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Fall To Your Knees And Repent If You Please! - 100%

CHAIRTHROWER, July 25th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1978, 12" vinyl, Columbia Records

Ah, Judas Priest's reverential Stained Class from 1978 (the year I was born no less) - hot diggity, what a classic! Everything about this titanic release exudes professionalism and class. From a vociferous and free-wheeling opener in "Exciter" right up to the slyly introspective closer ("Why do you have to die to be a hero!?") "Heroes End", Stained Class is everything a rabid metal head can ask for - and more: jocose yet tight drumming, razor sharp, ire raising riffs and extraordinary solos, confidently enhanced bass playing and not least, stratospheric high-pitched operatic vocals on behalf of one of music's most esteemed front men, the great Rob Halford, a heavy metal legend in his own right.

Without missing a beat, Halford and Co. clutch it up with "Exciter", largely heralded as THE precursor to modern day "speed" metal. A rat-a-tat-tat style drum intro gives way to a super "ahead of its time" shuffle/jangle riff the cause of many a busted lawn chairs. Comprised of multiple bridge and solo sections, "Exciter" easily ranks high on my list of JP classics - in fact, each and every song on Stained Class tops the chart. (Even the somewhat hokey Spooky Tooth cover, "Better By You, Better Than Me" earns select status.) The way K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton blazingly let 'er rip lead wise after Halford's vigorously passionate "Fall to your knees and repent if you please" makes me want to pump my fist and throw devil horns without fail every time. Not once, but TWICE does this furious onslaught of epic guitar soloing occur, first at 01:19, then again at 03:26, after which a somewhat carnival-esque harmony bridges the gap before Halford returns in full force - epic with a capital "E": "Stand by for Exciter!" (X4). Now I know why this track gives me a strong urge to play Nintendo's Excite Bike - go figure! Hands down, Tipton and Downing are at the top of their game on Stained Class, easily making it the masters' #1 offering among many. (I once saw a young girl jaw-droppingly cover "Exciter", proving that with enough dedication and practice gals can rock just as hard - if not harder at times - than their male counterparts).

Next up is the sassy-as-fuck "White Heat, Red Hot", likely my favourite "swing boogie" track among Stained Class' vaunted discography. The first time I heard it I literally trembled with awe, it's so grippingly good. I love the loose high-wire feeling the main riff instills, as it really does evoke a blinding, searing red hot flash of white lightning behind the eyes. "Feel good" chutzpah aside, I especially dig the opening verse:

"The father's son, thy kingdom come, electric ecstasy,
Deliver us from all the fuss and give us sanctuary.
Lead us all into arena, magnificent in death.
Well let us serenade the sinner, we'll follow in his step."

As for the solo, it's got an endearing, highfalutin twang which never gets old, although it's funny how I always confuse the track name by mixing the words up (i.e. "Red Heat, White Hot"). The end result is the same as it's also one of my all-time favourite Judas Priest tracks (along with "Tyrant", "Starbreaker" and "Thunder Road", to name a few).

Overall Stained Class' level of production is fantastic, along with Tipton and Downing's super crisp and clear guitar tones, be it rhythm or lead. As well, bassist Ian Hill creeps out of his shell much more than elsewhere, notably on the Spooky Tooth cover - which alternates between coy pontifications and sheer bad-ass-ery i.e. the breakdown bass/guitar a minute or so in. Compared to the original, JP's take on "Better By You, Better Than Me" takes the comical hard rocker to the level of a bona fide goomba stomp/ heady heavy metal pseudo-anthem (!). Drummer Les Binks doesn't overplay his hand as he provides the perfect counterpoint to his bandmates' articulate musical exonerations. To wit, he solidly plows ahead with his head down on the oh-so-rad title track, which bleeds a fun and genial flow enhanced by team Tipton/Downing's steadfast triplets and poised power-chordage. The opening few bars/ guitar riff (and slick, catapulting opening lead) are nominally compelling, setting this one off with the forceful grace of an eagle. The leads here spiral up down and around, at one point even uncannily evoking a hard tooting goose honk (see 03:38!) sure to knock some feathers off your tree before cruising ever higher, followed by a face-planting return to form, tight triplet riffing and all. Great stuff! "Invader" is a sure-fire winner and fan favourite as well, also distinguishing itself as a speed metal precursor for which many aspiring - and eventually successful - heavy metal bands are grateful for. Commencing with a classic JP sci-fi-ish warp drive effect/ electronic embellishment (i.e moog, mellotron, keyboard, whichever!), "Invader" is right up there with - let me get it right - "White Heat, Red Hot" as far as top highlights go. Binks and Hill gift wrap this winner up for Halford's commanding presence and Tipton/ Downing's crescendo of hot-to-trot riff-age, which makes me want to rock out "all nite and every day". Dig the opening verse and chorus:

"I came across a smoking field, pulsating afterglow.
I saw a seering flash of light erupt and skyward go.
I staggered back in dazed surprise, what was it I had seen?
As I stood there mesmerized I heard my spirit scream.

Invader, invader nearby.
Invader, invader is nigh…"

Lead wise, there's some real gems here, be they congenial little fills or absolute zingers like the one zipping by at breakneck speed between 02:45 and 02:53; it's hallucinatory to say the least. Be sure to perk your ears up for this one as it's quite mind-blowing. Backtracking a bit before the incepting lead breaks, I found Halford to sound distinctly Ozzy like when he alters his pitch at : "When they come to take control every man must play his role./ They won't take our world away when the children we leave will have to believe in today."

Strewth! I haven't even covered the (technically speaking) B-Side. Having gotten this far I may as well see things out to the end. Now, It's no surprise a JP cover band by the name of "Saints In Hell" has been caroming around Vancouver (B.C.) for some time as the eponymous track, while perhaps a slightly less imposing number, still does a fine job of establishing the faith. After getting off to a fairly humdrum start, it shakes off any misgivings with some of Stained Class' snarky-est instrumentation, including a plump little drum solo and incremental bridge soon giving way to a whirlwind of space faring/ "Starbreaker" style single string palm muted riffing and a subtly cranky sounding Halford waxing ever so on the subject matter at hand. "Savage" is no slouch either, ensconcing itself nicely between "Saints In Hell" and Judas Priest's grandiose tour-de-force, the widely acclaimed elegiac eulogy cum mountainous dirge of Halford's most compelling crooning, extensively beautiful prose and overall vocal meanderings. "Beyond The Realms Of Death" rocks harder than its opening clear guitar progression implies so stick around for its entirety in order to take in a complete and unabridged Stained Class experience. Its soulful lead sections are highly commendable and a must for any aspiring lead guitar hero - mark my words!

Last but least is "Heroes End", one of my preferred tracks along with "Exciter", (urf!) "White Heat, Red Hot" and "Invader" as it sounds like a forgotten cut from JP's masterpiece of a debut, "Sad Wings Of Destiny". I'm not going to say this outright but the sinister sounding guitar riff at the beginning and throughout sort of reminds me of a legendary doom metal band I'm (as you all know) very fond of whose moniker starts with the letter "P"…either way, "Heroes End" is a strong number with a gripping chorus and super wonky solo to boot - all in all ending an already high quality release on an equally high note.

Children of the upcoming heavy metal generation, if you haven't yet, consider listening to Judas Priest's Stained Class from 1978 your homework. Class dismissed!