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Stained Class captures Judas Priest in the middle of a transition from the fearsomely innovative metal pioneers of Sad Wings of Destiny and Sin After Sin to the accessible (but still inventive) megastars of the Killing Machine/British Steel era. New drummer Les Binks is probably the weak link in the chain, since there's really not much to separate his performance from dozens of other hard rock drummers of the era, but he can keep time and that's all Tipton and Downing need to raise a storm with their dual lead guitar solos.
In terms of the material presented, the album kicks off with a blueprint for speed metal in the form of Exciter - featuring some of the most ear-piercing wails Rob Halford would ever muster - before delivering an album divided between accessible, catchy tracks like Invader or Better By You Better Than Me and murky, mysterious, death-obsessed experiments such as Stained Class and Beyond the Realms of Death. The latter song is the piece most reminiscent of previous material - mainly progressing as a quiet, low key ballad before erupting for the mighty choruses, with Halford singing the praises of death as an escape from an unacceptable world over some of the doomiest riffs the band would ever produce.
Beyond the Realms is probably my favourite track from the album, although picking a favourite is necessarily a rather arbitrary process with an album as fearsomely consistent as this one. Although it is not as groundbreakingly innovative or crushingly heavy as its predecessor, Stained Class is at least a highly listenable album from beginning to end, with each and every track more than justifying its presence - quite simply, there is not a single piece of filler on the thing. Though I wouldn't put it above the two immediately preceding albums, Stained Class more than qualifies for a place in the top tier of Judas Priest albums.