - from song writing to drumming, bass work, vocals, and guitar work, it's all top-quality and an absolute must for anyone who dares call themselves a metalhead. "Stand up for Exciter!"
(Originally published at LARM (c) 1999)